EXERCISE: an anthem to your cause!
Students will examine one of the songs from Billy Elliot the Musical before seeing the show. They will create their own anthem poems and present them as choral spoken pieces with movement, with a focus on analysing and communicating how their performance reveals key emotions and motivations to the audience.
- YouTube link to "Once We Were Kings" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9P_ZsCrqOk
- Handout of the lyrics of "Once We Were Kings," from Billy Elliot the Musical
- A space in which to move
- Pen, pencils, paper
1. Hand out copies of "Once We Were Kings" lyrics to each student.
2. Stand in a circle and read aloud, with each person taking one line.
3. Review all unfamiliar words and phrases, and check for understanding.
4.Read the lyrics together several times while listening to the YouTube recording. Ask students:
- What is communicated through the lyrics?
- What is the tone (e.g., happy, mournful, energizing, etc.) of the piece?
- What does this song mean to you?
- What techniques do Elton John and Lee Hall use to evoke some sort of emotion in the listener?
- How do you imagine the piece would be staged?
5. As a class, make a list of justice or community issues that matter to you.
6. Next, divide the students into groups of three or four. Each group will write their own anthem poem (minimum eight lines). Each group will write about a cause they believe in or something they wish to praise or show loyalty to (e.g., sports team, school, community, city, nation, etc.).
7. Once the poems are written, encourage students to get each one on its feet, incorporating various techniques (e.g., choral speaking,* movement,** etc.) to present it.
8.Have each group rehearse and perform their piece for the rest of the class.
*Choral Speaking: Students explore the poem by reading aloud in many different ways. Encourage them to experiment with tone, pace, tempo, volume, repetition, various emotions and even incorporating different variations of groupings (e.g., solo, in twos, threes, and using the whole group). The students offer each other helpful suggestions and revisit the poem, trying it in different ways and patterns. [NOTE: This activity helps struggling readers gain more confidence, as they are working together as an ensemble.]
**Movement: When you get a poem "up on its feet" with the students as actors, language quite literally comes alive. As the students solve the pragmatic problems of staging, such as "Where do I stand?" "Who do I say this to?" and so on, they gain greater command of the unfolding events and of the poem's development. The students should consider the following: where they move to or around the playing space; how they move with characterization; and how they move in relation to others around them in the playing space.
- What did you discover during the rehearsal process when you got your anthem poem up on its feet?
- What did you discover while watching and listening to other anthem poems? What were the similarities and what were the differences?