Theatre I

With Ms. Simpson

Hello Parents!

My name is Autumn Simpson, and I am your child's Theatre I teacher this year! Here is some helpful information to keep us on the same page:

A little about me...

What Is My Education and Experience?

I grew up in the Woodlands, Texas, and went to the University of Houston for my undergraduate degree. There I received my BFA in Theatre Education, with a Teaching Certification, and a Minor in Psychology. Throughout my four years at UH, I spent as much time as possible working with children. During the fall and spring semesters, I co-taught a Drama Club for elementary school students. This was a program started by myself and a few of my peers during our freshman year, and we continued with it throughout all four years. During my first summer of college, I became an Education and Community Engagement Intern at the Alley Theater, assistant teaching at their PlayMakers theatre camp. The following summer, I worked as an Education Intern with the Omaha Theatre Company for Young People, co-teaching and co-directing summer theatre camps for three months, working with children ages 4 to 16.

Why Do I Want To Teach Your Children Theatre?

For as long as I can remember, I was doing plays in school. I acted in the Winter Musicals in my elementary school, and continued doing theatre all throughout middle school, high school, and college. My love for theatre only grew as I gained more experience both on and off the stage. However, I soon realized that my greatest joy came from seeing the excitement of young children during our productions of children's shows, or in teaching a younger student something new about the theatre, and watching them fall in love with it like I had. One day I realized that as much as I loved theatre, what I wanted most of all was to teach it, and that was when I decided to go into theatre education. There are two main reasons that this is my passion: 1) I get to teach theatre--something that has taught me so much and brought so much joy and passion into my life--and share it with young minds, so that they can learn and grow from it as I have, and 2) because every day in the classroom is an opportunity to help students build their self-confidence, connect with others, and work creatively, through their own unique talents and imaginations.

How To Get In Touch With Me!

I think it is extremely important for us to stay in touch throughout the year, because if we are on the same page, then we can work together to help your child have a great time in class! The easiest way for you to get in touch with me would be through email (listed below), or by calling my office phone number (listed below). I check my emails every day, and if I am not at the phone when you call, I will give you a call back that day, when I check the answering machine. However, some situations require face-to-face meetings, and cannot be addressed through email or over the phone. In those cases, you can either meet with me during my office hours (M/W/F from 12pm-1pm), or schedule to meet with me after school one day. In the meantime, I will be keeping in touch with you by sending out newsletters like this one, sending home letters with your students, and emailing you as necessary, to keep you updated on how our class is going! Keeping an eye on my school website (listed below) is another good way of tracking what we are doing in class, and what your child is learning. If your child needs to work with me one-on-one, they are always welcome to come talk to me between classes, or arrange to meet with me before or after school, or during my office hours.

So what is my classroom climate?

Guidelines For Us All To Follow...

This is a THEATRE class. I want it to be FUN. However, there are certain guidelines we have to follow, so that everyone has the chance to enjoy our class:

1) Be Respectful of Others
2) Be Respectful of Our Classroom
3) Always Try
4) Be On-Time and Prepared Every Day

It is important to respect others at all times, so that we create a safe learning environment for every student in the room. If a student does not feel safe and supported by the entire class, then they cannot open up enough to take the emotional risks necessary to reach their full creative potential. Negative comments and rude actions between students can be emotionally damaging, and ruin a child's experience in this class. Respecting our classroom includes not only our every-day classroom, but also all tools and materials we use, and the actual theater space when we work in there. Taking care of our materials and our building ensures that they are in good shape for classes for years to come. If we do not take care of them, then our class might lose privileges to certain tools and areas, that might limit our creative possibilities later. I cannot stress enough how important it is for a student to simply try in this class. Much of what we do might sound intimidating, because it requires speaking and performing in front of others. However, this also means that students have the opportunity to surprise themselves and others with work they can be truly proud of, but only if they try. Arriving on time and coming to class prepared is vital to our progress. Late entrances are disruptive, and by not being prepared, students only make themselves fall farther behind. Everything we learn builds on what came before it, so it is much easier to stay with the group than fall behind and have to work to catch up.

What Happens If Guidelines Are Not Followed...

If a student chooses not to follow one of our guidelines, there are several steps to go through, to try to get us back on track as quickly as possible. My first response will be to briefly speak with them, so that they know what behavior they are doing that is not appropriate, and how to correct it. If it happens again, I will speak with the student privately, explaining what is not appropriate about their behavior, and calling the student's parents to let them know what the situation is. If the behavior continues beyond that, then a conference with myself, the administrators, and the student's parents may need to be set up, to discuss further action to prevent any damaging behavior. If a student's behavior is so extreme as to be deemed potentially dangerous to him/herself or others, as according with school guidelines, immediate and serious action may be taken, to remove that student from the situation.

Goals For This Class...

This class is not aimed to create movie stars or the next Shakespeare. I want students to learn through the process of this class, rather than stress about the product (because I know that not every student was born to be an actor, nor is that what all of them want). The goals for this class can be summed up in 5 key words:

1) ENSEMBLE
2) SELF-CONFIDENCE
3) CREATIVITY
4) UNIQUENESS
5) EFFORT

Students will build an ENSEMBLE in this class, learning to work effectively with their peers through true connection and communication. In doing this, they will have to accept others' differences, and appreciate the different point of view each student brings. Even though some activities may seem intimidating at first, students will bolster their SELF-CONFIDENCE through doing things that challenge them, and realizing that they can do even more than they thought. Students will stretch their CREATIVITY by working on a range of different projects and taking emotional risks, so that they feel like if they can imagine it, they can do it. Each student will learn to appreciate and respect their own UNIQUENESS and original point of view. Their ideas will take them on a different path than their classmates, which leads to variety and collaboration, rather than conformity, creating the best environment for success. Students will be pushed to always put in their best EFFORT on every project, regardless of what that looks like in their product. By giving an activity their 100%, they will learn and grow from it, so that their best effort is even more rewarding on the next project. The growth students achieve in these areas will help them in all aspects of their lives.

So what will we be learning first?

Our First Unit of Study...ENSEMBLE!

The first area of study that we will dive into is Ensemble-Building. An ensemble is a group of people who work together to achieve a goal. Before we can work on scenes or do collaborative projects, our class needs to become a strong group of students who trust, support, and communicate with their peers. This also involves students gaining a multuicultural view of their ensemble, in which they view the differences and uniqueness of each member as positive opportunities to learn from others' viewpoints.

The class will do group activities in this unit, that focus on increasing students':
  • Knowledge of their classmates
  • Appreciation of Diversity
  • Trust
  • Support
  • Communication
  • Connection
  • Compromise

We will be playing get-to-know-you games, improvisation games that require fully listening to the other person before you can speak, activities that require connecting with others without speaking to them, theatre games that require groups to say full sentences even though each student can only say one word at a time, and much more! Once our class has become a true ensemble, then we can dive into more complex projects and activities to take them deeper into the world of theatre.

So now let's have a great year together!

Image Citations

[Class rules picture]. Retrieved September 22, 2014, from http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Classroom-Rules-18188

[Creativity photo with pencils]. Retrieved September 22, 2014, from http://worldcreativity.wordpress.com/2014/03/29/9-creative-thinking-on-line-tools-free/

[Self confidence leaping photo]. Retrieved September 22, 2014, from http://mariamuir.com/self-confidence-tips/

[Teamwork connected hands photo]. Retrieved September 22, 2014, from http://www.intelligile.com/Teamwork.htm

[University of Houston logo]. Retrieved September 21, 2014, from
http://www/uh.edu/class/theatre-and-dance/