Thursday, November 08, 2007

Individual classrooms vs. large assemblies

Let me start by saying that I like telling stories in all kinds of venues, for varying sizes and ages of audience. I'm happy to do assemblies (please, not more than 250 kids at a time, for the best experience for the listeners) and I'm happy to do individual classrooms.

Here are some of the differences:

Large assemblies are cost-effective. I 0ften do two performances at one school in the morning and two at another in the afternoon, so each school gets a good deal. If we split it by kindergarten to second grade (or third, depending on the school) and third through fifth (or sixth, ditto), everybody seems to have a good time. I'm cheaper than a field trip!

Kids expect something extra special from an assembly. There's a lovely air of anticipation as the kids come into the gym or the library or the cafeteria. As a performer, I get a lot of energy from the group and in an assembly, it can be a huge vortex of energy.

Classrooms are more expensive, as I can only do up to four sessions in a day. After four, I'm pretty much comatose. To tell in classrooms, schools must usually have the underwriting of a local arts agency or an outside grant, if the whole school is going to benefit.

In classrooms, there's more chance for kids to connect with me more directly. The experience is more intimate. The kids seem to feel that they know me even better when they have heard me tell stories in the classroom. I'm coming in to their environment so I can see evidence of what they've been doing--sometimes I integrate that into the stories.

I also can tailor the stories more directly to the kids. Today, for example, I told a very scary story to fifth graders, one I would never tell to younger kids. With the kindergarteners, I sang a silly baby song perfect for that age.

When I get to be in a school for an extended time, in the classrooms and hanging out with the kids in the cafeteria, I'm not doing what my friend Sharon refers to as drive-by-art. It's a longer-lasting connection. That's how I've felt these past three weeks in Iola (and I'll be there again next week).

With all kinds of performance venues, I manage the energy in the room, in myself, in the listeners. I often feel like an orchestra conductor. Maybe the difference is that an assembly is the symphony and the classroom is a chamber group?

No comments: