Rathfarnham Educate Together Session 13, Performance of the Ten Tales

We knew it would be a challenge to see each of the ten performances this week so we got off to a flying start, as even the dressing process takes a fair bit of time, with children locating and donning their masks and props and attaching their fabric, etc. The children also needed to look over their storyboards to prepare themselves, and quite a lot of groups had to re-allocate roles too, as there were a lot absent due to illness.

We had to set up a time allocation for each performance, telling them the teacher would ring a warning bell after 3 minutes if the story hadn’t yet finished, so they would know to wind up, in order to ensure that each of the ten groups would get a chance. We also attempted to get a shot of each group dressed, taking their bow at the end.

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My Monster puppet gives them some performance advice before they begin

Rathf sleeping masks

Sleeping Monsters

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The Sleeping Monster performers

Rathfarn shower scene

The footballing Monsters take their shower at half time

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The Footballing Monsters take their bow.

Rathf creation of earth

Monsters journeying in search of a new home when their planet had been blown up by a volcano.

Rathf human children

The journeying monsters became human children (our ancestors).

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The journeying Monsters take their bow.

Rath The Glass Key princess

The Glass Keyring monsters and the (absent) Princess mask

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The Glass Keyring performers take their bow and show off the keyring.

Rath The Owl and Castle

The Owl and the Castle

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The Owl and her children take their bow.

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The performers from Monster Games.

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Monsters Snakey, Skye and Depak take their bow.

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The Treasure Monsters take their bow.

Rathf superheroe

The Super heroes.

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The Superheroes bow.

Rathf Camping trip

“This would be a good place to camp”

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The Camping Trip monsters.

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The Monster Class!

Despite the fact that many of the groups had not managed to rehearse (as they were too absorbed by prop making or their storyboard creation) the performances were very successful. You could see also that they were learning from each others’ and “warming up” as a group as they went along. Some children clearly enjoyed the opportunity to perform and had a lot of fun, others were shyer and used their storyboards to help them but it was clear they all gained a lot from the experience and were delighted with their hearty round of applause at the end. I filmed them all.

Rathfarnham Educate Together, Session 12, Finishing Storyboards, Prop and Set making and Rehearsing

Not all the groups had finished their storyboards the previous week so we gave them some more time at this. The groups that had finished, made some extra props from cardboard etc, or drew a setting for their story in permanent markers on a sheet of clear cel to project up onto the screen. I had set up two projectors and screens and we also were able to use the classroom projector and whiteboard (which gives beautiful crisp shadows) so that they could begin to try out ideas and rehearse as soon as the storyboarding was finished. It was a bit of a challenge for ten groups to rehearse on just three screens in one classroom, but we got away with it somehow. We had hoped to begin to watch some of the performances also, but a fire drill interrupted the session, and again, the children were very absorbed with what they were doing so we didn’t want to rush them. We were glad we had scheduled an “emergency” additional session for next week which we will now use for the performances

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Rathfarnham Educate Together, Session 11, Collaborative Storyboards

This week they met one of my newest puppets, Béirín Beag Buí, and I showed them the storyboard I had made in preparation for his film, telling them his story as I did so. This introduced them to the idea of creating a storyboard for an encounter or story between their monsters / puppets. They had already done some work creating a storyboard of the story of Tír na n’óg with Margaret so we were able to reference this work also. They then sat in their new groups of three and began to work on the storyboards, and we gave out the masks as reference. Before they began we together folded their large sheets of paper from last week into eight sections (Margaret taking an opportunity to reference fractions) and we suggested they try and tell their story in just 6 or 8 images within this. I also discussed with them how most stories have a beginning, middle and end and how answering questions like What? Why? Who? Where? When? can be helpful in creating your story. I wrote these down on the whiteboard:

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I also told them that Béirín Beag Buí had brought along his box of Story Clues which they might use as an extra inspiration for their story if they found it helpful. As they began work, Béirín went around giving these out, and helping them discuss some of what the clue they “lucky dipped” might suggest.

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I was impressed at how well the children worked collaboratively. Again, they were very absorbed and independent, and took evident pleasure in their work.

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Rathfarnham Educate Together, Session 10, Monster Party!

This week they met my “growing” puppets of different ages from my show Tic Teac Tic Teac and I talked to them about how my daughter had inspired it.

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As they had seemed so absorbed by them last week we gave them more time on the passports. Again, first collecting and adding some new ideas for categories etc to the list on the whiteboard.

Again they were very happy to work on on these, but finally we gave them a ten minute warning and then set them a new challenge. We invited them to take part in a “Monster Party” where they were all to mingle and discover as much as they could about each others creations, and to make sure no one was left out or lonely.

So they dressed up and then fell on this task with gusto. After awhile we interrupted them to add another part of the challenge – they should find two other “monsters / heroes” who their monster can share a story with. When they had found their groups we gave each a large sheet of paper and asked them to put their and their character names onto it to continue from the next week.

This Monster took a bite out of his passport

This Monster took a bite out of his passport

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Rathfarnham Educate Together, Session 9, Developing the Passports

This week they met the Country Mouse, glove puppet, cousin to the City Mouse they had meet before, and enjoyed an exchange with her and some additions from their own “hand” puppets.

We then recapped on the idea of a passport for life and asked them to add any new categories that might need to go into it. We jotted these down on the Whiteboard for reference. They sat with their partners and worked on their passports, referring to the notes that had been taken during their interviews. Some chose to add coloured covers. They were very absorbed, so we spent the whole session on it.

