Thursday, August 21, 2008

In The Deepest Jungles of Room 198

My room at the school is an open space with musical instruments inherited from two defunct elementary schools on display. The children march in assuming this will be a music class, and are not dissuaded from the notion even after their first theatre class with me.

Today in the teachers' lounge I learned that everybody knows what I am doing in my classes because the 4th and 5th graders are still walking around like aliens from another planet, greeting one another; and many of the younger kids are relating their adventures in the jungle.

The jungle exercise emerged spontaneously when kindergarteners were presented to me and there wasn't much we could talk about. Figuring we could learn by doing, I got them listing animals one finds in a jungle, and then told them to pick an animal. I then announced that we would create a jungle here in the classroom, and led them in a 15-20 minute improvised day in the jungle.

Each child showed me the animal they had chosen to portray. Lions gallumphed, tigers crept, tarantulas skittered, alligators swam, snakes slithered, and we even had some owls flying. Our jungle might be on the same island as Jurassic Park, because we had a couple of tyrannosauruses. Rhinoceroses paraded regally about and cheetas snuck around nimbly, finding shelters under tables that now served as bushes, saplings, or rocks.

The instructor steps gingerly through the jungle, fearful of stepping on an animal or being lost in quicksand, narrating the course of the day to the beat of a drum. The animals slowly emerge from sleep and begin to prowl the jungle looking for food and drink. A monsoon appears and forces them to shelter, then passes quickly. Then the instructor finds an umbrella and manifests the hunter in the jungle, come to bag some big game, and again the animals seek shelter, finding hiding places everywhere. I am tempted to check the ceiling panels for signs of escape. The hunter passes and the jungle takes in a movie. If you've never seen jungle animals in the movie theatre, well, you need to come by sometime. I have seen such things. I also saw the creatures of the jungle have a dance party, mix and mingle, before getting tired and returning to sleep.

Some groups enjoy these explorations very much, some groups are less interested. One group of third graders was determined to treat the class like the recess, knowing that on the other end of the class period they had birthday cake waiting for them in home room. Lots of smart alecky remarks, switching their names around, pretending to be mute, and such. What can you do? Go with it. It's another jungle, so straighten that pith helmet and step carefully, but move forward.

Lining up the fearsome creatures to return to homeroom and the party that awaited them, I asked the front of the line for their classroom number. (I was, recall, meeting them all for the first time.) A child said, "114!" and there were many grins and nods.

Well, being an experienced jungle explorer, I knew that 114 was nowhere near the third grade classrooms. In fact, 114 would be in another part of the building altogether. I looked them over and said, with a bland expression, "Okeydoke! Off we go, follow me please." And I took them to 114.

Room 114 was a closet. To be exact, according to the sign: "Mechanical Closet. No storage."

I read the sign aloud and looked at my students. They looked straight ahead, as they are supposed to in the hallways. No doubt, they were thinking about the birthday cake they were not eating. "You told me your home room was 114," I said in utter bewilderment, as the jungle muttered.

Last laugh: mine.

I then led them to their homeroom and bid them a smiling farewell. Until next week.


Pam said...

Oh mighty jungle hunter! Elementary school is indeed the jungle!

Love this age group! Challenging, but pliable and still filled with lots of wonder and a thirst(often secret) for knowledge!

I love your jungle play! What a great teacher you make, Alg!

These little wild animals are lucky to have you for specials!

Hey, it's hard to compete with cake or cupcakes for some kid's birthday celebration!

Loved your trek to room 114! You rock teach!

Kelly said...

I don't recall ever taking a drama class (though I DO remember music class). From what you've described here, I know I would have enjoyed yours!

Donna said...

FABULOUS!! You rock and so does this beautifully written post!

You are exposing those developing minds to thoughts they'd never experience without your creativity. Inspiring!

How funny! I'll bet you taking them to room 114 had an impact. I'll bet more than one walked away thinking, "Hey, wait a minute! We're the ones not eating cake!" LOL! Wonderful lesson!

quid said...

A charming tale. If you are enjoying yourself as much as they are, we have an excellent match!