Monday, 4 May 2009

Bad Behaviour in class

Q: My son is eight years old and he is in year four at school. Since returning to school in September he has not been doing his work in class and is constantly asking silly questions. He is in the top classes but is not bright enough for the work being set. He doesn't listen to his teachers in any lessons, he is disruptive and lazy. His teacher is new and is getting quite frustrated with him. I have punished him at home in every way I can. What can I do now?Claire, Surrey

A: Dear Claire,Could your son be seeking attention through his bad behaviour? Positive reinforcement - both at home and in school - can be a very effective way of turning around poor behaviour. There's an article about it on the School Gate site - click on Parenting for good behaviour. Positive reinforcement involves trying not to point out ANY bad things he does, and to highlight instead things (however trivial) which he's done well - easy to say, but hard for the adult to do. Age eight to nine is a good time to try this - certainly the younger the child is when you adopt this approach, the better. If it works (and it can be dramatically effective) it will simply become a way of life for you both. This is an approach often favoured by schools too. It may be worth chatting to the teacher - and to the head teacher - if you're going down the positive reinforcement route. Your son's lack of concentration in class suggests that he might be finding the work too easy or too difficult. It would be a good idea to meet with his teacher to get an idea of the work he will be doing in the next weeks. You could then sit with your son to prepare him for his next lessons, going over the new information and suggesting questions for him to ask.Good luck - we hope this helps.

Big Brother and Little Britain 'fuelling bad behaviour in schools'

Televisions should be banned from children's bedrooms by parents because programmes such as Big Brother and Little Britain encourage bad behaviour in schools, teachers' leaders claim.

By Graeme Paton, Education Editor Last Updated: 4:13PM BST 30 Mar 2009
Unsupervised access to TV is leading to a rise in pupils mimicking catchphrases, swearing, storming out of classrooms and answering back, they have warned.
Teachers said EastEnders, The Catherine Tate Show and Hollyoaks were also among the worst influences on young people.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, urged parents to control children's access to inappropriate programmes and stop them "living an isolated existence" in front of the TV.
She said a rise in the number of children with their own TVs was leading to the death conversation in the home and a decline in children's social skills.
Many young people are also "eating TV a dinner" in their rooms instead of sharing family meals, she added.
"Children are coming to school at four and five and they don't know how to have a conversation - their speaking skills are very, very poor," she said. "I do think that the programme makers have a responsibility to think about the effect of these programmes on children [but] I think the bigger responsibility is to the parents.
"More children and young people have TVs in their own bedrooms now, and it is difficult for parents to supervise what they're watching. Parents have a real responsibility here - if it's downstairs it is much more likely that a parent has some idea of what's being watched."
A survey of 800 staff by the ATL found that the vast majority believed TV programmes containing bad behaviour had a negative effect on the behaviour of pupils.
The union warned that access to inappropriate TV was turning children into "Vicky Pollards" - the Little Britain character known for her "Yeah-but, no-but" catchphrase.
Two thirds of those questioned said Big Brother was a bad influence on children's behaviour. Some 61 per cent named Little Britain and 43 per cent picked out EastEnders.
One primary school teacher from Kent told researchers that a pupil bright a knife into a lesson after watching a scene from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Others reported children mimicking guests on the ITV daytime show Jeremy Kyle, including pupils "screaming at each other" and storming out of classrooms. It follows comments from a judge who famously branded the programme "human bear-baiting" after a guest headbutted another man on the show.
Teachers also told of a rise in pupils mimicking the catchphrases "Whatev-ah" and "Am I bovvered" from The Catherine Tate Show.
They also said some music videos - including those from American rappers - gave boys "an unrealistic outlook on females as sexual objects".
In total, 88 per cent of school staff said TV led to general rudeness among children, such as answering back, mimicking and using retorts or catchphrases. Three quarters reported a rise in aggressive behaviour.

Knife Crime on the rise

Police question man over stabbing of break-in teenager

Detectives arrest 22-year-old on suspicion of murder after death of 17-year-old in Nottingham
Martin Wainwright and Haroon Siddique, Sunday 15 March 2009 16.04 GMT
Article history
Police were today questioning a man arrested on suspicion of murder after a teenager broke into a house and was stabbed to death.
Detectives were given extra time to hold the 22-year-old after another man in his twenties and four youths in their teens were released following two days of questioning.
The youth, who was named today as Tyler Peter Juett, 17, from Aspley in Nottingham, was found dying at the semi-detached house on the Heathfield estate in the city's Old Basford area on Friday afternoon. The exact circumstances of what happened remained unclear today but it is understood that he was confronted by a man at the property.
A postmortem examination carried out yesterday showed Juett died from a stab wound.
A broken garden fence and smashed patio door were still visible at the house today, which remained cordoned off as forensic officers conducted a search. Neighbours described the couple who live at the house as "good people", originally from Jamaica.
Nottinghamshire police said attempted burglary was a line of inquiry, although the incident happened in the early afternoon when the house was occupied. Emergency services responded to a call from the house at 2pm on Friday and Juett was taken to the Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham, where he died soon afterwards. Neighbours also dialled 999 to report a disturbance, as someone inside confronted Juett.
A police spokesman said: "In an effort to establish the circumstances which led up to this death, we would ask anyone who was in and around Heathfield Road at 2pm on March 13 to cast their minds back to see if they can remember anyone acting suspiciously."
Police patrols were stepped up in Old Basford as detectives continued house-to-house inquiries. Officers were also planning to examine CCTV footage from the area. The estate has seen several burglaries recently and the couple from the house helped out a neighbour who was targeted. Fazal Khan, 33, a computer technician, said: "They are good people who live in that house. They are very cooperative and nice.
"When somebody broke into our house the lady came round because we were not at home and called the police, and the police called my wife and she came home.
"This time, we heard there had been a burglary and when we came down here the police had blocked it off all the way. My wife was here and the police told her that the house had been burgled."
Khan said the area was "70-80% nice" but had recently been plagued by vandalism, with garden shrubs and fences set on fire and youths breaking windows.
Nottingham residents are at the most risk of burglary in the UK, with levels 63% above the national average, according to a table produced by Endsleigh Insurance last year. In 2006, the city was named the crime capital of the UK by the thinktank Reform, although officials in Nottingham claimed the study was flawed.

Crime figures show rise in theft as recession bites
Overall crime down 4% but 'snatch and steal' robberies spike by 25%

Alan Travis, home affairs editor, Thursday 23 April 2009 11.00 BST
Article history

An unexpected 25% surge in personal thefts and a 4% increase in burglaries are recorded in the first set of official quarterly crime figures since the economic recession took hold.
A worrying rise in what the Home Office calls "stealth and snatch thefts" is accompanied by a 5% increase in robberies at knifepoint, according to the police-recorded crime figures published today comparing October to December 2008 with the same period in 2007.
The figures show a 16% drop in gun crime and a fall in the number of people stabbed to death from 59 to 52 over the same period. They record that the increase in robberies at knifepoint occurred within the context of an overall 2% fall in the total number of street robberies.
Overall there was a 4% drop in offences recorded by the police. The British Crime Survey, which is based on a survey of 40,000 people's experience of crime, shows that the volume of all types of offences , including violent crime, remained broadly stable during 2008.
The figures contain the first confirmation of Home Office projections that the economic recession and rise in unemployment are likely to be accompanied by an increase in some types of crime, particularly involving theft of property and burglary. The 4% rise in burglary, including domestic burglary, last winter comes on top of a similar increase between July and September and marks the end of a sustained 55% decline in burglary since the mid-1990s.
Home Office statisticians said the 25% rise in personal thefts reported by the British Crime Survey was statistically significant but it was too early to say whether it indicated a change in recent trends. They pointed out that it was not reflected in the police crime figures or other BCS categories of personal acquisitive crime.
The Association of Police Authorities described it as a "worrying development" that would be closely monitored so that any correlation with the economic downturn could be established and action taken.
The Home Office minister Vernon Coaker said: "We know that we are facing some new challenges now and are focusing our experience and knowledge to tackle these head-on." He said ministers were already working with police, charities, DIY stores and insurers to target repeat burglars and help people secure their homes.
The rise in personal thefts was accompanied by falling rates of violent crime, robbery, sexual offences and gun crime, Coaker said.


