Archive for the ‘performance skills’ Tag

ESL students in performance

Last week the upper primary students performed their original song for the Language School’s opening ceremony for the new library. It was a lovely event – the whole school assembled outside, the two student leaders from the secondary school acted as MCs, our local member of parliament was there to do the ‘official’ thing – ribbon-cutting and so on.

My students performed really well. They were quite nervous, I’d say, but they sang confidently, with strong voices (but not shouting – we’d spent quite a few weeks learning that distinction). The words were not memorised, so we wrote them out and put them on a low, free-standing easel that they could look at while they performed. So as they sang, their eyes were glued to these words, and their faces deadly serious (despite the fact that the song is quite humourous). Afterward, I reflected on how I could have better supported them to raise their eyes from the words – not just in terms of their memorisation, but in terms of their understanding of performances, and their role as performers.

I think that it is important to prepare all students for performance experiences, but particularly new arrivals, who can be so critical of themselves, and so unsure of the validity or ‘right-ness’ of what they perform. I prepare them as much as possible for what the experience will look like (the environment), and what it may feel like (the emotions  and reactions they may experience).

Preparing vocab and the environment

To start with, especially with the youngest students, I give them an understanding of the audience (“the people looking”, or “the mums and dads”, or “the other children and the teachers”). Sometimes we draw faces on the white board (everyone gets to draw faces), so that we can talk about what the faces (ie. the audience) can see, to try and build awareness of how the students should position themselves on stage. We migh also learn the words ‘audience’, and ‘concert’.

Discussing feelings

I find that new arrivals sometimes feel that the feelings they experience are because they are new/foreign/don’t understand/don’t know anything/aren’t good enough. Therefore, I try to discuss how they might feel when they perform their music with people watching them, and that these feelings (of shyness, embarassment, fear… these are the words they volunteer) are normal, and are part of the whole experience.

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