“Ms. Moore, I’m so nervous. I’m not ready for this. I had no idea there would be that many people in the audience,”
Said a student of mine right before she went on stage with a smile that stretched from ear to ear and a sparkle in her eye. There’s just something about performing – the anticipation, the excitement, the adrenaline rush. Last month I wrote a piece about informances – an opportunity to inform the visitors and share the learning of the students without time spent perfecting a performance. The great thing about an informance is that it keeps the focus on the learning process. I really do believe informances are very valuable and I do believe in keeping the focus on the learning process but… there’s just something about performing.
Practicing for a performance is like revising written work.
Each time you practice, you usually get better. You practice, you look at where you can improve, you make some changes and you practice again. Students learn patience and perseverance when practicing for a performance. It’s a wonderful example of growth mindset. You practice your lines, you practice the song, you practice the dance steps because you are going to get better. The expectation is that you are going to be able to perform it better the next time and that is generally the case. The performance is like the published piece – the final draft. It is the result of hard work and it is an expression of the best work of the students.
When a student practices and gets better, s/he gains a certain amount of confidence and a belief in her/his abilities.
Getting up in front of a crowd and performing anything takes great courage and presence. If students have many opportunities to do this, they gain confidence in their ability to do it which will serve them well throughout their lives. Just recently I received the most heart-warming note from a third grade student. Not only did she say how much she loves music and theater but she said, “You’ve boosted confidence in most people and you’ve made mine stronger. I am more confident than I was before.” I saw it with my own two eyes and it was amazing to watch.
We teach students to know their audience when they are writing and strive to give them opportunities to write to an authentic audience – pen pals; students in another classroom; a persuasive piece to their teacher, administrator or legislator. The beauty of preparing for a performance is that the students know there will be an audience. There is a purpose to all this practice. Knowing there will be an audience and knowing who will be in that audience is a great motivator to students.
I have witnessed time and again that “aha” moment on stage when students realize they are acting for an audience. The first time the audience responds to something they say or do, something clicks and the performers come alive. And once the children have a taste of performing for an audience, the next time they may remember that during the rehearsal process and it may be even more motivating.
And then there is the fun.
Weeks before a performance, I always have teachers stopping me to tell me about what their students are saying, how excited they are for the performance, how they are practicing out at recess. I see the excitement on the faces of the students and I feel it in the air. It is energizing and it is motivating in and of itself.
The learning process is so important. That’s the reason we have schools. Informances are a wonderful tool for showcasing learning and allowing educators to stay focused on that learning process. But don’t rule out a polished performance. There really is just something about performing.
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.