Unlike conventional Annual Day events, at B.D. Somani Primary School, we do not put up one big show. Instead, each class puts up a performance, involving every student, that allows everyone their time on stage and the opportunity to hone their individual talents in all the components of a production. This series of events spread out over a six-week long period is a veritable showcase of some of the learnings and experiences our students have shared in this school year.
Each class from Kindergarten to Grade 5 brainstorms a concept and story for their dramatic contribution. Often, the story highlights what is uppermost on their minds at this time of the year. Always, the production is based on social studies, science or literacy investigations and learning that have piqued children’s interest during the year. The plays sometimes include a song or a dance or even a message for parents. This year, one Grade 3 class had a strong anti-bullying message. In addition to the play, they designed anti-bullying posters and even came up with an agreement for a bully-free school environment.
Messages in the past have included exhortations to parents about spending less time on cell phones and more time with children and strong appeals to parents to stop competing with each other by sending their children to unnecessary tuitions and classes!
The development of the production is organic beginning with brainstorming and democratic decisions about the content or theme. During practice, scripts are strictly banned, allowing students to improvise and live in their characters. While they may develop a written script for the play towards the end, it flows organically from the process making it feel natural and real rather than scripted and stilted. When creating roles, students themselves decide what parts they are best suited for, while ensuring equal opportunity for everyone. There are no auditions and students are very conscious about making sure every one of them has a part to play.
Students create the backdrop and the props themselves. There are no flashy rented costumes or layers of make-up. For the songs, they often use well-known melodies but write the lyrics themselves. Even the sound effects are created by the students. Percussion instruments, sometimes improvised, and even the tabla are used to create great dramatic effect! Another unique aspect of our performances is that Ms Zoë does not allow lip syncing or recorded music – music is live with the music teachers and students using guitars, keyboard and drums. Classroom teachers, along with the Theatre teacher and Music teacher, guide and channel creative energy. Students learn to get into character, to improvise, to show emotion, to play to their audience and to deliver their own age-appropriate humour.
Throughout this process, children learn that it is not about their performances but about all the work they did to be ready to share their work with parents. The trial and error with the plot, , experimentation with props, the evolution of characters, the improvisation of dialogue, the design of the backdrop… all of this helps students understand and appreciate the true nature of dramatic performance. As always, the final performance is great, because every child is invested and takes ownership of the group’s work
Our last Annual Event of the year is Grade 5 whose plays are always based on their study of the Indus Valley and Ancient Egypt. They usually compose their own song to say goodbye to Primary School and there is a moving-up ceremony to mark the culmination of their Primary year. Students who are strong and confident communicators, caring citizens, effective collaborators and curious life-long learners are ready for their continued journey of learning at B.D. Somani.