Showing posts with label Arts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Arts. Show all posts

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Giving Students a Voice in the Theatre

Students add depth to their voice work with movement during a recent Grade 7/8 Drama
Major class in the theatre.

Our new performance theatre isn't just for large-scale productions - it provides an authentic environment for classes and workshops, too.


Down in Greenwood’s theatre, Grade 8 student Gabe has finished his performance and is ready for feedback.

“He’s crying,” says a woman’s voice offstage. “He’s just so panicked.”

Gabe takes this in and nods. “Okay,” he says. “So do I keep the old one as well?”

“If you want to layer [your performance], you can add it on top,” the voice responds.

The reply comes from Melissa Altro, an accomplished voice artist with over 20 years’ experience in TV and film. (You might know her as Muffy Crosswire from TV’s Arthur.) She knows a thing or two about using her voice to create character, and on April 12 she shared that expertise with our Grade 7 and 8 Drama Majors.

An Authentic Learning Experience


Experienced voice actor Melissa Altro's visit was part of the "Sound and Foley" unit
for Grade 7 and 8 Drama Major classes.

Melissa explained to students that one of the most important elements in voice work is putting your whole body into the character. It’s not enough to just read the lines; your facial expressions and actions are what add depth to the performance. To reinforce this message, it’s important that students work in an authentic environment - which is where the new theatre comes in. Students took advantage of the excellent acoustics as they worked with Melissa to create different voices, and the theatre’s state-of-the-art lighting added an extra level of professionalism.

Melissa’s visit was part of the “Sound and Foley” unit in both the Grade 7 and 8 Drama Major classes. For Grade 7 students, this experience came at the beginning of their unit and was used to introduce the different elements of voice, including pitch, articulation and tone. For Grade 8 students, their work with Melissa consolidated their understanding at the end of the unit. Both groups learned how to use their voices to bring a wide range of characters to life. This skill will support the completion of their culminating activities a little later in the year.

Melissa’s specific feedback - and the willingness of our students to take it on board - was a big part of what made her visit so impactful. Check out the video below to see how Gabe ultimately incorporated her feedback to add more depth to one of his characters.


Thursday, 16 February 2017

From Costumes to Haute Couture: Fabrication Room

The fabrication room gave our Junior Play crew the space they needed to create these
amazing costumes, sets and props.

Greenwood’s recent production of The Lion King Jr. was our most ambitious ever. Our new fabrication room played an important role in bringing the Serengeti to life.

Putting on a play like The Lion King takes lots of costumes, sets and props - and somewhere to create them. In the runup to opening night in December, the fabrication room provided plenty of space for students to work on everything from painting scenery to sewing a gown.

On show nights, the fabrication room also doubled as a dressing room.

Move-in day is challenging for any school production. The large scale of the sets for this year’s Junior Play made this task even more challenging. Having the fabrication room located within steps of our performance theatre, minimized the moving distance (and the risk of accidental damage to sets and props). Additionally, the doorway of the room is designed to accommodate an 8-foot scenery flat with ease.

During the performance, this area also doubled as a dressing room. Reconfiguring the furniture provided an ideal surface for applying makeup, styling hair and making last-minute costume adjustments before students took the stage.

Creating Catwalk-Worthy Looks


Amelia Ferguson ('17) models one of her fashion creations at our Winter Arts Showcase.
"It felt professional - like a real fashion studio," she says of the fabrication room.

The fabrication room isn’t just for plays; it also supports our senior fashion classes. Rather than being packed away after each use, sewing machines are ready to go throughout the semester, providing students more work time by reducing set up and clean up time. Recently installed shelving also allows students to safely store their work between classes.

Amelia Ferguson (‘17), a fashion student and Junior Play crew member, has really enjoyed her experience in the fabrication room so far this year.

“It felt professional - like a real fashion studio,” Amelia says. “There was so much usable space, and I loved having the sewing machines already out before every fashion class. For the play, it was amazing having everything stored in one area and being able to grab anything we needed quickly.”