Kids face all sorts of pressures and it may be that your child is in contact with friends who carry knives. The chances are your child has talked about knives with friends or heard a story about the kid who carried a knife. Whilst many young people do not carry knives – it is still a conversation worth having with your child.
You have a role to play in helping your child make the right choice on this subject. If there is one person your child will listen to, it’s you. They respect you more than you think.
These pages hold practical advice for parents/ carers on what they can do to reduce the likelihood of a child carrying a knife. We aim to give some pointers on what to look for, how to raise the subject and who to contact if you need more help.
As part of this campaign we have talked to a lot of young people about knives. We have also interviewed some young people who felt they needed to carry knives but then decided against it. To give you an idea of some of the issues young people face we have written up some true case studies. Below Ian, 16, talks of his hopes for the future and how the love and respect he has for his mum has guided him.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Norwood Girls School- workshop no1

Norwood Girls School - Brixton - 30th April - 1.00-4.00pm

Last week myself and Monsay were asked to attend another class with BOT at the Norwood Girl School. The group were looking at the play called 'Little Sweet Thing' by Roy Williams and we were asked to perform a scene from it. Monsay had recently performed in a production of this play so she had a great understanding of it. They chose for us to work on a scene between a student and a teacher so they could look at the relationship and discuss it in the session. The section was from page 68- 74 where the teacher Miss Jules has stopped a fight between Tash and another girl. I took the role of Miss Jules, as we had realised earlier on that i was good at authority roles and Monsay was good at being the victim, the person who was being oppressed as the audience could relate to her more. On Wednesday, myself and Monsay met with Zeph, who is one of the facilitators for this group, so he could help direct us in the scene. He guided us with the staging and with the true intentions of each character. It really helped having a direct present as he was able to see what worked and what didn't work, and also gave us confidence. Also before the session we met up with the other facilitator for Norwood, Sheila Preston, who used to work at St Marys University, but now works at Central School of Speech and Drama. She was very friendly and helpful and was looking forward to what we had prepared for the session.

The workshop:

I have to be honest, i was very tired before the session, as I had gotten up at 6am to go to the COLA workshop and was exhausted for the rest of the day. But when we entered the ask i immediately woke up. The girls welcomed us in straight away, all acknowledged us and said hello. There are eight girls in the class, all black. We introduced ourselves and what we were doing, and instantly they said they liked Monsays voice and what she was wearing. They connected straight away with Monsay as Monsay grew up in North London and has a similar background and lifestyle to them. I on the other hand have no similar grounds with them, except that I'm a woman studying drama!

We all checked in, and this time i noticed some low numbers in the group. Most of them didn't want to give an explanation why, just simply said that's how they feel.

To warm up we started off with a name game called 'Budge', where you all sit in a circle, before leaving your chair you have to say someones name and 'budge' then walk towards them. They then need to say someones name to be saved. If you don't say someones name before the person gets to you then your out, and if you leave your chair without saying the name first you're also out. The game was fun and as there was lots of pressure, it helped me to remember peoples names. Zeph then introduced the 'Blind Bottle' game, which was enjoyed by all.

The class was half way through reading Little Sweet Thing, so we continued reading until it got to the scene me and Monsay had worked on. We performed the scene to the class and the response we got was great. They responded well to Monsay's character Tash as they saw a softer side to her and realised she's just in a bad place at the moment. They really liked seeing the relationship between Miss Jules and Tash come alive. It fleshed out the characters for them and it gave them an illustration of the scene to feed off rather than just seeing it as a text. We were then asked to be hot seated, which we weren't prepared for! Monsay went first as Tash. She really captured the essence of Tash and stayed in character throughout. The girls said they learnt a lot about Tash which helped their understanding of the play. Then it was my turn as Miss Jules. I didn't know the background of the play or the character so i just had to think about how i portrayed the character in the scene and work off that. I feel i answered the questions well and i gave a fair outline of Miss Jules. The class were great at asking questions and they were all eager to find out more. The hot seating allowed for them to be experts on the play and ask questions about situations that came before of after the scene. They completely took ownership of the play.

We then continued to read on. I noticed that only three or four members of the class were enthusiastic about reading. Sheila told us that last week a lot more of them read, but maybe they felt a bit shy in front of new people and they may have felt some pressure into reading at a high standard. During the reading, if they don't understand what is happening they will stop and ask Sheila to explain. They will also offer up their own interpretations of the scene and characters. Towards the end of the session some of the girls were becoming quite restless and distracted and started becoming disruptive during the readings.

The group is quite competitive and aren't afraid to say what they are feeling and what they think. The group have calmed down a lot from when they first started out, but there are still some boisterous girls in the class, and you can tell who they are straight away! The group did start off with eleven, but they all selected out as they weren't interested in it. The sessions aren't for everyone and you have to be ready to change and work hard in them. I felt i bonded quite well with the group and me and Monsay were very pleased with the outcome of our work. The group really liked us being there too and have asked us to come back next week. I guess its nice for them to have a change in the group so everything seems fresh and doesn't become stale and boring for them. I really look forward to next weeks session with them., even if i will be very very tired!

Friday, 1 May 2009

Credited Drama Group workshop No 2

Credited Drama Group - Oval House Theatre - 29th April - 5pm-7.30pm

I felt so nervous about leading the workshop today. I find it hard to talk to large groups and give instructions as i get tongue-tied and stumble on my words. I am not a confident talker, i hate speaking on phones to anyone other than friends and family. I panic if its someone else and what they say doesn't go in. My hearing isn't that great so i normally have to ask someone to repeat what they have said. i find it especially hard with names, especially ones from different cultures and religions. But from today's session my confidence is improving as I'm starting to get to know the students more, which puts me at ease.

First of all we went round the circle several times saying our names to remind ourselves of them. I than told the group that we would play the zombie name game, but my instruction weren't obviously clear enough and some people thought it was the other zombie game. Once that was cleared up we began the game, which went well. Its very important to start any drama workshop with games as it warms your body up for the activities ahead and helps get the group relaxed and comfortable with each other. This is what the Pupil Referral Unit group didn't understand, that for them to devise drama, they need to start with a warm up and games. They obviously saw it quite childish and they didn't want to be treated that way.

I then introduced the game 'Cat and Mouse'. Only a few people knew the rules to the game so i performed a demonstration with someone form the group. I made sure the rules were clear this time and that everyone knew how to play. The game went really well, everyone participated and had fun. We didn't have time for the last game i had planned, which was 'Chair Cover' as we had to stop for the break.

For the improvisation, myself and Monsay decided we would follow on from last weeks session on mine. We gave each group a scenario and we wanted them to devise a scene, with a clear beginning, middle and end, all in mime, but also looking at using fast and slow motion mime; decide where and what to apply the mime to in your scene and really looking at the detail of each action and make each action big and exaggerated.

