It is June.
For many, the school year is winding to a close (if it hasn’t already ended). Some, (like myself who teaches in schools that do not conclude until the end of July) the school year is gearing up for the final sprint. For most educators, the end of the year means organizing and facilitating opportunities for families and community members to come to the school and share in what the students have learned. Given the limited time I have with my students, the thought of putting on a public performance is anxiety-provoking.
Plus, it steals precious learning time from my students. What I want is to maximize student learning time, while still giving the students an opportunity to perform. Public sharing should be a genuine, authentic sharing and celebration of learning. I want the audience to have a sense of what went into the making of this performance. For the students, I want them to have a chance to reflect and share what they have learned in the process. More importantly, be able to articulate the purpose of the work we did together. Enter the informant.
If you have never heard of an informant, you may already have done it without knowing. There is no one way to conduct an informance. But in general terms, it is similar to a performance in that there is an audience. Unlike a performance, the goal is to inform the audience as opposed to entertaining them. It is a way to intentionally showcase the celebration of learning, and is less polished than a formal performance would be. That is one of the biggest benefits of an informance. It allows you to stay focused on curriculum and the process of art-making. It also gives the parents more information about the celebration of learning process than a typical performance. As far as I am concerned, there is no reason why you cannot do a little entertaining as you educate and inform!
If you are new to the concept of informance, here are a few suggestions of how an informance could look.
This requires no rehearsal on the part of the students. It is effective if you are a teacher of an art form, but also works if you are educating your families about arts integration. You can invite the parents to attend an actual class so they see what a typical art class looks like. What would be different is you might take little breaks during the instruction to give the audience some background on the activities or exercises and allow time for questions from the audience. Depending on space and resources, you might want to invite the audience to participate in one of the activities. Allowing them to join in on the fun.
In this situation, the audience would not attend a typical class, but they may catch a glimpse of some of the work that you do in your class. It might be as formal as taking place on a stage. Or, it could take place in a multipurpose room where there is a “performance area” and an audience seating area. You may choose to showcase some typical warm-up activities or learning activities. In addition, you may even have the students do the explaining to the audience, rather than you telling the purpose of the exercise or the celebration of learning activity. Having the students do the talking may require some practice, but this kind of sharing allows you to continue to use class time to focus on curriculum. Instead of focusing on perfecting a performance.
This gives a little twist on the “informance” name with the “inform” standing for inform and informal! This format still allows you to spend most of your time covering various curricular objectives. Rather than rehearsing for a big production or concert, yet still gives students the experience of preparing a short piece that is rehearsed and more polished. Again, you may wish to have students talk about the process, and what they were learning as they prepared this specific piece. You may even build in time to have the audience ask questions of the students and yourself to give the audience and students greater involvement in the exchange.
So, if you are looking for a way about the celebration of learning of your students and have them share that celebrating learning with the community, consider an informance. This allows you, the students and your community to stay focused on what’s most important – the celebration of learning process!
Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.