Before all of you get too excited, today’s blog is directed at modifications for Rachel’s theatre class and not core curriculum. For the most part, it’s a lot of the same things though. Most importantly and really, it’s more for me to brag about something Rachel has accomplished that has made us so proud!
Everyone knows Rachel is involved in acting. She has been in 15 plays. Most of her parts require her to be part of ensembles. With enough time and practice, she can memorize short pieces but in most of her plays, she only needs to learn music and some choreography and chants. This semester she is in her third Middle School theatre class. The teacher is fabulous to work with us. She and the choir director helped tweak the audition process and Rachel tried out for the school’s musical “Guys and Dolls.” Basically, she was able to have her song to rehearse for longer. Rachel was cast as one of the missionaries. With the accommodations, support of the adult leadership and the support of the cast members, Rachel did a great job in her role. In fact, one of the adult teachers sent me this message after the play:
“Even though I only had Rachel in class for a semester I have learned so much about teaching from watching her grow. Thank you for being patient with us as we learn and for being willing to share with us strategies that work best for Rachel. I was highly impressed with the work she did in the musical. She really knows how to shine. Thank you.”
Given the proper supports, individuals with Down syndrome can and do shine and excel in all kinds of settings.
As you may or may not know, theatre class grades aren’t just about acting in a skit or play. They learn about facial expressions, speaking, auditioning, careers, history and impact of theater to name a few things. There are papers and presentations and mock auditions. Rachel’s teacher has been so good to work with us on making appropriate changes for Rachel. She communicates directly with me about what is going on and what is coming up. This is big! If there is a lot of writing involved or a presentation to make, she enlists a scribe. Rachel worked her way out of para support in this class so the teacher sometimes does this or it may be another student.
The primary changes for Rachel have been shortened assignments and fewer answer choices on a test. Per her IEP, she usually does a PowerPoint instead of a paper. She is to use correct punctuation and when appropriate, complete sentences. For one paper they had to write a theatre careers paper. Rachel chose Idina Menzel. She did the research at school and with our support, she put together a PowerPoint Presentation. This is her cover slide:
She chose the design, the font and color and the pictures for each slide. She does some of the typing and we do some. She did a good job.
One of her tests was over basic theatre vocabulary, safety, etiquette and parts of the stage. Rachel’s test was shorter and she had a word bank to choose answers for fill in the blank. We had the study guide one week out. She worked hard and made an A and was even able to label all the parts of the stage. That can be a bit challenging.
The project I am most proud of this year is her mock audition. Rachel was assigned a monologue called “Cinderella Takes the Throne.” They have done several projects similar to this and the teacher has encouraged Rachel to memorize parts. Rachel wants her flash cards though. So we decided Rachel would work to memorize one section for her monologue. She had a little less than two weeks to work on this. The piece was a full page.
When we first started, I must admit that I thought there is no way she can memorize this long paragraph. I emailed the teacher and said maybe we can do the first four sentences. We made over sized flash cards and we changed the word humiliating to embarrassing. Then we wrote it on a dry erase board in her room and put a photo of it on her iPad. Each day we would add another sentence or part of another sentence until she had that section down. As we went along, we realized she might be able to learn the entire paragraph and she wante dto try. As she learned the words she was losing her facial expressions though. I was concerned about this because her facial expressions are one of her strongest assets. Guess what? On audition day, she was ready and she did it! The teacher had to prompt her a couple of times and she added in her expressions. And – the memorization caused her to slow down her speaking so she was more easily understood. This is the portion she memorized. She used flash cards for the remaining sections.
Her teacher was excited for her, we were excited for her and most importantly, she was proud of herself. She pushed herself and it was hard but she did it. Credit for success goes to Rachel but having teachers and support folks who are willing to work with you and develop strategies makes a huge difference.
Maybe I should have name this blog, “Rachel Takes the Throne!”