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Places you would like to visit?

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Rathfarnham Educate Together, Session 8 – Monster Interviews and Passports

In their evaluations, the children had mentioned how they enjoyed meeting different puppets, so I brought them a new one, a “City Mouse” glove puppet. This lead to some very interesting discussions around the habits of the domestic mouse.

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We looked back at the photographs from the previous weeks and the children enjoyed calling out each creator’s name, so it felt like a kind of celebration. We then called up on the whiteboard the previous weeks’ questions and asked had they other questions to add. We then invited them to silently choose a partner to work with, presenting it as a challenge. These partners sat together, and I gave out some cardboard “microphones” so that the children could take it in turns to interview each others’ monster, with the interviewer / journalist jotting down the answers for the monster.  We timed each interview, ringing a bell at the changeover time, so each had equal chance to “reveal” itself through the questioning process. The interviewers could use the questions on the whiteboard to help them if they needed prompts and the “monsters / heroes” were encouraged to not worry about the “truth” or content of their answers but to just play along and see what their character might say.

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I showed them some old passports and introduced the idea of creating a Passport for life for their monster / hero – one that could tell all about them. Then together, by folding and cutting, they each made a simple booklet to be their passport. Which we will return to in the next session.

Rathfarnham Educate Together, Session 7, The Monsters Dress up and Show off

The Monster puppet returned again for our opening exchange but this time its fluency was improved by the introduction of a “Babel Fish”  a reputedly magic fish (inspired by The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy) which by tickling its head with its tail made it possible for the monster to speak in English to the children, so that they could ask it lots more questions. Margaret wrote the questions they asked down on the white board as we went along, as we knew they would be useful later. I improvised the monster’s responses and we had a lot of fun

.Questions to ask a monster

Then I suggested that it might be nice for my monster to meet theirs. But before they dressed themselves in their monster shadow masks, we told them we were going to give them some quiet thinking time, to dream how their monster might stand to make its shadow picture, and invited them to practice a few positions first. While they were thinking, we gave out their masks and props, the storing and distribution of which was becoming increasingly a logistical challenge.

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After the quiet thinking time, we made available some large fabrics to cover the other visible “undisguised” parts of their bodies, unless they wanted them to be seen, encouraging them to test the shadows of these. We assisted with pins and string and staplers. The children loved this and would have done it all day had there been time.

Finally the teacher called them up to the screen one by one while the audience closed their eyes so they had a few minutes to prepare themselves and then their monster called the children (in its own “language”) to open their eyes and see it. We photographed and applauded each.

More photos for this session will be uploaded on Wed. 13.5

Rathfarnham Educate Together, Session 6, Hairy bits and props for the Monster Factory

IMG_6258 IMG_6256 IMG_6255 IMG_6254 IMG_6253 IMG_6252 IMG_6251 IMG_6250We started the session, at the request of the children as usual, with my monster puppet visitor, with whom I improvised responses to their questions Again some of the children had brought in puppets of their own or created puppets from their hands to participate.

Then we returned to continue making the monster heads, this time introducing some wools and other textural materials for hair. Some more parents joined us to assist. Many children began to make additional props – wing pieces, weapons, sleeve pieces, etc, picking up ideas from each other and developing them. Again, there was a lovely happy busy atmosphere in the room, with everyone very engaged and working well. We hadn’t time to look at the shadows but we photographed all the masks, table by table.

Rathfarnham Educate Together, Session 5, Shadow Monster Factory

Again the children met the monster puppet, but this time it was also greeted by a puppet one of the children had brought in and a “sleeve puppet” that was spontaneously made by another child. An interesting interchange between these creatures happened. My monster clearly learns quickly, and was able to speak a little more and so could answer a few more of the children’s questions.

We then looked back at the shadow monster pictures that we had taken the previous week. The children took a lot of pleasure in this, calling out the names of the participants. We also looked at, and discussed, some photos of exotic creatures to further inspire their ideas. Then we invited the children to make a new monster head for themselves, higher than their own, which could alter their shadow. I showed them how, with a strip of cardboard and a sheet of light card/heavy paper, this taller version of their “monster” selves could be worn on top of their head. We showed how cutting out eyes and mouths etc (by folding the paper to make a cut, or asking an adult to help) they can appear in the shadow, and can be coloured by adding plastics, feathers etc. We had an army of parents ready to assist, each with specific assigned tasks – some to help with cutting out with paper knives, another to help make the strips the right size to hold them in place, etc. I had a bag of scrap theatre lighting gels, bubble wraps and various textural and shadow making materials which we divided into trays for the various tables so the children could access them easily.

The atmosphere in the room was wonderful and the children worked at a very relaxed, happily focussed pace, with lots of excitement as they tested their coloured shadows on the screen and the school whiteboard as they went along.

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Rathfarnham Educate Together: Session 4. Developing our Shadow Monsters

The children were keen to meet my monster puppet again and discovered it had learnt a little english. We tried to teach it some of the other languages we had in the classroom too.

In discussion after the last session, their teacher Margaret and I had decided to return to the shadow monsters, this time giving the children a chance to prepare themselves first by discussing ideas and collaborating to draw a plan of what they would do.

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Shadow Monster Plans

Shadow Monster Plans

Then each group came up in turn to show the others their creation, to move a little and vocalise. Again we photographed each in turn.

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After the session Margaret and I discussed the creation of an evaluation sheet which she will get the children to do as part of their literacy work during the week so that we can get an individual response from each, as to what they have enjoyed and where they might imagine going from here.