The scenarios were:

A family barbeque

Sports day/ Olympics

Running late to catch a flight

A canteen

Again, my instructions were slightly unclear as i was nervous, but I made sure everyone was clear once i had set up the task. We gave them five minutes to devise a scene. I wondered if they should have had longer to devise as they could have focused a lot more on the mime sections without panicking about the time. Does pressure produce good work? Does a short time to devise help the quality of work? Or would a longer period help with the clarity of the work by producing a polished piece.

I was really impressed with the quality of work presented. Each group really thought about where they would have the mime sequence in their piece and how they would use it. For the group who were 'running late for a flight', they were in a rush throughout the whole scene and came across lots of obstacles that were slowing down, but at the moment where they were allowed to rush and run to board the flight, they chose to run in slow motion. I felt this was very clever, showing the irony of being in a rush and fighting to run fast, but showing it in slow motion. Their facial expressions showed it all, their frustration and anxiety about missing the flight. The group who devised a piece around 'sports day/Olympics' started off very unclear and actions were made unnecessarily, but when they finally got to the race it all became clear. The two boys started the race in slow motion, one of them was very precise in his slow motion mime and the other boy was very expressional and exaggerated all of his movements. They then surprised us by cleverly showing how one person was winning the race: by having the other boy running backwards and the other run forwards. This created a great dynamic to the piece which was helped by their chosen staging. For each piece i tried to give worthwhile feedback that praised their work but also gave a small amount of criticism or something that they could add to for next time.

From observing the group I can see that they have bonded really well. Its a massive difference from the Pupil Referral Unit we worked with, unsuccessfully, the other day. The main difference is that these students want to be here to learn more about drama and to achieve high marks from it. The group support each other and works well as a team. The facilitators are also very supportive of their work and push them to work harder so they can achieve their grades.

Monsay took the supporting role in the workshop today as she also was a bit nervous about giving instructions. So i was the main leader and speaker throughout the workshop. We agreed that next week, before the session we would decide on what games Monsay could lead and what parts she could speak so then the workshop shop is led by both of us.

City Of London Academy workshop No.2

COLA workshop - Bermondsey - 30th April - 8am - 10.30am

I thoroughly enjoy working with the COLA boys in the morning, they participate well in the games and the devising, also their behaviour and attitudes towards the class are positive, but i do understand it has taken them a while to get to this stage. They have been very welcoming to us and they enjoy us being there.

Today we had two boys missing, one of which we haven't met before. We were introduced to a boy who missed last weeks session, who we noticed is quite disruptive in the class. We were told that he only attends a few sessions when he feels like it, and he is still unsure about the whole thing, but his behaviour has improved from his first few sessions. I noticed he found it hard taking in instructions and listening to what is being said by Karen and by the other students.

We started the session with the check-in and everyone gave quite high numbers so the group was feeling very positive today. First of all we played a game called 'Animal Kingdom'. We all had to sit in a line facing outwards and each of us was given an animal, a noise and an action. The animals were given out in order relating to the animal kingdom, ie, a lion being the highest and a mouse being the lowest. One person stands up and does their noise and action, then performs someone else's noise and action, the turn then passes to that person. If you are too slow or get the noise/action wrong then you move to the end of the line and you become the lowest animal. This game required their full concentration and their memory skills as it was easy to forget someones actions for their animal. Everyone really enjoyed this game, especially me!

The next game that was introduced was 'Blind Bottle', where a bottle is placed in the middle of a circle and someone, with their eyes closed, has to try and pick it up. This game is about memory skills, calculating the distance between where you are standing and the bottle. This game worked so well the class wanted to play it again.

As there were two boys in the class who had missed last weeks session, we decided to work on similar scenes as last week, with me and Monsay showing our piece again. The group produced some fantastic work. Two of the boys are so committed and energetic and they really love drama, they even prepared two epic sketches for us. The session really puts them in a good mood for the rest of the day and helps them in their lessons.

After the two groups had shown us their pieces, myself and Monsay performed our piece again about the teacher and student. We performed it through once and then applied the 'feeling angels' to it. This time two of the boys were the angels. Karen stopped us each time we got to a significant point where the feelings and emotions had changed. The group worked well identifying the feelings. Unfortunately we ran out of time so agreed to continue it next week.

They were all engaged with the work and contributed well to the tasks. We all felt the session ended too quickly as we were all enjoying the session and engrossed in the work. You can definitely see that the students benefit from these sessions. We learnt that another one of the boys who opted out of the session a few months ago is doing really well and has not been in trouble since. The system works!!

One important lessions we learnt today was that you shouldn't make the assumption that they know the game. Always go through the rules clearly so that everyone understand. This will help me when giving instruction next week for all the classes.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Back On Track - Park Centre - observation

Back On Track - Park Centre Group - 28th April -
Oval Theatre - 10.30-12.30

Karen and Tunde are the facilitators for this session with the Park centre pupil referral unit class. This week, however, Tunde was unable to be there so Craig took over. We were unsure how the lesson who pan out as we had discussed before the possibility of them playing up with us there and being unsure with us as we are new faces. We were told the group did not like change as this is why we were gradually being introduced to the class.

The class, which consists of 6 black boys aged 13-15 years old, starts at 10.30am with breakfast in the Oval cafe. They all fill themselves up with toast, juice and fruit. As they were eating, myself and Monsay introduced ourselves with received a luke warm reception! So while they finished eating myself, Monsay, Craig and Karen went through what we were going to do today.

This is what we planned to do in the session (if we had time for all of them):

1. Start with a name game - in a circle you say your name to the person on your right, then they say their name to the person on their right, etc.
Once this has been done a few times we would introduce the new rule: if u say your name twice you change direction in the circle. and if you say someone-else's name three times then its passed to that person and they continue the game.

2. Chair Cover - Everyone sits on a chair, there is one empty chair and the group must protect it from the person who is on who is trying to sit on it. As soon as you leave your chair someone need to protect that chair. In this game you work as a group and help and support each other as a team. It requires lots of concentration and discipline.

3. Cat and Mouse - To get them active we wanted to play the popular game. It is fun but needs a high level of concentration as you could be caught out if your not paying attention.

4. Object game - A object is selected, it is passed around a circle and each person has to pretend and use it as something else other than what it is.

5. Its not a chair - This games follows on from the object game. An object, like a chair is placed in the centre. One member enters the area and creates a scene with the object, using it as something else. Once they have established the scene another member of the class will enter and join in. When this has run on for long enough, the first person leaves and the second person changes the object and creates a scene with it. Once they have the scene another person joins, etc.

6. yes/no.maybe game - someone asks you a question but you can not reply with YES, NO or MAYBE.

7. Question game - Leading on from the yes/no/maybe game, you have to answer a question with a question. This requires a lot of concentration and discipline.

8. The improvisation - For the devising part, we decided to link the games into their work. Each group would have to create a scene using an object as something it is not. Include a beginning, middle and end with characters and a purpose to the scene. We would then give feedback and try and guess what the object was if it wasn't stated in the scene.

This is what actually happened:

We started with the check in, some peoples numbers were low as they were tired and even bored already! Then myself and Monsay introduced ourselves and told them what we are doing and what we will be doing with them next week. Then we started the session with the name game, just going around the circle saying our name. When we introduced the extra rules some of the boys just didn't get it. They were talking over Craig when he was giving instructions, they were being disruptive and they were saying they were bored of it. One student was lying about his own name and another was covering his face with his hood and he wouldn't take it off even when Karen asked him to. Karen had to refer back to the guidelines on the wall of RESPECT, SAFETY and COMMITMENT. They were not showing any respect or commitment to the class.

So we moved onto the Chair Cover game. After a few minutes of rule breaking we managed to start playing the game properly. Unfortunately after three successful rounds of Chair Cover, the disruption began. One boy was the main instigator of the chaos and he pulled focus from the games. Then one by one they got up and said they were leaving. In these sessions they are given Time Outs to have with their teacher if they have a problem. Today they were all calling for it and were making other excuses just to leave the class. With two students left remaining we decided to abandon the session.

When all the students left, myself and Monsay talked to Karen and Craig about what just happened. We all agreed that it was partly to do with Tunde not being here as he is the one that keeps them in line, but mainly to do with there being three new faces in the class today and them not being able to handle it, especially as myself and Monsay two white women. The boys were saying the reason was because they were bored and they wanted to get stuck into the drama, which is great but we need to start somewhere and needed to know their names. From arrival at the breakfast table Karen and Craig noticed a change in them. We were told that one boy who has recently returned back to school from being expelled was up from some chaos today.

It just shows how vulnerable these boys are. How one small change to their routine has caused this much of a disruption. Karen said she didn't even recognise them today, their reverted back to how they were behaving in their first few sessions which was a long time ago and they had come a long way from that. They were distant, there was no connection, no participation and they were easily distracted by other members playing up. Also they just had a long break away from the sessions, as it was Easter and then last weeks session was cancelled. They cant handle that, they need consistency. We shouldn't have been allowed to come into the class as they were so vulnerable and they had only just started to 'form' as a group. So it is best that we will not be going back to that class next week. It is a shame as i think they would have enjoyed the piece of theatre we had devised for them, but they are obviously not ready for it all yet.

Friday, 24 April 2009

Credited Drama Group workshop

Credited Drama Group: Oval House Theatre, 22nd April

In this programme the students are here to work towards a grade, bronze or silver, which is equal to a gsce. The group is quite large, about 16 students, all with different abilities. For example, for their exams, some wish to act, some to write a script and some are interested in musical theatre. We started the session by first introducing myself and Monsay followed by several name games, including the Zombie Wall! This was obviously tricky at first as i had to try and remember 16 new names, many of whom were black so i was very unfamiliar with them. I find it hard remembering names to start with, let alone about 13 of them being African names. But i managed to learn about half of them, which helped in the Zombie name game!

After their 15 minute break filled with biscuits and juice, we split the class into three groups and presented them with a scenario each that they had to show in mime. The scenarios were: an order gone wrong, the train inspector and a lucky break. The groups had five minutes to devise the scene all in mime. About four minutes into devising someone asked 'are we allowed to talk in it?'!! After each performance was shown everyone in the class has to give feedback, including myself and Monsay. We were both quite worried about our responses about their work as we both struggle with words and we knew we would be expected to say something quite intelligent and insightful. I enjoyed watching the performances, they were very entertaining and some of them had great ideas. I was impressed with some of the standard, especially as mime is so hard to do.

I felt quite nervous in this group, as there were a lot of students and i wasn't sure where to place myself in the room. I wasn't sure weather to be their friend or step back and be a facilitator. The games did help to break the ice and i got to know some of them pretty quickly. For our workshop that we will run next week, we have decided to follow on from what happened in this session, looking at mime, but introducing speeds, levels and different dynamics.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

City Of London Academy workshop

City Of London Academy session: 23rd April

Today i had to wake up at 5.30am to get ready and travel to City Of London Academy in Bermondsey. We were working with a small class with Back On Track at the college, with Karen and Zef. The class consists of 6 boys, all white, who have behaviour problems and have been disruptive in class. They attend these sessions and this programme instead of going to a lesson in the morning. The class did start out with 11 students, some opted out and felt it wasn't right for them and some felt that their time was up with the programme and it has done what needed to be done to help them. The facilitators keep in touch with the students and the teachers to see how they are doing once they have left the programme and it has been noticed that many students who have been through the Back on Track programme have improved in class with their behaviour and work.

Today there were four students who attended the session. We started off by 'checking in'. This is telling the group how you are feeling by saying a number, 1 being very unhappy and 10 being very happy. Most checked in at 6 and 7, they explained why - either they were tired or not looking forward to their next lesson. We then talked about how every ones Easter was and if it was enjoyable or not. Then we went around in a circle talking about triggers - what really sets them off and what happens when they get angry. One of the triggers was when the teacher has ago at him when he hasn't done anything wrong but he has the reputation of being naughty. His actions are then violence and shouting. After hearing every ones triggers and actions we moved onto something a lot harder - trying to identify the feelings behind these actions. Feelings that were said were: ANGRY, FRUSTRATED, PISSED OFF. One person did say UPSET which was a start to finding out what they really felt. Underneath the angry and frustration, the person is normally feeling hurt and upset.

To try and help uncover these feelings we all had to devise in pairs a scene which had a conflict or a trigger in. Then once the scenes had been performed Karen and Zef would step in as the Feeling Angels and say what the character is actually feeling. One pair showed a fight between two brothers over a computer game, the younger one aggravating the older one. As the older one tried to retaliate, the younger one called out for mum so the older one got the blame for the fight. This was actually one of the triggers that was identified by one of the boys in the class. They then replayed the scene with Karen and Zef as the angels, after each important point they stopped the action and said what the characters were feeling. For example, when the younger brother won the computer game the older one felt 'gutted and embarrassed' and when the younger brother started gloating about it he felt 'upset and annoyed' .

Myself and Monsay devised a scene between a teacher and student, where the student keeps getting in trouble. This time round though the student is innocent but the teacher does not believe them and so gives them a detention. The student is angry and shouts at the teacher and storms out. When we presented this to the class the boys said they really related to it and were even commenting through out it. As there was not enough time to do the Feelings Angels, we said we would develop the scene more and bring it back next week.

We all 'checked out' in 9s and 10s. I really enjoyed this session and felt very comfortable with the boys. They all had their moments where they would muck about a bit but they were all really well behaved and were really enthusiastic about drama. They listen to each other and enjoy the class and they have formed a tight unit. From speaking to Karen and Zef, it has only been since the last term that they have formed so well and they were happy to accept myself and Monsay into the class.

Monday, 20 April 2009

What is ADHD?

This Easter i was at home with my parents and my brother. We had recently learned my brother has ADID, Attention Deficit Inattentive Disorder, a form of ADHD. So this was the first time i had seen him since the diagnostic. My mum told me that I had to be supportive of him and not get angry at him if he frustrates me. Me and my brother have always argued, since we were young. I am 3 years older than him and I think we argue so much as we are quite similar. Our main difference is in our attitudes; attitudes towards work, school, our parents, money. This is where his ADID comes in. Although he was predicted A*s for his GCSE's, he only achieved 3 C's. He went to college to re-sit GSCE's and to take some A levels, he has quit college 3 times, each time starting a new course, but he looses interest in it, argues with teachers and doesn't do his homework. He has had several jobs, in which he has either quit or been sacked from and he has problems managing his money and his life. In the past he has stolen and has done some drugs.

We now realise the reason behind these problems is his ADID. He has the inattentive form of it rather than the hyperactive one. He is a lovely and friendly person, but he finds it really hard to express his emotions and communicate properly. So now when talking to him, I have to be patient with him and if he shouts at me or gets angry, i need to step back and ask him what he is actually trying to say. I still believe his actions of anger are wrong but now i understand why he is doing it. We are now trying to find a natural way of treating it rather then putting more drugs into his system. This also means he will have support if he decided to go back to college.

Many people don't understand ADHD, but it is becoming more common in children now-a-days. Quite a few of the students at Back On Track suffer with ADHD and this is why they are in this situation, either expelled from school or on a youth offenders programme. By working with Back On Track, it has helped me understand my brother at lot more and has helped me to support him, which made Easter time a lot more enjoyable for the family.