Students have already produced amazing work in this space. We look forward to seeing what they create next!

Thursday, 8 December 2016

A Space for Artistic Endeavours to Flourish

Our student actors can now rehearse regularly in the space in which they will
eventually perform, which helps build skills and confidence.

When the cast, crew and musicians  take the stage for tonight’s opening of The Lion King, they’ll do it in our very own state-of-the-art theatre.

An ideal theatre is a blank slate - a space that students can use as a tool to express themselves. Greenwood’s theatre, designed in consultation with theatre experts Rick Schick and Philip Silver, encourages students to give their creativity free rein. Whether they’re performing in drama class, rehearsing for a school play or screening a film, our new theatre provides the perfect space for students to hone their skills.


The theatre's 144 seats can be retracted when not in use, giving students more room
for drama classes, rehearsals or grade-level activities.


How Does Our Theatre Make a Difference for Students?

Highlights of the theatre include:

  • Regular access: Our student actors can now rehearse regularly in the space in which they will eventually perform, which helps build skills and confidence. Having the theatre in the school helps build community, as student audiences can attend dress rehearsals.
  • Black walls: Students can use props and lighting to turn the theatre into anything they choose, from an office building to the African savannah.
  • Retractable seating: Our 144 seats can be retracted when not in use, giving students even more room for drama classes and rehearsals, or provide a large space to gather for grade-level activities.
  • The latest technology: Greenwood’s theatre is one of only three in Canada - and the only high school in the country - with full LED lighting. Coupled with a new sound system, our technical setup gives students early exposure to forward-thinking technology.
  • Accessibility: The theatre is fully wheelchair accessible and is enabled for Hearing Assist technology.

Our new theatre is one more example of giving students spaces to develop character. Through performance, students build confidence, learn how to work together and experience what it’s like to see the world from viewpoints other than their own.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Connecting Visual Arts to World Issues

The concept of personalized learning is likely most applicable to the visual arts when students are taught to see better, to envision, to persist, to be playful and learn from mistakes, and to make and justify critical judgments. Art teacher Colleen Petch shares how, in the senior visual arts program at Greenwood, students are provided with a tremendous amount of choice and are consistently challenged to problem-solve, persevere, be resilient and to find a personal connection to their work.

Recently, in Grade 11 Visual Arts class, students inquired about the correct technical approach to paint an acrylic portrait. My response was, "Well, that depends...on your comfort level with acrylic paint, your level of experience, how you want the viewer to feel about this person, what style of painting you appreciate, if you want to work on blocking the form or defining specific details first, how many tones of one colour you want to use, what your intended final product might look like, etc." Each student requires a different personalized discussion with the teacher and spends time developing an individual plan to approach creative assignments. One-on-one meetings and discussions are common during each period.

Grade 12 Visual Arts students recently completed their first independent large-scale work for their final exhibition, based on their year's personal theme. They were required to
  • create a large-scale work of art based on a current social, environmental, global or political issue of their choice;
  • take a stance on this personal interest and then express this stance visually; and
  • connect this issue to their personal theme.
The students were challenged to find an interesting way to connect the issue and their personal theme visually, which then became the subject matter for a creation in a medium of their choice.

The process involved individual and group process work, such as:
  • An evaluation of each student's technical strengths, weaknesses and goals
  • Class critiques in which students expressed issues of interest, as well as their personal and thematic connection to the issue
  • An exploration of materials, subject matter, techniques and approaches.
The final works are thought-provoking and technically impressive. Each represents aspects of the students' identities and creativity, local and global and concerns, and a superb commitment to their artistic studies. As the students reflected:

"I am proud of the message I represented and how I have portrayed it. My main goal was not just to represent the issue, but to [also] evoke guilt and responsibility for the issue, which I feel I have accomplished."

"The one main thing that I have learned is that, once I go deeper into [the] thought [process] of making a more creative piece, I can make it look amazing. I have also learned that I can paint and do very well with issues and pictures that I am passionate about."

