Archive for July, 2013
Read Aloud Plays: Symbols of America, Read Aloud Plays: Classic Short Stories, and Super Sentences & Perfect Paragraphs, are all 50% off through August 7th at Scholastic Teacher Express. Simply use the promo code Birthday50 at Checkout to get a great deal on these titles.
Symbols features ten American history plays about important symbols, events, and holidays from American History. It includes the plays Betsy Ross: Fact or Fiction and I Have a Dream: The Childhood of Martin Luther King, both originally published in Storyworks magazine. Unless you have back issues of Storyworks stashed in your classroom cabinets, Symbols is the only source for these plays.
Classic Short Stories includes eight classic short stories re-imagined for the intermediate and middle school classrooms. Washington Irving’s Sleepy Hollow, Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart, and Kipling’s Rikki Tikki Tavi, will delight your students while helping them build fluency, extend comprehension, and meet the CCSs.
Finally, Super Sentences and Perfect Paragraphs is a complete writing program in a small package. Ever get overwhelmed by these monstrous writing programs text book companies sell your school district? They come with multiple binders, a ton of packaging, and half-a-dozen supplementary boxes of largely useless junk? Ever notice how you’re never able to wade through the muck to develop a systematic, effective, easy-to-use, daily writing program? Well, chuck the text book junk and give Super Sentences a try. It includes daily, weekly, and quarterly writing activities all in one 96 page reproducible book. And it’s half-off this week at Scholastic Teacher Express! Just click on a title to go directly to Teacher Express to preview or purchase. Don’t forget that promo code: Birthday50.
“Johnny” has a big personality. Though it sometimes gets him in trouble, it translates well to the stage. While playing Polythemus in my play, Cyclops: The Monster in the Cave, he takes a swig of an imaginary potion, vomits, staggers pathetically, and then falls to the ground. It mesmerizes the crowd. The play’s a hit.
But there’s more behind the play’s success than just Johnny’s big personality. Because I’m both a teacher and a playwright, I write my plays while imagining my students acting them out. As a result, they’re not just read-aloud plays, they’re act-aloud plays. Like many of you, I’ve run across plays that are clogged with excessive narration (“too much exposition,” as the say on Broadway) or made confusing by multiple settings within the same scene. Know that I endeavor to create plays that avoid these traits. While narration is necessary given the format prescribed by my publishers, I try to keep it to a minimum, or I find creative ways to deliver it. For example, the character of James in The Birthmark is simultaneously telling his story to the audience while talking to the other characters in the play. The Snakecharmers in Rikki Tikki Tavi, are designed to be mystical figures (I imagine them with flute in hand). And Adult Tyree from Freedom for the First Time retains all the local color (and southern dialect) of her childhood counterpart, the central figure of the story. Another reason my plays are created with the stage in mind is because I believe that the repetition of practicing for an actual performance is what builds reading fluency and drives student buy-in. Kids love performing, and they’ll read and re-read their scripts over and over again if it leads up to a performance. Try asking a kid to read a story out of the Houghton-Mifflin text thirty times. See where that gets you.
Using read aloud plays simply as good reading material is just fine, but their greatest value, especially for kids like Johnny, is as act-aloud plays. And speaking of fund plays to act out, I’ve just posted three new ones. All three were published in Scholastic’s Scope magazine last school year.
The Birthmark is based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic short story about imperfection. It pits science against nature and includes a wonderful “mad scientist” scene, complete with an Igor-esque lab assistant. Cyclops, from Homer’s Odyssey, will excite all your students who’ve gotten into the Percy Jackson books. It mixes the original Greek mythology with some kid-friendly humor that will have your students giggling. Mine sure did. Finally, The Secret Soldier tells the true story of Deborah Samson, who disguised herself as a man and joined Washington’s Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. It’ll be a great addition to your Early American unit. Help your “Johnny” find success with act-aloud plays. Visit readaloudplays.com or my store at TeachersPayTeachers to preview or purchase dozens of compelling plays.