This past weekend I observed two more classes, Drama Exposure II with Dell Howlett, and Musical Theater Exposure II with Damazi Williams. Observing these two classes in one day was extremely interesting, as both the teaching styles and direction of the classes were very different.
The first class I attended was Drama Exposure II for kids 9-11 years old. According to Theater Arts Program Director Michael Awusie, this class is designed to expose students to basic theater concepts, and help them use their imaginations to create and visualize different characters, situations, and environments. At the conclusion of the semester there will be a performance where the students showcase what they have learned.
Dell began the class by sitting with the ten students in a circle and asking what they did during the week. This exercise created a relaxed environment and encouraged the kids to express themselves in a low-pressure atmosphere. Each student brought an item of their choice to the class, such as a book, toy, scarf, etc. Dell then had the students line up and act out a monologue using their object. The theme of this exercise was to express nostalgia about an item that rekindled an old memory. Each scene concluded with the student “showing” the object to their mother.
After all the students presented their monologue, Dell sat the kids down and critiqued their individual performances. His criticisms were constructive and kind, but clearly communicated the changes that needed to be made. Dell possessed a unique ability to relate to the students, interspersing his time as a part of the group and as the leader. A great class run by a fantastic teacher.
At the conclusion of Dell’s class, I ran over to Musical Theater Exposure II, another class for 9-11 year old’s. This class introduces students to the marriage of dance, theater, and music in order to tell a story. The students are challenged to go beyond simply creating characters, as they learn to sustain and heighten those characters through song and dance.
To begin, Damazi had the students practice singing and timing with a pianist to the song “Footloose”. While the students are not trained singers, they were well prepared and Damazi challenged them to maximize their vocal abilities. After concluding this exercise, the class advanced to dancing and singing simultaneously. Damazi allowed the students to work through their mistakes, only stopping the group for major errors. The kids are typical pre-teens, excitable and easily distracted, but Damazi completely controls the class and does an excellent job refocusing his students.
Damazi’s teaching style is completely different from Dell’s. He is strict and driven, instinctively knowing when to back off and when to push forward. The mood of his classroom is fun but stern, and wasting time is not tolerated. His determination is infectious, and the students seem equally motivated to perfect their performance.
Watching these two opposing teaching styles back to back was fascinating. Both teachers used vastly different techniques to facilitate learning and get the most out of their students. Check back next week for more class reviews!
Special Projects Coordinator