This summer, NYCCT Associate Director of Education Alex Delare is co-teaching a summer residency program at a NYC public school in Queens. Here, she takes you inside the classroom for a peek at what a NYCCT residency looks like. 

Friday August 9, 2019

Today was our final day of our residency at PS 177Q for the summer! We had a terrific Sharing Day which culminated in sharing our favorite songs, sensory objects, and emotional learning pieces.

Our first class was feeling tired this morning and wanted to remain seated for the majority of the lesson. Until, we introduced the various dance styles that were in our book- cha cha, rock n’roll, Irish reel, tango and waltz. Then the students wanted to stand up and try out all the dances with us. In that same class, we had been bringing out our Gerald the Giraffe puppet each visit. Today, one of our students wanted to try being the puppeteer himself. He put on the puppet and mimicked some of the same activities I had Gerald doing- including munching on vines. It was amazing to see how this repetition had stuck with our student and that he wanted to become Gerald today.

Our first class was feeling tired this morning and wanted to remain seated for the majority of the lesson. Until, we introduced the various dance styles that were in our book- cha cha, rock n’roll, Irish reel, tango and waltz. Then the students wanted to stand up and try out all the dances with us. In that same class, we had been bringing out our Gerald the Giraffe puppet each visit. Today, one of our students wanted to try being the puppeteer himself. He put on the puppet and mimicked some of the same activities I had Gerald doing- including munching on vines. It was amazing to see how this repetition had stuck with our student and that he wanted to become Gerald today.

In our final class, our students did a wonderful job of sharing objects, practicing consent with one another, and dancing to the music. They particularly enjoyed the different styles of music we showed them and the moon songs. As we were leaving their class, one of our students said “Thank you for sharing your time with me.” It was such a special end to our time with them this summer!

We also received some wonderful feedback from our teachers today:

“Our students love elements that cater to their senses. Items like bubbles, things they can touch and feel helps them learn.”

“By having animals in the book, our students love animals and especially the animal hand puppets.”

“Animation, singing, interaction, and facial expressions. This really helps the students to engage in the lesson.”

In answer to: “What teaching techniques do Alex and Ingrid use to support your students learning? How has it been effective?”

“Yes; more music, singing, and interacting with the students.”

In answer to: “Are there any teaching techniques that the Teaching Artists have brought into your classroom that you will infuse into your future lessons?”

“The storybooks, their singing and their interacting with the students.”

In answer to, “What is your favorite element of the residency so far?”

Working at PS 177Q has been a wonderful part of my year! I can’t wait to come back and to keep working with these wonderful students, teachers, paras, and administrators!

Wednesday August 7, 2019

It is hard to believe that today was our second to last session at PS 177Q for the summer! Our final session will be this Friday, August 9th.

We had such a fantastic time being back at PS 177Q. We had been away for about a week and a half. The students’ animated enthusiasm brought me such joy! This past weekend was the American Alliance for Theatre and Education Conference (AATE) and not only was I a participant in the long weekend’s events but I was also a co-presenter. Sara Morgulis, the Director of Education at NYCCT, and myself shared our trauma-informed pedagogy of management. Therefore, I was feeling fatigued this morning as I arrived at PS 177Q. However, as soon as I saw those shining smiles and hands reaching out for high-fives, all of my tired feelings evaporated. Those students, teachers, and administrators are pure magic!

Today, we continued our work on emotional learning through recognizing emotions in pictures as well as acting them out ourselves. I tried new language around this emotional learning piece together. I used the term “acting” and “playing” as we mimicked emotions. This was very successful for the students overall, and it was the first time I saw some of our students “act out” the emotions.

In our absence, our warm-up song or “hello song” was still being sung and hummed by our students. There is one part of the song that talks about consent- with options of: “Yes please, no thank you, or I don’t know.” This line, “I don’t know” had stuck out to our one students and he had been singing it while we were away. When we sang that line with him today, his whole face lit up and he started literally rocking back-and-forth in excitement. It was so special to see him connect to the song, the words and us.

Another student in one of our classes often selects to disengage from activities, songs, and sensory objects we share. But today, he smiled the biggest smile when we sang a song called “Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, We’re Going to the Moon.” He laughed out loud throughout the song! It made us feel so happy to see him engage and enjoy our time together, particularly since this not always the case.

