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Photo by Paul Blakemore

Big School - Becoming Me

Written by Marielle van Sauers with Justine Themen and the Company. Directed by Therese Collins.

The Belgrade’s Theatre in Education project, Big School toured local primary schools with the return of the brilliantly successful show Becoming Me from 4 – 28 June 2014

The following information was gathered from the Big Shool Evaluation 2014, written by Dr Hannah Grainger Clemson

In 1999, there was a reaffirmation of the Belgrade’s commitment to TiE as it established Big School – the annual programme of TiE aimed at young people making the transition from primary to secondary Education. The 2014 piece explored the idea that transition is central to the lived experiences of young people, that they are innately capable of confronting it themselves.

The current version of Big School is a half-day (approx. 1hr 30) programme designed to explore transitions with children in Year 6. It addresses their feelings about the move to secondary school and seeks to equip them with useful strategies for dealing with issues of transition. The programme combines professional theatre – a play entitled Becoming Me by Marielle van Sauers – with participatory activities that engage children in a collaborative exploration of their expectations and concerns. Each performance facilitated by three experienced actor-teachers, and the tour is supported by a professional stage manager.

Becoming Me tells the story of three primary school children – Skye, Sumara, and Zak – on their last day at primary school and during the first few days at secondary. The characters are seen dealing with a range of issues: leaving their familiar surroundings; their friendships; family relationships; getting to school and navigating a new campus; encountering a strict teacher and some school bullies; and finally looking forward to the future.

The TiE programme was accompanied by a full set of teacher’s materials, including all resources needed deliver activities, such as a soft ball, mirror and scrapbook. The pack draws on key objects from the programme, using the meaning invested in them during the play to extend the drama exploration with the class.

The project ran in four phases:

  1. Pre-workshop: teachers were offered the opportunity to attend central workshops to learn more and discuss the forthcoming project. Information on the schools and their perceived needs of the young pupils were gathered through survey and face to face dialogue.
  2. Workshop session: a 90-minute interactive performance by 3 actors from the Belgrade Theatre. Class Teachers and Teaching Assistants were also present during this session, which took place at schools (or host school if a joint session) across the city.
  3. Post-workshop: the day(s) after the workshop, teachers and pupils from five schools were asked to complete a short survey questionnaire. Individual teacher and focus group pupil interviews took place at four schools.
  4. Follow-up work: teachers were encouraged to undertake sessions using the materials provided in the resource pack and were invited to complete a post-project survey.

For the teachers, the interactive performance is important in becoming a springboard for future useful conversations and activities with their students.

As one teacher notes, “There’s so much going on that we might not see the worries”.

For another teacher “the performance acts as an important catalyst in getting the students to think about particular issues and ask appropriate questions for themselves.”