I was really pleased with how the workshop went on the day and that all the preparation I had done had paid off. I was really apprehensive beforehand as I had put the whole workshop together on my own and because we had run out of time for me to explain my ideas and delegate jobs and roles for each of the other cast members prior to the day of the performance, it meant that I would have to take full responsibility in leading the workshop and organising the children, which was a massive challenge for my confidence and leadership skills. I obviously had made sure that I shared the plan for the workshop activities with the rest of the group several times on the run up to production week, however no one had actually responded to my post or contributed any ideas or feedback to my ideas, which was slightly frustrating as once again I felt like I was the one doing most of the work.
The workshop was to take place straight after the performance had finished, however Erica informed me that we had a limited time to do our workshop due to starting late and the school being on a tight schedule to fit in the Dancers performance after ours, and therefore I had to think on my feet and adapt my workshop to fit the limited time frame we were now working to. The children at Culford school were quite calm and disciplined in comparison to other children I know of that age who go to state schools, and therefore they seemed slightly apprehensive to get involved in the interactive activities to start with and so I made sure that I worked hard to encourage them that it was okay to let go and have fun with the activities. I started by doing the activity where the children walk around the space and then follow my instructions as to when to clap and jump and then finally get into groups of various sizes. I originally planned to spend much longer on this activity and introduce more stages of difficulty, however the children were very young and seemed to find the simple stages more challenging than expected and so I made the decision to simply focus on getting the first stages (jump, clap, walk around the space) right first. I found it interesting how the children found the prospect of walking around the space so challenging as in my experience of children of this age they are normally enthusiastic to be active, however these children seemed quite fazed and startled by the instructions which I expect is due to their personal upbringing and the environment of being in a private school. In my plan I was expecting to call out various numbers to indicate the group sizes they should get into, but once I had started to gage the level the children were working at I thought it best to check with the teacher that they would be fine doing this by silently making eye contact with her, and luckily she responded by nodding and confirming that they would be able to get into groups of threes. Nevertheless, I went round and helped the children get into groups of three and checked that they all had a group to be in and that no child was left out. There was one point where there was a pair rather than a three and I told Harry to join that group, and assured the children that if they couldn’t find a group of three that one of the characters would join their group – showing good awareness and leadership skills. This activity took a lot longer than I had anticipated as we had to spend time practicing each of the stages, so instead of introducing a new stage and asking the children to get into other group numbers I simply asked them to walk round the space again and told them that when I said the number three again they were to get into the groups that they were just in. Following this I made up an idea on the spot for the children to make the shape of Isabella’s special triangle in their threes, by joining hands and with each person being each of the straight sides of the triangle. I was pleased with the way I managed to adapt my planned activities to suit the capability of the group I was working with and the time frame we were working to.
Once the first activity was completed I checked with Erica that I had enough time to quickly do another activity and she said that we didn’t have much time but if it was quick we could fit another activity in. After working with the children on the first activity I assessed the situation and decided that if I had to explain everything at the same pace I had in the first workshop then we simply wouldn’t have time to do the activity that I had planned and so once again I had to think on my feet and come up with an adapted idea. I had spent so much time making the packs of shapes for the shape race game and didn’t want these to go to waste and so I made the decision that we would still make the 3D shapes in groups but it just wouldn’t be a race. Instead I split the children into four separate groups and asked each member of the company to sit with one of the four groups in a circle and to work together to see how many 3D shapes we could make. I must admit due to be under a lot of pressure (with the level of responsibly and the time frame) I perhaps didn’t give the rest of the company thorough enough instructions as to what to do as I almost expected them to make their own choices as to how to lead their own individual groups and how the approached the activity. I don’t know whether this was a good thing or showed weakness in my leadership skills, however I didn’t want to waste anymore time and felt that the rest of the company were competent enough to lead a small group each, and had to remind myself that it wasn’t my sole responsibility to lead the whole workshop on my own.