"I scrapped a piece the day before the final critique and started a new one. This new image captivated my thoughts and with the help of espresso coffee, I painted throughout the night to meet the deadline. Switching my idea was worth it in the end."







Friday, 27 February 2015

Do You Hear What I Hear? Teaching Music by Ear and Finding Student Strengths

Students in Grade 7 and 8 can choose to take music as a major focus, which runs throughout the year as a band program, or as a minor focus, which runs for half the year as a ukulele program. This approach, as well as the program within the major and minor music courses, allow students to personalize their music experience.

Music as a Major

The music major program involves students from varying backgrounds in music - from those who have taken instrumental or vocal lessons for years outside of school, to those who have never read or performed music before.

Many of the beginner musicians are scared away by the idea of reading music. There is a common misconception that being a musician requires the ability to read those black dots on a page; however, there are many famous musicians today and throughout history, particularly in genres such as jazz, who could not read music at all. In an effort to personalize learning and to draw attention to different types of music, the Grade 7 and 8 program includes a variety of experiences, including reading music and learning by ear. This allows students who are already experienced at reading music to expand their learning to aural retention, and vice versa. It also enables those who are new to music to find their strengths.

Earlier this month, students participated in the Ontario Band Association Festival, a formal competition where they performed notated band repertoire and received feedback from professional adjudicators. In a more recent undertaking, the Grade 7 and 8 band students have begun learning the skill of "getting off the page" by aurally learning a new piece of music.

To ensure the authenticity and engagement of the students' learning experience, the band voted on popular music to play. The students listened to popular songs by artists such as Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars, then broke down the music into chunks and experimented on their instruments to emulate the notes being played. This type of learning is engaging for all students because it challenges students at their individual level of achievement:
  • Beginner students focus on finding the melody or chorus.
  • More experienced students attempt to create more advanced parts such as harmony and counter-melodies.
As each student finds his or her own way to contribute to the ensemble at an appropriate level of difficulty, the end result is a satisfying experience for both performer and audience.

Music as Minor

Students in the music minor program are also learning the skill of aurally learning music.
  • Grade 8 students are currently studying the blues and experimenting with non-rehearsed techniques.
  • Grade 7 students are learning traditional folk songs using imitation and repeat-after-me techniques.
All classes look forward to performing these pop pieces in the school community at upcoming events and assemblies.

Becky Stewart
Teacher, Music and French

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Grade 12 Film Studies: Collaborating in the Arts

Each year, the Grade 12 Film class works collectively to create a series of films from a variety of genres. Film and Social Science teacher Doug Brown explains how this collaborative project enables connections between a variety of arts courses.

The current Grade 12 group is the largest class in the last six years of the Greenwood senior Film program. This group of students is notorious for producing ambitious bodies of work; from their visually dynamic music videos, to their carefully crafted, cerebral documentaries, the current Grade 12 Film class has a history of quality.

The size of this class will allow for rich cross-curricular connections between a variety of senior-level Arts courses. Each spring, all film students work collectively to produce a 30-minute television pilot. Having film students who are also in Fashion, Drama, Media Arts and Music will provide authentic opportunities to include skills from their other arts electives. In the past, the Grade 11 and 12 Music classes have composed film soundtracks. This year, Arts teacher Lisa West will be working closely with the Film class to find ways for her senior drama students to be characters in this pilot. In the past, acting in the pilot was an extra-curricular commitment. By making more facets of the production embedded in curriculum, students will be able to connect their classroom work to their passions.

The television pilot will debut in May at our 5th Annual Greenwood Oscars (aka the "Groscars"). To see some of the work produced by past film students, check out the video below.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Blended Learning in Media Arts

Teachers Johanna Liburd and Amy Adkins discuss how personalizing learning for their Media Arts course helps students to acquire not only technical skills but also confidence in their learning capabilities.