What is ADHD?

" Lisa's son Jack had always been a handful. Even as a preschooler, he would tear through the house like a tornado, shouting, roughhousing, and climbing the furniture. No toy or activity ever held his interest for more than a few minutes and he would often dart off without warning, seemingly unaware of the dangers of a busy street or a crowded mall.

It was exhausting to parent Jack, but Lisa hadn't been too concerned back then. Boys will be boys, she figured. But at age 8, he was no easier to handle. It was a struggle to get Jack to settle down long enough to complete even the simplest tasks, from chores to homework. When his teacher's comments about his inattention and disruptive behavior in class became too frequent to ignore, Lisa took Jack to the doctor, who recommended an evaluation for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

ADHD is a common behavioral disorder that affects an estimated 8% to 10% of school-age children. Boys are about three times more likely than girls to be diagnosed with it, though it's not yet understood why.

Kids with ADHD act without thinking, are hyperactive, and have trouble focusing. They may understand what's expected of them but have trouble following through because they can't sit still, pay attention, or attend to details.

Of course, all kids (especially younger ones) act this way at times, particularly when they're anxious or excited. But the difference with ADHD is that symptoms are present over a longer period of time and occur in different settings. They impair a child's ability to function socially, academically, and at home.

The good news is that with proper treatment, kids with ADHD can learn to successfully live with and manage their symptoms.

ADHD used to be known as attention deficit disorder, or ADD. In 1994, it was renamed ADHD and broken down into three subtypes, each with its own pattern of behaviors:

1. an inattentive type, with signs that include:
inability to pay attention to details or a tendency to make careless errors in schoolwork or other activities
difficulty with sustained attention in tasks or play activities
apparent listening problems
difficulty following instructions
problems with organization
avoidance or dislike of tasks that require mental effort
tendency to lose things like toys, notebooks, or homework
forgetfulness in daily activities

2. a hyperactive-impulsive type, with signs that include:
fidgeting or squirming
difficulty remaining seated
excessive running or climbing
difficulty playing quietly
always seeming to be "on the go"
excessive talking
blurting out answers before hearing the full question
difficulty waiting for a turn or in line
problems with interrupting or intruding

3. a combined type, which involves a combination of the other two types and is the most common
Although it can be challenging to raise kids with ADHD, it's important to remember they aren't "bad," "acting out," or being difficult on purpose. And they have difficulty controlling their behavior without medication or behavioral therapy.

Because there's no test that can determine the presence of ADHD, a diagnosis depends on a complete evaluation. Many children and adolescents diagnosed with ADHD are evaluated and treated by primary care doctors including pediatricians and family practitioners, but your child may also be referred to one of several different specialists (psychiatrists, psychologists, neurologists) especially when the diagnosis is in doubt, or if there are other concerns, such as Tourette syndrome, a learning disability, anxiety, or depression.

To be considered for a diagnosis of ADHD:
a child must display behaviors from one of the three subtypes before age 7
these behaviors must be more severe than in other kids the same age
the behaviors must last for at least 6 months
the behaviors must occur in and negatively affect at least two areas of a child's life (such as school, home, day-care settings, or friendships)

The behaviors must also not only be linked to stress at home. Kids who have experienced a divorce, a move, an illness, a change in school, or other significant life event may suddenly begin to act out or become forgetful. To avoid a misdiagnosis, it's important to consider whether these factors played a role in the onset of symptoms

First, your child's doctor will take a medical history by performing a physical examination and asking you about any concerns and symptoms, your child's past health, your family's health, any medications your child is taking, any allergies your child may have, and other issues.
The doctor may also check hearing and vision so other medical conditions can be ruled out. Because some emotional conditions, such as extreme stress, depression, and anxiety, can also look like ADHD, you'll fill out questionnaires to help rule them out.

You'll be asked many questions about your child's development and behaviors at home, school, and among friends. Other adults who see your child regularly (like teachers, who are often the first to notice ADHD symptoms) probably will be consulted, too. An educational evaluation, which usually includes a school psychologist, may also be done. It's important for everyone involved to be as honest and thorough as possible about your child's strengths and weaknesses.

Causes of ADHD
ADHD is not caused by poor parenting, too much sugar, or vaccines.
ADHD has biological origins that aren't yet clearly understood. No single cause has been identified, but researchers are exploring a number of possible genetic and environmental links. Studies have shown that many kids with ADHD have a close relative who also has the disorder.
Although experts are unsure whether this is a cause of the disorder, they have found that certain areas of the brain are about 5% to 10% smaller in size and activity in kids with ADHD. Chemical changes in the brain also have been found.

Recent research also links smoking during pregnancy to later ADHD in a child. Other risk factors may include premature delivery, very low birth weight, and injuries to the brain at birth.
Some studies have even suggested a link between excessive early television watching and future attention problems. Parents should follow the American Academy of Pediatrics' (AAP) guidelines, which say that children under 2 years old should not have any "screen time" (TV, DVDs or videotapes, computers, or video games) and that kids 2 years and older should be limited to 1 to 2 hours per day, or less, of quality television programming.

Related Problems
One of the difficulties in diagnosing ADHD is that it's often found in conjunction with other problems. These are called coexisting conditions, and about two thirds of kids with ADHD have one. The most common coexisting conditions are:
Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) and Conduct Disorder (CD)

At least 35% of kids with ADHD also have oppositional defiant disorder, which is characterized by stubbornness, outbursts of temper, and acts of defiance and rule breaking. Conduct disorder is similar but features more severe hostility and aggression. Kids who have conduct disorder are more likely to get in trouble with authority figures and, later, possibly with the law. Oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder are seen most commonly with the hyperactive and combined subtypes of ADHD.

Mood Disorders
About 18% of kids with ADHD, particularly the inattentive subtype, also experience depression. They may feel inadequate, isolated, frustrated by school failures and social problems, and have low self-esteem.

Anxiety Disorders
Anxiety disorders affect about 25% of kids with ADHD. Symptoms include excessive worry, fear, or panic, which can also lead to physical symptoms such as a racing heart, sweating, stomach pains, and diarrhea. Other forms of anxiety that can accompany ADHD are obsessive-compulsive disorder and Tourette syndrome, as well as motor or vocal tics (movements or sounds that are repeated over and over). A child who has symptoms of these other conditions should be evaluated by a specialist.

Learning Disabilities
About half of all kids with ADHD also have a specific learning disability. The most common learning problems are with reading (dyslexia) and handwriting. Although ADHD isn't categorized as a learning disability, its interference with concentration and attention can make it even more difficult for a child to perform well in school.

If your child has ADHD and a coexisting condition, the doctor will carefully consider that when developing a treatment plan. Some treatments are better than others at addressing specific combinations of symptoms.

Treating ADHD
ADHD can't be cured, but it can be successfully managed. Your child's doctor will work with you to develop an individualized, long-term plan. The goal is to help a child learn to control his or her own behavior and to help families create an atmosphere in which this is most likely to happen.
In most cases, ADHD is best treated with a combination of medication and behavior therapy. Any good treatment plan will require close follow-up and monitoring, and your doctor may make adjustments along the way. Because it's important for parents to actively participate in their child's treatment plan, parent education is also considered an important part of ADHD management.

Several different types of medications may be used to treat ADHD:
Stimulants are the best-known treatments — they've been used for more than 50 years in the treatment of ADHD. Some require several doses per day, each lasting about 4 hours; some last up to 12 hours. Possible side effects include decreased appetite, stomachache, irritability, and insomnia. There's currently no evidence of long-term side effects.
Nonstimulants were approved for treating ADHD in 2003. These appear to have fewer side effects than stimulants and can last up to 24 hours.
Antidepressants are sometimes a treatment option; however, in 2004 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning that these drugs may lead to a rare increased risk of suicide in children and teens. If an antidepressant is recommended for your child, be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor.
Medications can affect kids differently, and a child may respond well to one but not another. When determining the correct treatment, the doctor might try various medications in various doses, especially if your child is being treated for ADHD along with another disorder.

