Own the room 2

24 11 2015

Few schools have dedicated performance spaces. Most schools end up putting science presentations on the gym or cafeteria. Whilst these spaces have size and flexibility going for them, unfortunately, they don’t have much else. 

Worse they come with baggage.

If you are presenting in a space that’s normally a dinner hall the children will associate that space with eating and chatting. They will also be used to being supervised in that space by people other than their teachers. 

If you are presenting in what is normally a gym the children will associate that space with running around at break-neck speed kicking balls and climbing over gym apparatus. In this sort of space they are often controlled by someone with a whistle. 

If you do nothing to change the children’s perception of the space they are in your presentation will suffer for those perceptions. If you allow the children to think of the space as a place where they can chat with their pals or where they don’t need to listen unless someone blows a whistle they will do just that. 

This space is typical of the sorts of spaces provide for presentations. Not only is it an echoey gym hall it is also used for assemblies. The fact it’s used for assemblies should have worked in my favour but because the room is so large they only ever address the children using a booming PA system.

  

The children in this space had been primed to NOT sit still and to ONLY listen to a voice loud enough to rattle their fillings. 

In the first two performances I let the teachers bring their classes in and seat them. I really struggled. I’d use all my regular techniques and more to get the kids quiet but the moment I let them go- did something to make them laugh or clap- they started to chat and it took another minute to get them quiet. It was horrendous. 

I always look to myself first but I was sure the show was not the problem, and the way I was presenting it wasn’t any different to how I’d normally do it, so before the last show I made changes. I had to make the kids realise they were in a different space with different behaviour expectations. 

The first thing I did was arrange the benches you can see in the photo. Not only did this make the space look different I was able to use the middle benches to form a neat aisle. I also used the benches to group each class in their own block one class on each side of the aisle. The teachers were then given seats next to their classes instead of them sitting to one side of a row of 30 of their children. 

The second thing I did was get rid of the school’s mic, stand and PA. In the previous shows I think the kids subconsciously saw them  and assumed that was what they had to listen out for. I wanted to rid them of that assumption. 

The last thing I did was take total control of the fill. As described in the first post I told the teachers to slow the kids at the door and then I seated the children row-by-row. You can see how neat they all looked in this picture. It looked and felt totally different to the first two shows. I’d also showed them I was in charge and I expected calm from them. 

  
The 10 minutes “wasted” at the start was more than worthwhile. The kids were cued to behave differently, they were seated comfortably and despite the noise in the venue the last show was brilliant. 

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