Deirdre Moore | December 2014

Smile for the Camera! Revising Pieces in the Performing Arts

Many years ago, in only my 2nd or 3rd year of teaching, I was observed by my vice principal.

My favorite thing about that observation was, in our post-observation conference, she asked me to critique myself before she shared her insights.  When I finished going through my lesson plan stating what I thought went well, and what I would have changed, she shared her notes with me. Many of those notes reflected points I raised.  It was so gratifying to have the opportunity to point out what I felt would have made my lesson stronger before someone else told me.  My ability to self-critique and set a very collaborative tone for our conference felt validated.

Also, it quite empowering and motivating.  I felt as if I could effectively reflect on my own practice and change it to make it better, even without her feedback.  This is exactly how I want my students to feel. Reflection like that takes a willing student and a patient educator, especially for the performing arts.

How Do We Do It?

Although it is more difficult to do that type of self-critique with younger students than invested professionals, it has the ability to be effective.  Right now,in my teaching, I have focused on the performing arts. They present a challenge in this assessment process.  If a student writes something, or creates a visual work of art, the work can easily be viewed by all interested parties. It has the potential to be looked at critically.

With the performing arts, it’s not quite that simple.  If students created a dance, performed a song, or created a theatrical piece, in order to have both student and teacher review it, you (the teacher) must have been given the technology to record the performance. And then, play it back for the students.

Once you have the technological capabilities, the first time you try this approach with your students, they may be distracted by watching themselves.  I know the first time I reviewed a speech I gave in college with my professor my first reaction was, “I really should stop wearing my hair like that!”  It’s an odd experience, if you are not used to seeing yourself in action.  If you are playing back a performance for the students, plan to show it more than once.  First, let them just take in the experience.  Let them talk with one another about what stood out to them and why.  First impressions are powerful, since that is all an audience gets to have.  Once the students have had an opportunity to discuss the first viewing, the deeper reflection can begin.

To Top It Off,

Take the assessment rubric piece-by-piece. Replay the performance (or a shorter piece of the performance if that’s more appropriate) for each area of assessment. This way students can focus on one aspect of the rubric at a time.  You may only want to focus on one area. Then, allow students to make changes to their piece, record them again, and let them check for improvement.  Another approach is to continue to play back the piece until students examine the piece for all areas of the rubric.  Then, they should decide which area of the rubric needed the most work, and choose to focus on revising that aspect first.

Regardless of how you choose to guide the students, allowing them the opportunity to see themselves, to have repeated viewings and to critique themselves before you do is a time-consuming process. However, if your students walk away feeling empowered to revise and improve, I think it was worth every minute.

About the Author

Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.