Behavioral Therapy
Research has shown that medications used to help curb impulsive behavior and attention difficulties are more effective when combined with behavioral therapy.
Behavioral therapy attempts to change behavior patterns by:
reorganizing a child's home and school environment
giving clear directions and commands
setting up a system of consistent rewards for appropriate behaviors and negative consequences for inappropriate ones
Here are examples of behavioral strategies that may help a child with ADHD:
Create a routine. Try to follow the same schedule every day, from wake-up time to bedtime. Post the schedule in a prominent place, so your child can see what's expected throughout the day and when it's time for homework, play, and chores.
Get organized. Put schoolbags, clothing, and toys in the same place every day so your child will be less likely to lose them.
Avoid distractions. Turn off the TV, radio, and computer games, especially when your child is doing homework.
Limit choices. Offer a choice between two things (this outfit, meal, toy, etc., or that one) so that your child isn't overwhelmed and overstimulated.
Change your interactions with your child. Instead of long-winded explanations and cajoling, use clear, brief directions to remind your child of responsibilities.
Use goals and rewards. Use a chart to list goals and track positive behaviors, then reward your child's efforts. Be sure the goals are realistic (think baby steps rather than overnight success).
Discipline effectively. Instead of yelling or spanking, use timeouts or removal of privileges as consequences for inappropriate behavior. Younger kids may simply need to be distracted or ignored until they display better behavior.
Help your child discover a talent. All kids need to experience success to feel good about themselves. Finding out what your child does well — whether it's sports, art, or music — can boost social skills and self-esteem.

Alternative Treatments
Currently, the only ADHD therapies that have been proven effective in scientific studies are medications and behavioral therapy. But your doctor may recommend additional treatments and interventions depending on your child's symptoms and needs. Some kids with ADHD, for example, may also need special educational interventions such as tutoring, occupational therapy, etc. Every child's needs are different.
A number of other alternative therapies are promoted and tried by parents including: megavitamins, body treatments, diet manipulation, allergy treatment, chiropractic treatment, attention training, visual training, and traditional one-on-one "talking" psychotherapy. However, scientific research has not found them to be effective, and most have not been studied carefully, if at all.
Parents should always be wary of any therapy that promises an ADHD "cure." If you're interested in trying something new, speak with your doctor first.

Parent Training
Parenting a child with ADHD often brings special challenges. Kids with ADHD may not respond well to typical parenting practices. Also, because ADHD tends to run in families, parents may also have some problems with organization and consistency themselves and need active coaching to help learn these skills.
Experts recommend parent education and support groups to help family members accept the diagnosis and to teach them how to help kids organize their environment, develop problem-solving skills, and cope with frustrations. Training can also teach parents to respond appropriately to a child's most trying behaviors with calm disciplining techniques. Individual or family counseling can also be helpful.

ADHD in the Classroom
As your child's most important advocate, you should become familiar with your child's medical, legal, and educational rights.
Kids with ADHD are eligible for special services or accommodations at school under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) and an anti-discrimination law known as Section 504. Keep in touch with teachers and school officials to monitor your child's progress.
In addition to using routines and a clear system of rewards, here are some other tips to share with teachers for classroom success:
Reduce seating distractions. Lessening distractions might be as simple as seating your child near the teacher instead of near the window.
Use a homework folder for parent-teacher communications. The teacher can include assignments and progress notes, and you can check to make sure all work is completed on time.
Break down assignments. Keep instructions clear and brief, breaking down larger tasks into smaller, more manageable pieces.
Give positive reinforcement. Always be on the lookout for positive behaviors. Ask the teacher to offer praise when your child stays seated, doesn't call out, or waits his or her turn instead of criticizing when he or she doesn't.
Teach good study skills. Underlining, note taking, and reading out loud can help your child stay focused and retain information.
Supervise. Check that your child goes and comes from school with the correct books and materials. Sometimes kids are paired with a buddy to can help them stay on track.
Be sensitive to self-esteem issues. Ask the teacher to provide feedback to your child in private, and avoid asking your child to perform a task in public that might be too difficult.
Involve the school counselor or psychologist. He or she can help design behavioral programs to address specific problems in the classroom.

Helping Your Child
You're a stronger advocate for your child when you foster good partnerships with everyone involved in your child's treatment — that includes teachers, doctors, therapists, and even other family members. Take advantage of all the support and education that's available, and you'll help your child navigate toward success.
Reviewed by: Richard S. Kingsley, MDDate reviewed: September 2008Originally reviewed by: W. Douglas Tynan, PhD "

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Back On Track - Our Community Project - Devising

Monday 6th April 5-8pm

Myself and Monsay presented to Karen and Tunde the themes we had been looking at and our ideas for a piece. We wanted to create something that the students could relate to, which would help them discuss when foruming. One idea that we were pretty keen to try was about a person that keeps getting fired from their job. The reasons for them getting fired would be being late, lazy, disrespectful, rude to costumers and having a bad attitude. We wanted to show that having a bad attitude wont get you very far in life, and people always remember a bad attitude. If you mess about in a job, then it'll be harder to get a new one as your reference wont be good. People may not give you a second chance, so making a good impression is very important.

So we set up a scenario where the person is called into the managers office as there has been lots of complaints made against them. I was the manager and Monsay was the employee, called Zoe. Zoe is 16 years old, she has a council flat and has a baby. She works at McDonald's at the counter.

During the improvisation of the scene, I found it quite difficult thinking of responses to Monsay's character. Monsay would take the scene to the next lever and i would have to top it. I found this frustrating as i would stumble on my words and not know how to counter Monsay. The manager had to be quite tough and she needed to create obstacles of Zoe. I had never played an oppressing role before, i would normally go for the oppressed roles. So i needed to become meaner and become comfortable in my role. We did swap roles to see if maybe it would suit us better, but it didn't work. Monsay has a likable and innocent side to her as well as having the attitude which i feel the audience could relate more too. Also i have never been in the situation where Ive been fired or been in serious trouble. Even when i was younger i didn't cause much trouble and never really had an attitude problem. Monsay said she could relate to it and has been in similar situations. She has a better understanding about this, which meant her character was more life-like.

The Scene:

The manager calls Zoe in and tells Zoe that there has has been several complaints made against her in the last week. She has been rude to the costumers, giving them back chat and also is late for every shift. Straight away Zoe says they must be lying and starts being argumentative. The manager explains that his is exactly what is getting her into trouble, she has a bad attitude problem. The manager then gives Zoe an opportunity to apologise and change things bu asking her "are you going to sort it out?". Zoe does not take that opportunity and continues to argue. The manager mentions Zoe's jewelry: big ear rings, false nails and rings. She should not be wearing them - one of the complaints was that a false nails was found in a burger. Zoe denies it was hers. The manager then tells Zoe she will work a double shift next weekend. Zoe argues back once again and says she has already worked a full week. Manager says she knows she hasn't. The manager gives Zoe plenty of opportunities to come clean and admit she missed her shifts, but Zoe still argues, saying that she signed the Sign-in sheet. The manager gives her one more chance to come clean as she knows she did not work those days, she got her colleagues to sign in for her and cover her shift. The manager produces the sign-in sheet and tells Zoe it was a serious offence and she could get the sack for this. Zoe mentions "everyone has problems"...this is a moment where Zoe could open up and tell the manager her problems, but she doesn't and carries on arguing. The manager says if she doesn't work the double shift then shell call the police. Zoe explodes, shouts at the manager saying she can "stick the job" and storms out.

