If you search around my website, or follow my blog you may know I teach acting at the community rec. center. I absolutely love doing this. I have come across a lot of super great actors over the ten years I have been teaching there. Some former students actually work professionally and many now get leads consistently in community theater. Is it because I am a fantastic instructor? Highly unlikely. My class is meant to be an introduction to theater. I don't teach a ton of techniques--in fact I would never try and teach adults or even high school age kids. But something I am good at is helping kids gain confidence in themselves.
I'm a little different than most acting instructors. I believe kids often learn best from doing rather than just hearing about it, so we always get ready and put on a show for parents. And every child always gets a pretty big part. If I have a main part and many kids I often divide the main part into 3 so more kids have a chance to perform. My own kids have participated in plenty of plays where someone had a huge part whereas my child may have one line but they still have to go to all the practices. This is the reality of being in a play. But since my acting class is meant to be a class...almost every child's part is almost as long as their fellow student.
Anyway what I love about this is there are many kids who haven't performed before who aren't always the 'shinging light' in the extracurricular thing they do-or anything really. But more often than not when we perform our skit they are awesome.. much to their own surprise.
A few weeks ago during practice the kids I worked with were told they couldn't use their scripts anymore. I would feed them their words if they needed it..and they could improvise the words--make it up-but no more scripts. Everyone did a good job with that. But one boy would say a word and then say "I can't do it. I don't know it." Then he would be encouraged to try but he said "I can't". I tried to encourage him, pursueded him, be strict with him etc. Nothing worked.
He continued to say "I can't" so finally I left him alone. We then took a break and played fun, silly acting games. We played many of the same games you can find on my website under the 'activity' tab, I actually use many in my acting classes but know they actually help kids overcome shyness, and other social problems as well. So we played some games and soon the 4 boys and one girl were laughing, being silly and having a great time.
After ten minutes of playing acting games we went back to practicing. It was a shock. That same child went back and not only did his lines but said them almost perfectly. What was it that changed so drastically with this boy? It was the games. He relaxed and got his mind off of the skit . After relaxing and having fun, his stress level was gone.
How many times when we feel we can't do something, is it tied into our own anxiety? I have had a child who came home with homework and spent 3 hours stressing about it and 20 minutes actually doing it once he settled down and did it. Anxiety kills confidence. Somehow if we can learn to deal with it, we can actually learn.
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I am a mother of 3. I have a passion for helping kids feel comfortable in their 'own skin'.