At the Jewish Enrichment Center, we have a pretty well-established practice of coming up with our classroom rules collaboratively. Children first think of what they hope to do this year– their “hopes and goals.” Then, they decide together what three or four general rules for the classroom will support them in taking care of themselves, each other, and the environment and materials, such that they can achieve their hopes and goals.
This year, while sticking with the overall structure, I changed the details a little bit: First, ענפים (Anafim, “branches” for 3rd-4th grade children) filled out surveys about their favorite kinds of activities and explorations, and told me more about the kinds of things they wish they could do here more often.
Then, the children broke up into affinity groups based on their responses, and designed rules that would support their successful learning during that desired activity. (I made this change because the ideas the children shared in the old format were starting to seem a little automatic- after several years of a similar prompt, it seemed like it wasn’t drawing out deep thinking and new answers any more.)
I had some predictions about their favorite activities. Building with popsicle sticks, dioramas, cardboard projects, and using clay are requests I often hear, and one or two children sometimes mention drama. But on Sunday morning, I was surprised.
“I want to do more skits!”
Five out of the eight children present that morning listed drama as one of their first choices. So, over כיבוד (kibud– snack), one of the groups worked together on coming up with classroom rules that would support making more skits.
Their preliminary classroom rules: Include everyone’s ideas, respect everyone’s work, keep your body under control.
Then it was time to switch into text study. Their assignment was first to review all of the text we’ve explored so far, from Genesis 18-19, with their חברותא (chavruta, learning partner) and then find a way to retell it. I listed the most commonly requested options: build it with natural materials, draw it, create a collage…
Two groups approached me. “Can we turn it into a skit?”
Well, it wasn’t in the plan. And we’d never tried it before. It would be an awfully quick turn-around.
And you know what? It wasn’t easy!
One of the children reflected, “We didn’t have enough time to really plan the whole thing.”
Another said, “We need more time and also we could make the props better.”
“We should write out the lines.”
It was also hard for some of the children who’d been working on other projects to quickly switch gears and become an audience. Still, at the end of the day, I asked every child about one of the classroom rules the “skits” group had come up with. “What’s one way you respected everyone’s work today?”
And every child had an answer.
Time to do some research on supporting drama activities in the classroom! What a fun, unexpected new adventure in ענפים (Anafim)!