In this scene the manager is the oppressor and Zoe is the oppressed. The manager creates both obstacles and opportunities for Zoe. In order for a positive outcome, Zoe must overcome these obstacles and take the opportunities to change her ways. Zoe feels victimised in this situation, she thinks its personal and this is why she is defensive and argumentative. She does not take responsibility for her actions. This is how many teenagers feel and this is what we are hoping to look at in the lessons. We want to open it out and forum the scene, identify certain points where Zoe could have changed the outcome - the missed opportunities.

The main problem is miss-communication. Zoe does not know how to communicate properly. Even the way she sits, talks and looks communicates in a negative way, without even verbalising anything she has communicated to the manager exactly how she feels and thinks about this job with her body language. She says she has problems, but instead of opening up, she returns to aggression. I have recently found out that my brother has ADID (Attention Deficit Inattentive Disorder). This finally explains why he as been doing these things. We could not understand what was wrong, as he is a very nice lad, very polite and friendly, but he can never hold down a job, hates being told what to do, could never do homework, steals, lies, smokes, drinks, cant organise anything, bad with money and can get very angry. He cannot communicate his feelings and emotions properly. Last week he got so upset he punched a hole in the wall and trashed his bedroom. He has quit college so many times as he looses interest in it, even though he is intelligent and was predicted 8 A*s (in the end he only showed up for a few exams and got 3 C's and the rest were fails). This time if he decides to go back to college again he will have the support from teachers and a councilor/psychiatrist to help him with his work, organisation and communication. There are also medicines he can take to help. Luckily as he has grown up, he has stopped stealing, taking drugs and lying. He now has 2 jobs which he enjoys and hopefully, that he will keep for sometime. He does not know what he wants to do with his life, so hopefully with the new help and understanding of his condition, this will help him decide and get on with life.

In the scene, the managers aim is to make Zoe work a double shift as she knows she has been lying about working last week. She can use the sign-in sheet to make her work it. Although Zoe is a problem and has a bad attitude, the manager does not want to have to fire her as there are not many other people that would work for this kind of money.

In the scene, the manager creates 'hooks' where Zoe can grab onto to make the scene escalate even higher.

The hooks are:

fake nail in burger
double shift
sheet
everyone has problems
no wages

After each one of the 'hooks' the manager gives Zoe a chance to come clean, apologise and correct it. These are the points where we will open it up to the class and see what they would have done differently. We will then let them take over Zoe's role and see if they can change the out come.

To be honest, I am quite nervous about the forum part of the session as i will have to think on my feet when the situation changes. It has been a while since i have improvised and devised a piece where i am performing in it. Since working as a stage manager, i have shied away from any performing, so i need to work my confidence back up in order for the forum session to really work and for the class to benefit from it.

Myself and Monsay are very exited and happy with the piece we devised. This piece will be taken to two groups, where Tunde or Karen will act as The Joker and will forum the piece to the group. We now have to find a play for the credited drama group, where we can explore different languages and devising techniques. We had also been asked to devise a piece for The Norwood Girls School, as they have been looking at relationships with boys. We could also relate this to Yard Gal and show some scenes from that.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Back On Track - Our Community Project - 2nd Meeting

Second Meeting: 31st March:

In our second meeting, myself and Monsay met with Karen, Tunde and Zephryn, who are facilitators for Back On Track, to discuss the groups and what we will be doing with them. We also created a timetable that we will be working to.

The groups:

City Academy in Bermsondy:

This group consists of about 7 boys, mixed race. The group have started to form well together and are keen to get involved. They are approaching the 'performing' stage in the group dynamics.

They are looking at conflicts- how they are constructed, where the conflicts happen (home, streets, school), and what the triggers were.
They look at their own experiences, highlighting their actions and feelings, and try to pin point what the trigger was.
From there, they create still images of the experiences and discuss the feelings and motives behind them.

Park Centre at Oval:

This group consists of 5 boys, black. They are in the 'forming' stage and are starting to engage with drama. In this group, the boys have been expelled from school so are referred to this programme.

Again, the main areas that are being looked at are conflict and communication. Communication is a big factor in this group. They struggle to communicate with each other and don't show each other any respect. You have to look at how they are communicating and try and show them another way of doing it, if it is not received well. Look at what they are trying to say and ask them if they could say it in another way. Most people do not know how to communicate properly and things can be misinterpreted, which leads to them becoming more frustrated and not being able to communicate properly, and so the circle continues.

Youth Arts Group at Oval:

This groups consists of 15-17 girls and boys, mixed race. This is a credited drama group.

This group of students are here because they want to learn more about drama and widen their own skills by getting a qualification. The group is focused and work on two grade levels, Bronze and Silver grade. To achieve these grades the students have to fulfill several acquirement's, as well as participating in the group activities each week and devising drama. For Bronze, they have to see a piece of theatre and review it. For Silver, they have to research an arts organisation or theatre company, see some of their work and produce a presentation on it.
With this group we can be more challenging with the work we provide them.

For the Back On Track groups, the main goals they address in each session are:

Respect for yourselves and others.
Safety for physical and emotional self.
Commitment and responsibilities.

At the end of this meeting we had a clear idea of what we needed to do and were very excited about starting these workshops. The groups seem challenging and hard work which is quite scary in one respect, but well worth it in another.

After the meeting Myself and Monsay mind-mapped several themes and issues that were apparent in each group and looked at different seniors and situations which we could devise from. One theme we looked at which gave us lots of ideas was 'ambitions'. We want to know what the students want to do with their lives, what interests them and what their goals are. Also we want to look at what is stopping them from reaching these goals and see how they can change that for themselves. An idea for a forum theatre piece could be: a young boy who keeps getting fired from his jobs for several reasons - hes late, lazy, disrespectful, argumentative and rude to the customers. We would show each scene involving one of these reasons and see how the boy could have prevented himself from being fired.

We will take these ideas to our next meeting with Tunde, Karen and Zephryn and see where we can go next using these themes.

What is Forum Theatre?

Forum Theatre

"Forum Theatre is an interactive theatre form invented (or discovered) in the early 1970s by Augusto Boal. An audience is shown a short-ish play in which a central character (protagonist) encounters an oppression or obstacle which s/he is unable to overcome; the subject-matter will usually be something of immediate importance to the audience, often based on a shared life experience.

After this first showing, there may be a brief discussion amongst the audience, mediated by a figure known as 'the Joker' (as in a pack of cards, belonging to no particular suit, on no-one's side). Then the play is restarted, usually from the beginning, and runs as before - but this time, whenever a 'spect-actor' (active audience member) feels the protagonist might usefully have tried a different strategy, s/he can stop the action, take the protagonist's place, and try his or her idea. The other characters in the piece will react as they feel their characters would react, on a bad day i.e. they will not make it easy for any new tactic to succeed; but if an idea works, the intervening spect-actor can win, the game is not rigged.

Through a session of Forum Theatre, many people will take the stage and show many different possibilities. In this way, the event becomes a kind of theatrical debate, in which experiences and ideas are rehearsed and shared, generating both solidarity and a sense of empowerment."

Back On Track - Our Community Project - 1st meeting

After our workshops on Yard Gal, we stayed in contact with Emily from Back On Track and we expressed our interest in creating and running some workshops with her. We had hoped to start some workshops with her in January, but myself and Monsay were very busy with other shows and work so we had to delay the start to our project.

