Engaging Students in Middle School Theater

By Kasey Short

When I asked him about his inspirations, he described that his hope is to make theater accessible to youths by making connections to their day-to-day lives and studies, giving trainees a platform to stretch themselves artistically, see the resemblances and commemorate the differences of theatrical efficiency from different regions, countries, and cultures– all while letting the world around them inform their story.”

Middle school theater courses offer trainees chances to practice public speaking, team up with peers, develop self-confidence, and experience creativity. Aaron Mize, the theater instructor at our intermediate school, supplies his students with those opportunities and much more.

When creating curriculum, Aaron consistently includes emotional and social abilities, diverse texts, multicultural arts, and interdisciplinary connections in his system plans.

Shadow Puppetry Folktales

This system includes diverse texts, Asian culture and traditions, history, visual arts, composing, interpreting texts, collaboration, style, efficiency, and endless opportunities for creative and critical thinking.

Prior to performing, students tape-record themselves practicing their monologue and then are given memorization techniques to assist develop their confidence and prepare them to share their monologues live in front of their peers.

The concerns listed below assistance trainees seriously examine their character and the complicated nature of human feelings, desires, requires, and actions.

Trainees very first find out how Chinese shadow puppetry is utilized to pass down stories in between generations. They then explore how puppets are utilized for storytelling and the various designs of puppets. After checking out different folk tales for Asian cultures, they operate in groups to customize a folktale by producing characters and a script that represents their own variation of the story.

Trainees complete character analysis questions to help them arrange their concepts and think deeply about their characters. As soon as groups compose their scripts with stage instructions and discussion, they start developing their own shadow puppets from sheet plastic, cardstock paper and dowel rods. Trainees then explore numerous methods for developing puppets and spend time creating the visual art representation of their envisioned characters.

This technique uses improvisation to assist students practice their playwriting skills and develop scenes and monologues that represent something important to their lives.


After picking a monologue for their efficiency, students finish a deep character analysis of the character they will portray. Through this analysis students practice various English Language Arts and social and psychological abilities by taking a look at a characters ideas, feelings, and objectives based on their discussion and making connections in between themselves and the character.

Monologue Performance

Students work as a class to select a broad topic considerable to them for their skits. This year trainees picked to focus on the anxiety and pressure they feel related to grades, relationships, sports, etc. They then work with a partner to produce an outline of a scene with a situation and characters.

After taking a look at the character and studying the monologue, trainees then compose journal entries from the point of view of the character with the goal that they think about the characters ideas, sensations and overarching goal, and after that write from their viewpoint.

They then rehearse using the puppets behind a screen to act out their story and finally perform their folktale for their peers. Throughout the task trainees practice teaming up with their groups, interacting to integrate everybodys ideas into a working script, and providing thoughtful feedback to their peers to produce the finest possible efficiency.

● What do you understand about the character? ● How is the character like you and different than you? ● Would you react the same way the character did to their scenario? Why or why not? ● How do the words the character says impact others? ● What does the character desire? ● What is the character scared of? ● What is the characters objective and what is stopping them from achieving the objective? ● What feelings is the character feeling? What words/phrases particularly reveal their feelings?

Aaron Mize with theater trainees

Then students workshop their detailed moment using improvisation and integrating concepts from the audience and instructor to find brand-new ways for their characters to interact. This activity assists them establish concepts for their scene while discovering social and psychological skills by responding to unanticipated scenarios, collaborating, translating body movement and tone, making decisions, and structure confidence.

While they are acting, their teacher records them so that they will have a record of their great ideas. Then they utilize their improv to assist compose a more formal script.

Song in a Box

This project asks trainees to analyze and make personal connections to song lyrics and then develop a physical representation of those emotions, styles, and ideas in a box.

Trainees pick a pop tune that is suitable for school and meaningful to them. They look into the lyrics of the tune and determine words of the tune that show the state of mind and themes of that tune utilizing action and detailed words. After they identify those words, they put together a list of prospective aspects of design (line, shape, color, texture) and concepts of style (percentage, balance, rhythm, unit, emphasis) that embody the theme and state of mind of the tune.

Before producing their box, they write an essay that explains the following questions:

Trainees then complete a visual arts representation of their song in a box.

● How do you feel when you listen to the song? ● How will you use theme, state of mind, and sensations from the song to motivate the images in the box design?

Questions to motivate vital thinking in theater

Theater Production

● Do you think theater can be used to address major social topics? Why or why not? ● Do you believe theater can be utilized to develop social modification? ● What methods do directors utilize to link audience members to the story and/or characters? ● How has theater changed over time? ● How are brand-new voices of Broadway affecting the art and craft of theater? Think about plays such as Hamilton and In the Heights. ● How does altering costumes, scenery, and/or lighting effect a production? ● If plays are written to be carried out, can they really be understood from reading alone? ● Is Shakespeare still pertinent to audiences today?

In the spring of 2021 he directed the musical Shrek Jr. and overcame the difficulty of having practice sessions and the last production exterior. In the fall of 2021 he directed Myth Adventures where students performed in small groups outside and the audience took a trip from one efficiency to the next in different outside locations on the school grounds.

Synchronised to the work he takes into being a class instructor, Aaron Mize seeks plays for after-school productions that have diverse characters, styles, and stories consisting of A Wind of a Thousand Tales, Myth Adventures, and The Flying Prince.

Trainee Voices

✻ “I understand that Mr. Mize has actually changed my life, and many others, for the much better. He sees no flaws in anybody, only various, unique, and amazing characteristics that make them who they are.”– Sarah

He also has actually discovered innovative methods throughout the pandemic to offer trainees with opportunities to perform for virtual and live audiences. He directed War of the Worlds as radio drama in the fall of 2020. All trainees were masked, and the production was taped for a virtual audience.

✻ “Mr. Mize has taught me a lot in my 4 years with him. Not just about theater and acting, but likewise how to deal with my schoolmates, and develop self-confidence. Among my preferred features of him is how he teaches my peers and I to not be afraid to go out of our convenience zones.”– Cassie

Everything he has taught me, will help me throughout life and in every aspect of school, from speeches, writing, and even sports. Mr. Mize makes sure that the character inside me comes to life. I am forever grateful for the time he puts in to make sure I have the opportunity to succeed.

Resource: Although this NPR post focuses on plays for high school it offers a thorough database thats worth browsing!

● How is the character like you and different than you? ● What emotions is the character feeling? ● What methods do directors utilize to connect audience members to the story and/or characters?

Kasey Short (@shortisweet3) loves to share ideas from her classroom and composes regularly for MiddleWeb. She attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and made a bachelor of arts in middle school education with a concentration in English and history. She went on to earn a masters in curriculum and instruction from Winthrop University. She is presently an eighth grade ELA teacher and English Department chair at Charlotte (NC) Country Day School.

Trainees complete character analysis questions to help them organize their ideas and think deeply about their characters. Students then explore various methods for creating puppets and spend time creating the visual art representation of their imagined characters.

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