What is Media Arts?
Media Arts provides an avenue for students to experience new technologies and the ways in which those technologies interact with and build on the traditional arts. Students explore such areas as photography, image manipulation, sound recording and editing, video recording and editing, digital animation and web design. Students acquire communications skills that are transferable beyond the media arts classroom and develop and an understanding of responsible practices related to the creative process. Students will also develop the skills necessary to create and interpret media art works.

The Traditional Media Arts Class
There are many ways to personalize student learning in the arts. One of the more traditional methods is personalizing by student interest. This year, the course has been further developed to incorporate even greater opportunities for personalizing learning based on readiness. For instance, in each unit students are given a variety of options for how they go about learning course concepts, skills and the ways in which they express their knowledge and understanding. With a focus on choice, students are able to use their interests and strengths to navigate their own learning through each project.
When personalizing for readiness, the teachers get to know each student and create lessons and projects that build upon their unique interests, strengths, prior learning and academic needs. We identify when a student needs a push or challenge and gear their choices and projects in a more challenging direction.


How Will This New Course Benefit Student Learning?

Blended Delivery: Students will be given a variety of ways to learn material based on their specific needs and/or learning preferences. By delivering course content in a variety of ways, students will learn the same material, but in the manner that suits them best. Students will also be encouraged to consider when, and if, they need to revisit prior learning. With the guidance and support of their teacher, students will be given opportunities to push themselves and will be challenged to develop strong and effective work habits.

Greater Teacher Support: The course Groodle page will contain resources presented in a variety of formats, such as videos and written tutorials, as well as one-on-one demonstrations provided by the teacher. With a greater focus on online learning, it is our hope that students will further develop their independent learning skills. This also allows the teacher to circulate around the room and provide support based on individual need.

Student Choice: The last unit of the course is an Independent Study unit. This unit provides students with the opportunity to propose a project that revisits and expands upon prior learning in the course. After submitting a proposal, students will be challenged to further develop their independent and collaborative learning skills. Regular check-ins with their teacher will ensure that the student stays on track while exploring the topic of their choice.

Collaborative Learning: Our goal is to give students a realistic sense of what it is like to work in a creative field. To that end, we aim to create and support an environment of collaboration, teamwork and leadership. Lessons will begin with warm-up activities that energize, challenge and promote community within the class. Students will not only gain a broad set of technical skills during the year, but they will also develop their interpersonal and collaborative skills, as well as their emotional intelligence.

In conclusion, it is our hope that students are able to experience greater success in Media Arts because of blended delivery, greater teacher support, student choice and collaborative learning. We aim to increase our students' ability to learn in a self-directed manner, to build their creative thinking skills and to foster a love of the arts. As we prepare our students for the future, our focus is not only on equipping them with competitive skills, but also instilling confidence in their own ability to learn.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Extending Personalized Learning into the Community

Today's post comes from Lisa West, Greenwood's Arts Coordinator.

Personalization at Greenwood extends beyond the walls of the classroom and into the community to create an experience that is unique to each student. Last year, I led a personalized and community-driven project for the students in my Grade 11 Drama class. We partnered with Youth Without Shelter and created a public service announcement that was used to promote their most significant fundraising event: Tokens 4 Change.

Students worked with Naomi Tessler from Branch Out Theatre Company to explore the issue of youth homelessness in Toronto. They participated in a series of brainstorming sessions and acting workshops where they researched statistics and heard written accounts from teens who accessed the services of Youth Without Shelter.

From their exploratory work, the students were joined by Paul Davis, Founder and Director of PACTFilm, who brought his 20-plus years of working in the film and TV industry into the classroom. Students learned how to storyboard their ideas and act for the screen as they were directed and filmed over an afternoon. Each identified their area of interest and focused their efforts on that particular aspect of the film process, creating a polished end product that was created from individualized parts. The finished product was shown provincially on Global television and Shaw Cable.

The students ended this exciting experience by participating in Tokens 4 Change and raising the most money of any of the teams in the city. Check out the PSA below.



Lisa West
Arts Coordinator