The song, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” has been such a favorite with our students that we thought it would be fun to create new verses of the song to go along with our class-chosen book. The song led to a feeling of calm in all of our classes and allowed the students to continue to explore sensory objects associated with the story. Ingrid, our Songwriting Teaching Artist, on the Residency did such a beautiful job creating new lyrics for this classic lullaby  for our students.

We also shared a new sensory object with our students- jungle grass. This object is very different than others we had brought in previously, as it is a small green square with spiky grass sticking out of it. We were able to give each student their own square of grass. Some students liked this sensory object so much that they held onto it throughout the entire class time. It was wonderful to see our students connect to the story and where our story takes place- in the jungle!

Today was our third class in a row with our students at PS 177Q! Today we were there on a Monday and many of the classes were smaller as students were out of school for a long weekend and also many students were fatigued from the weekend. There was a morning fire drill which we found out about when we arrived in the morning, which luckily we were able to work our classes around so that the students did not have any of their sessions interrupted. Despite these changes in the day, we found our students to be engaged with us and the activities we shared. We focused the majority of our sessions on calming activities that helped match their tired energy. We also did not want to over-stimulate them after the fire drill which had already altered their daily activities.

Through the smaller class sizes, we were able to focus even more on one-to-one time with each student. We continued our work on emotional learning and recognizing emotions in our story as well as themselves. We used a laminated sheet in which the students could point and indicate how they felt today. The students could point to emotions of happiness, fatigue, anger, sadness, or fear.

The use of Gerald the Giraffe, puppet, and our moon light helped the students become calm, laugh and have fun!

We also received more feedback about our Residency from teachers at PS 177Q, saying:

“The sensory elements create a more engaging learning experience.”

“The musical elements kept the students engaged + motivated.”

“The pictures are colorful, use of puppetsrhyming textsongsmovement – very motivating.”

We will not be back at our school for about a week and a half. We will miss them!

Friday July 26, 2019

Today was our third session at PS 177Q! It was so wonderful to be with our students two days in a row. They were so delighted and animated to see us again! We will be back again on Monday with them! 

In today’s session, we focused on emotional learning in which the students are learning to recognize their own emotions but also the emotions of those around them. We sang a song to introduce this concept of learning our own emotions called “The Expression on my Face” in which they explored and practiced different emotions on their faces and in their bodies. We then created new verses of the song “If You’re Happy and You Know It” to explore the particular emotions in our story of happiness, sadness, embarrassment, pride, fascination, surprise and amazement. 

We also sang a song called “I’m a Little Zebra” to the melody of “I’m a Little Teapot” about some of the jungle animals in our story. Along with this jungle animal exploration, we also brought in a new stuffed animal of a lemur and two small plastic animals of a monkey and a zebra for them to touch. For some of our students who are blind or have low vision, touching and interacting with these sensory objects allows them to connect to the story and the world of the book in a whole new way. 

We ended our time singing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” as this was such a hit yesterday and served as such a calming method for our students. We also brought out the moon light to go along with this song. It was wonderful to see students participate in a whole different way when the light was brought to them. Often they were the most present and receptive to this moment of the class than any other moment before it. 
 
Finally, we gave our teachers an evaluation form to fill out and let us know how the program is serving their students and these are the first responses we have received. One teacher shared, “They used very highly motivating animation to engage students & positive behavior supports.” Another teacher wrote, “They utilize all of the students senses in instruction group.” A third response, “I really enjoy their passion for theatre :).”
 
We are having such a terrific time with our students and are so pleased that our teachers are enjoying it so thoroughly too!
Thursday July 25, 2019

Today, I had my second session at PS 177Q for our Summer Residency! It had been over a week since our first one. I was again delighted to see how much the students remembered and had absorbed from our first class! I loved watching the students transform with such joy throughout our lessons as they find themselves engaging in the music, our energies and playfulness.

In our class-chosen book, Giraffes Can’t Dance, Gerald, the Giraffe, finds his inspiration to dance after staring up at the moon. Therefore, I brought in a sensory object of a touch light in the shape of a moon. It is small and can be held by hand. The students were absolutely mesmerized by it! While I walked around and showed the moon, my co-teacher, Ingrid Running, sang two beautiful songs inspired by the moon and the night sky, “Zoom, Zoom, Zoom, We’re Going to the Moon” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” In our first class, our students were particularly taken by the song “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and continued to hum and sing it even after Ingrid finished singing. It was beautiful to see them and hear them connect to the environment we created with the moon light and with a song that they most likely were familiar with.

