It was another great week with the fifth-grade students in Ms. Lawson's and Ms. Bergman's classes at Hyde Park Elementary School. After reviewing last week and previewing the lesson of the day, we dove right in. As actors, we must routinely train our bodies, voice and minds to be great. The students challenged themselves with stretching exercises, voice tongue twisters, and focus/imagination/mindfulness exercises.
The students took their acting game up several notches by learning to convey emotion regardless of the script in the Emotional Numbers exercise. Can I tell you how impressed I was watching the student actors convey happiness, sadness, anger and excitement utilizing only the number 1-20?
And then it was time to review our script from last week and introduce new pages for this week. The leap this week in fluency and reading comprehension was remarkable. Ms. Lawson commented how proud she was of her students. I was proud too. The student actors demonstrated excitement and eagerness to learn about James Weldon Johnson through acting, and I was thrilled to be partnered with two amazing, caring educators, who really get the bigger picture -- If James Weldon Johnson can do great things, my students can do great things too!
Last Thursday I met 46 bright, energetic, eager to explore, fifth-grade students attending Hyde Park Elementary School. For the next two months, I have the pleasure of teaching Ms. Lawson's and Ms. Bergman's classes my craft as we learn about James Weldon Johnson.
The students began the process of becoming great actors by reciting our actor's creed. They stretched their bodies; and then they became aware of every part, imagining they were a small insect traveling through every limb. They learned how to begin controlling their voices with articulation exercises like "Five frantic frogs fled from fifty fierce fishes" and "Bake big batches of bitter brown bread." And the students used their minds by imagining they were a sixty-year-old woman. "How do her legs feel?" "Can she see clearly?" "How does her voice sound coming out of you?"
The student actors then practiced being great audience members as I performed for them as a particular sixty-year-old woman, Helen Louise Johnson. (Afterwards, we read the original script together as a class.) Mrs. Johnson was the mother of James Weldon Johnson. And oh, was she proud of her son! She had every right to be. He grew up to do great things. But before he grew up to write "Lift Every Voice and Sing"; before he was a principal, lawyer, newspaper publisher and editor, poet, book author, Broadway play/songwriter, diplomat, leader of the NAACP and college professor -- James Weldon Johnson was a child. He was like the students in Ms. Lawson and Ms. Bergman's classes -- bright, energetic, eager to explore -- growing up in the city of Jacksonville, Florida. I can't wait to introduce the students to this James Weldon Johnson, and I can't wait to introduce you to the brilliant student actors at Hyde Park Elementary School in the upcoming weeks.