Performing A Scope Play to a Packed (Virtual) House

By Tamara O’Nan
May 7, 2020

Tamara O’Nan is a 6th-grade ELA teacher in Alvaton, Kentucky.

Editor's Note: Our "At Home Edition" Genius Teacher Ideas celebrate and honor the moments of joy, the triumphs, and the love of reading and learning that Scope teachers are nurturing in their virtual classrooms.

Before virtual learning, Scope plays were always a huge hit with my students. I keep a massive bin packed with costumes and props in my classroom, from which students would eagerly pick out wigs, hats, and second-hand dresses to transform themselves into Hercules, Frankenstein, or Scrooge. Performing Scope plays helps my students forget about being shy or insecure in their reading ability and allows them to fall in love with reading. Since transitioning to virtual, non-traditional instruction, I’ve missed this magic terribly and I wanted to find a way to recreate it. So I hatched a plan.

The plan
On a Monday, I assigned my sixth-grade class to read Scope’s April play, Far From Home, but I didn't tell them my full plan for the play. On Wednesday, during our daily hangout, I assigned roles using a Google Sheet. (Students who didn’t have speaking roles were part of the supportive audience and provided feedback in the chat box within Google Hangouts during the performance.) I announced that Thursday would be our “dress rehearsal” and that the performance would be on Friday. 

The prep
In preparation, I let them know that they could create their own accents for their characters, design their own costumes (or not—we always allow choice), or create backgrounds using the back of an old poster, wrapping paper, or cardboard. Most important, I stressed that there was absolutely no pressure to get it 100% correct. I warned them that we might have internet problems, mics might not unmute, we might lose our place while reading or forget how to pronounce a word—and that as always (just like at school), that was OK! The main goal was to HAVE FUN! 

The performance
To spice things up, I asked each student to invite siblings or parents to “attend” the performance. They got so excited when I told them that we would have many special guests arriving on Friday. I secretly invited all their former teachers, and I also contacted Scope editor Kristin Lewis about the possibility of some visitors from team Scope. Imagine my delight when she informed me that the author of the play, Spencer Kayden, would be joining us! 

The culture in my classroom is one where it’s OK to make mistakes, but it is not OK to give up. I ask my kids every day to “Find a Way.” And as our guests witnessed last Friday, they certainly found a way and pulled off a wonderful performance. It was packed with technology glitches and mispronounced words, but it was also packed with laughter, positive support for peers, crazy costumes, FUN, and READING!

Tip: I shared my screen with students in the Google Hangout with the digital version of the play on display, making it easy for all to read, follow along, watch performers, or chat in one window simultaneously. 

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