Our first meeting - 20th March:

In our first meeting with Emily at Oval House Theatre we discussed our availability and commitment to this project. We needed to be aware that we could not just dip in and out when we liked, these children needed stability and little change in their lives. We told Emily that we were aware of this and we did not want to mess this children about and we are taking this very seriously. We discussed our intentions and ideas for this project and it was agreed that we would work with a team to create a piece of forum theatre that would be taken into some classes and worked on.

We will be working with facilitators Karen, Tunde and Zephryn. The Facilitator's role is different to a teacher's role. The facilitator is there to help guide things and help the group express their feelings and opinions through ways other than aggression. They don't have the boundaries set up like teachers do. They are someone who makes progress easier for the students, who may have conflicts in certain situations. If a student outbursts in class, then the facilitator must diffuse the situation and challenge their actions and ask why they did this, what they feel, be reflective on it, what were they trying to say through their actions and try and switch 'blame' with 'responcibility'.

The groups we will be working with are all referred to Back On Track. The groups normally consist of no more than 10 students. There is about 6 groups. We will work on some of the issues they have been tackling in lessons and prepare a piece on it. A lot of the issues centre around anger, attitudes and conflicts.

With all this to think about, Emily gave us an information pack on Back On Track which talks about BOT and includes exercises and games. She also suggested some books that we look at for more information on forum theatre and games, for example, 'Games for Actors and Non Actors' by Augusto Boal.

At the Oval House Theatre, there is the Youth Arts Group, where people are there because they want to do Drama. We may also run a workshop with them, but we can make it more advanced for them. Emily talked to us about the differences between BOT groups and Oval's group, BOT groups deal with more personal issues, helping towards life's situations, anyone can contribute to what the sessions are based on. Everyone has a choice in the groups and they can chose to participate or not. In Oval's group everyone has to participate and perform, the teacher chooses the themes and what will happen in the lessons and people are there to learn more about drama.

The group dynamics:

Norming: This is the first stage in a group, it is the norm. Everyone is introduced, they are nice to each other and are testing the water.

Storming: This is where the group divides. They either fall out with each other or fall out with the teacher.

Forming: The arguments and conflicts become less and the group starts to work together.

Performing: The group connects and works together.

Back On Track

Back on Track

A powerfully unique course specifically designed for young people with complex issues of education and exclusion.
Back on Track is a unique arts intervention designed to support young people from the most disadvantaged circumstances who find themselves on the brink of exclusion or other crises due to anti-social or challenging behaviour. Using the arts for empowerment, understanding and change, the project aims to give young people effective lifelong tools that they can use to maximise their strengths, and so break the cycle of deprivation not only for themselves but also for their communities.
Back on Track gives young people the opportunity to develop their creativity in the informal learning environment of an arts venue and give themselves quality time and space to address real issues: how to make positive change in their lives, how to plan for the future and how to realize their vision. By equipping young people with increased self-esteem and transferable skills we enable them to make positive choices in their lives: re-engaging in their learning, creating action plans for further education or employment, changing their leisure culture, introducing them to new cultural and arts activities and encouraging their involvement in the wider world.
Back on Track works with pupil referral units, youth offending teams, schools, colleges and educational support agencies and delivers the programme with groups of up to ten young people. The course can be based at Oval House or at the young people’s centre. The course is run by our arts in education practitioners who have a tried and tested history of work in this field. The aims of the programme are:
To re engage young people in their educational and learning
To equip young people with effective social and creative tools
To understand their unique values
To develop awareness within a wider social contact
To foster independent learning
To develop young people’s emotional literacy
To develop staff creative teaching skills
To reduce the number of exclusions and reduce truancy
For further information please contact Emily Doherty Back on Track Co-ordinator:
Telephone: 020 7582 6279

Back on Track is supported by the London Borough of Lambeth, BBC Children in Need, KPMG Foundation, The Equitable Charitable Trust and The Eleanor Rathbone Charitable Trust.

Working with Back On Track - Yard Gal

When myself and Monsay were at the Oval House Theatre performing 'Yard Gal' in November 08, we were approached by Back On Track, an innovative arts programme for young people who are at risk of or excluded from education. They wanted us as a company to run a few workshops on Yard Gal with one of their groups. They had been to see the production and were interested by the issues raised.

So myself, Monsay Whitney, Stef Di Rubbo and Stef O'Driscoll ran a workshop based on the play using forum theatre. First of all we were introduced to the class and played some games, including a name game. I find learning names particularly hard and as the majority of the class were black, I wasn't used to the types of names being said to I had to pay extra attention to them. I noticed that some of the group weren't interested in playing games or participating in the exercises and i think this is because there was a big range in the age gap of the group. It ranged from 12 years to 17 year old. This is a big gap to have in a group that needs to support each other, but with some encouragement from Stef and their teachers, the group came together.

Stef and Monsay had been rehearsing some scenes prior to the workshop, but when we saw the age of some of the students, we realised we would have to tone down the swearing, which is apparent in nearly every sentence the girls speak! The girls first performed the scene where there is a gang confrontation and Marie gets stabbed. We ran the scene a couple of times and then opened it up for forum theatre. Stef was acting as the Joker, so she asked the group at what points did they think the stabbing could have been prevented? There were several keys moments in the scene where either Marie or Boo could have taken a step back and realised this is not the right way to go. One student was quite keen on discussing the situation and even got up to participate in the scene. After she had gotten up, others wanted to try their ideas and some were even fighting over who would go next. This was a positive reaction for our work and it was great to see them taking part on their own accord rather than being forced. This is what Back On Track is all about. The students have to be there but are never forced into anything and are allowed to express their own opinions and how they feel, where as in other places they may not have been able to do so.

With the collaboration of the group we managed to find a point where the stabbing could have been stopped and discussed their opinions on gang culture and knife crime. We ran 2 more workshops after following the same themes and discussions. They then went onto devising their own scenes and forum theatre, but unfortunately i could not be there to see it.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

A midsummer night's dream with a twist.....

I went for an interview the other day at Southwark Playhouse to apply to be a ASM in their production of A Midsummer Nights Dream. But this dream is not set in your local forest, but it has being transported over to Old Japan.
"Southwark Playhouse re-imagines Shakespeare’s most magical play in Samurai Japan, bringing the mysticism of the East to the atmospheric cellars beneath London Bridge Station.
Inspired by the delights of Japanese Kabuki dance, the grace of Noh theatre and the comedy of knockabout Kyogen clowns this Midsummer Night’s Dream will create a world where the charmed and the charming co-exist.
Packed into 90 minutes this production will combine vibrant verse, striking physical imagery and ensemble performances to breathe life into this most mischievous of plays. "
Just reading about it sounds so magical. Plus as it's being staged in the wonderful Southwark Playhouse, where the roof is arched, the brick is exposed and you can hear the trains pass over it, i feel this will only added to the magicness of the play.
So I went along to my interview, very excited about the show, but unfortunatley knew i wouldnt be able to take the job, as i realised my dates for my collab performance and their show would clash.
But i though i'ld go along any way as its good practice. So i explained this to them, and although i cant attend the whole run of the show and the rehearsals, they said i could come a few days a week when im free to help out and make set, costumes, props, etc. Which is great, as i had fallen in love with this production.
I know the set and costumes are going to be truely beautiful and i'm definitly going to book tickets to see it aswell.
So this got me thinking aswell, where else could you set Midsummer nights dream? And what other plays could you do this with? Everyone has seen the new modern versions of shakespeare, but its never really been set in different eras or different cultures.
I look forward to working on and seeing how the Japenese take on Shakspeare's A Midsummer Nights Dream works out. From what i've heard it's going to be like a dream...!