Two of my classes are made up of students I worked with previously in the spring. In our first session, there were a few familiar faces that were missing from our session. I was pleased to see that those missing faces were all back in our second session! It was wonderful to see them connect with us and one another! We have a student in our final class who is non-verbal and every time we start singing and telling stories he becomes ecstatically vocal! He was back today full of excitement to have us in the room!

I feel very lucky to work at a school in which the administrators, lead teachers and para professionals (support teachers) are so engaged with their students! They support us by singing along to our music, helping our students with certain movements, and responsibly responding to the students’ needs. This summer, all of our lead teachers are different than those I had in the spring, and I feel as delighted by their presence and support as I did in the spring. They understand the importance and power of music and theater for their students and their involvement and support in the classroom helps to make each session a success!

I am looking so forward to my third class tomorrow on emotional learning!

Monday, July 15, 2019
My First Day Back at PS177Q

Today was my first day back at PS 177Q!  My colleague and Songwriting Teaching Artist, Ingrid Running, and myself will be teaching three classes there this summer. Two of the three groups that we taught today, I worked with this past spring.

It made so happy to see my students again and it made me even happier to see that they remembered me, too! For the two returning classes, it was such a delight to see what they remembered from our sessions together in the spring. Many students recalled physical gestures that we had used, others recognized the music, and some even hummed or sung along to the music in a way that spoke to their memory. It made us feel like total rock stars!

Our story, Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae, was such a hit with the students! They loved seeing us dance different styles of dances that are described in the story- including the waltz, the reel and the cha-cha. They laughed aloud at moments playfully enjoying the silly parts of the book and also became earnest and when they found out that Gerald the Giraffe was sad that he couldn’t dance like the other animals. The books emotional journey connected them to the story.

After our reading of the book, we brought out sensory activities. We brought out a giraffe puppet so they could feel his long neck that the book describes in detail. They also were able to feel vines from the jungle that Gerald lives in. These sensory objects add depth and reality to the story.

During Calm Time, at the end of our session, Ingrid sang and played on her ukulele, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” by the Tokens. She sang the song in a soft, soothing way that led the students to a feeling of calm before starting the rest of their day. While she soothingly sang, I blew sensory bubbles for the students to touch and feel. It was truly magical to see them connect to the music and the story! I am so excited to be returning twice next week to work with these amazing students.

Friday, July 12, 2019

My first day back at PS 177Q is on Monday and I can’t wait to see all the students I worked with this past Spring! Working with these students has truly been one of the best experiences of my entire career. I loved learning from them and finding ways to engage them in stories.

Through our time together, I discovered how much they loved music and repetition so my co-teacher, Caitlyn McCain, and myself prepared music that would help inform their experience with the book we were reading. In the spring, we read a book called The Storm Whale by Benji Davies which is about a boy who comes across a beached whale and decides to bring it home to take care of it.

This summer we will be exploring a new book called Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae!

This book tells the story of Gerald, the Giraffe, who wishes he could dance but he finds that with his skinny legs and long neck, he is unable to dance like the other creatures in the jungle. He watches as the other animals dance cha-cha, tango, reel and waltz but he has trouble figuring out which type of dance he can do. He begins to feel discouraged, until he meets a cricket who explains that sometimes it’s about listening to the world around you to find your own type of music. The cricket encourages Gerald to listen to the sound of the trees and the grass. By the end of the book, Gerald realizes that everyone can dance if we “find music that we love.”

On Monday, my co-teacher, Ingrid Running, and myself will be bringing in music (some of which the students will already be familiar with from last semester) as well as a giraffe puppet, jungle foliage so they can feel the leaves of the jungle, rain sticks to experience a rain storm in the jungle, and a PowerPoint presentation of animals in the jungle with a “Find the Giraffe!” Game attached.

I will be so excited to see how this new book comes alive for the students! I am overjoyed to be back with these awe-inspiring students, teachers, and staff at PS 177Q. Last semester, we explored the ocean and this summer we will explore the jungle through music, dance, and theater!

– Alex