With the kind of children we had I actually think my new idea worked so much better and suited their nature far more as they were all a lot calmer and quieter than I expected and may not have enjoyed doing a fast paced race game that required lots of energy and cooperation. Each of us stayed in character when leading our own circle of children which I think worked really well and kept the children engaged and made it feel more exciting and less like a lesson. In my circle of children we worked together to make the various 3D shapes from lots of 2D shapes that I had spread over the floor in the middle of the circle so that they were easily visible to all of the children. I then asked if the children could remember what 2D shape I needed to make the 3D cube, to which they confidently responded a square – I confirmed this and referenced it back to the story by asking whether they meant like Mr Woodworth’s square. I went on to ask how many of the square I needed; most of the children replied 6 however one or two of them thought it was four (which I think may have just been because they associated the number 4 with squares as they have four sides and corners etc). I took everything on board regarding never telling a child they are wrong, but instead I helped them to see why it was 6 squares we needed to make the cube by building it together. I asked six of the children to pick a square from the shapes on offer and instructed them to hold them in various positions to form the various faces of 3D cube. They looked so pleased with themselves to have managed to build this cube as team and I think by telling them they were being just like the ESC added another element of excitement to the activity. We did the same thing for the other 3D shapes (cylinder, cuboid and pyramid) and I made sure I kept it light hearted and playful so that it still felt fun and the children remained engaged in what we were doing. For example a few of the boys found the cylinder fascinating and were having fun rolling up the rectangles and using them as a telescope, and so I decided to develop from this and join in and explain that they were exactly right and that if we put a circle on either end we wouldn’t be able to see out of it anymore but it would make a perfect cylinder! I think by getting on their level and playing and working with them helped them feel more involved and kept them engaged, rather than being too boring.
I made sure that I answered any questions they had about the story and the characters as well as focusing on making the shapes as I didn’t want to seem like I was ignoring them and then for them to lose interest, however I always tried to bring it back to what we were doing as a group, so that none of the other children felt left out or lost interest. I came across a big challenge when one girl asked me why Isabella’s triangle was so special and I proceeded to try and explain it on a level that she was likely to understand, and so told her that it was important to ESC as he needed a triangle that had all equal sided just like Isabella’s triangle so that he could make his pyramid and that it was special to Isabella because her Granny had given it to her and that if someone you love gives you something then you want to look after it as best as possible as it will be especially special as it will remind you of that person. I tried to get on the girls level by asking if she had ever been given something special by someone she cares about lots, to which the girl exclaimed that she her granny was dead! At this point I felt so worried about where the conversation was going as I didn’t want to upset the little girl and so I kept the conversation happy and light as I knew that indulging her in the ‘granny topic’ wouldn’t be helpful and so I turned it around and said that I was sorry and that my granddad was as well however that is what happens to old people and that’s okay and doesn’t have to be a sad thing. I explained that it didn’t have to be a Granny that gives you something special, it could be anyone who you love, to which the little girl said that she had never been given anything special and then got tears in her eyes. I felt this overwhelming sadness and guilt for the girl but also part of me knew that young children of this age often indulge in the attention and sometimes even make up stories to get a response. I tried to remain positive and composed as I knew the way I reacted would dictate how she responded too; I made the decision to get one of the shiny shapes from the 2D shape packs and gave it to her quietly and told her that I was giving her the special shape to look after for me and that it was very special as I was giving it to her and that she must look after it for me. The little girls face lit up and I just felt so pleased that I turned it around and may have helped that little girl feel more loved and happier again! I was slightly worried that she might show it off and that it would mean all the other children got jealous and would insist they had one too, however thankfully the little girl stayed quiet and just kept it for herself. This was an extremely unexpected situation that I was unable to prepare for and didn’t expect to encounter at all, however I felt like I dealt with the situation well and feel thrilled that I may have made a difference to the child.
Overall I was ecstatic at how the workshop had panned out, especially considering I had pulled it off almost single handed and the fact that I had challenged myself in many ways, as over the last few years my confidence levels have plummeted and so my ability to be able to lead a whole group of small children and organise my peers and do all of this whilst numerous teachers were in the room observing me was a massive achievement. Obviously the workshop didn’t take place exactly as planned, however I don’t think this is a problem at all and actually showed my ability to be flexible and adapt my ideas to suit the time frame, performance space and nature of the children we were working with.