Friday, June 4, 2021

Homeschool Students LOVE Our Program!

One of the reasons our Drama program is so successful is because it resonates with so many different types of children - those who need an outlet to perform, those who need to build their self confidence, those who need to develop their oral communication skills, those who need to channel their creativity and those that need to find their tribe!

For the child who is homeschooled our program offers the perfect balance of all of the above as well as developing important social skills! 

During this term we introduced our Dress Up Days for the younger students and it is just so noticeable how much the homeschool children love this activity! It gives them a chance to use their creativity and imagination to develop the most amazing outfits! Often homeschool parents use the dress up themes as a springboard to create a learning experience.

Of course ALL students love this activity and our mainstream school students also blow us away with their incredible inventions, all of which come from items they have found in their houses, we don't expect anyone to go out and spend any money!

Take a look at some of these wonderful creations....

Friday, May 21, 2021

Drama must always be amazeballs!


As a teacher, getting feedback from a parent is always invaluable. It can sometimes be hard to gauge how the children feel about the class or teacher, and having parents let us know is always a great help. So when one of our teachers received this positive feedback from a mom recently, it was a great to hear:

 “I want to commend you, T was OVER THE MOON when I picked her up. Direct quote: “Best teacher I had in this school and my old school, she is so kind and lovely, mummy. Drama was amazeballs!” T thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank you again and a big well done!” 

So much of what our Helen O’Grady curriculum focus on are life skills based, like problem solving, creative thinking, confidence, teamwork, memorisation techniques, effective communication, body language, empathy, kindness and respect for others. If a child is happy and excited about being at Drama, they are open and receptive to new ideas and acquiring new skills. 

Tapping into their creativity and expressing themselves becomes fun, and they become little sponges drinking in all the skills and techniques embedded in our activities. It is of the utmost importance that we strive to create a space that the children love to be in, and that they look forward to be a part of, all within the boundaries of mutual respect and the discipline required to work constructively as a group. 

Then we are able to have an impact socially, emotionally and even academically on our students. Receiving feedback such as the message above, is the confirmation we need that we are successfully creating a learning environment that brings joy, as well as developing young lives to set them up for success.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Never underestimate the impact you have on a child’s life ❤️

 I think it is very easy to forget how big an impact you as a teacher can have on the life of a child. Sometimes we get so caught up in the deadlines and admin, and just getting through the day, that we forget that we are shaping lives and guiding our students to become better, stronger and more confident versions of themselves. 

One of the joys of being a Drama teacher is that we often get to see children develop from a young age in Kindy or Lower Primary, all the way to Upper Primary and then Youth Theatre. And sometimes, if you are very lucky, you witness a child conquering a fear, or mastering a skill, or literally finding their voice. These are the moments I think we all treasure the most. 

I recently had the pleasure of exactly such a precious moment. I have a little girl in one of my Lower Primary classes whom I have been teaching for 5 years since she started with our Kindy program at age 3. She has always been painfully shy, having a real fear of performing in front of her group. Over the years she began participating in classroom discussions and answer questions but would never be comfortable standing up to say a poem or do a snippet or any other moment when all eyes are on her. 

 Then a few weeks ago, to my surprise and utter delight, she stood up in front of a class of 25 students and said a Tongue Twister 5 times, out loud, without batting an eye! I was so amazed, for a moment I just stood there, at a total loss for words. Even the other children were completely blown away. Never have I ever wished I could hug someone more than at that moment. She did it! The one thing I never thought she would, but never stopped encouraging her to try. To believe in herself, trust herself and be brave enough to fight the fear of failure when all eyes were on her. 

The spontaneous applause from the other children, and my genuine pride and celebration of this huge moment for her, just made her light up and stand a bit taller, lift her chin a bit higher and smile the biggest smile I’ve ever seen. I hope that this is the first step on her journey of becoming more confident and slowly building her self-esteem.💗💗

- Charlotte Tervit 
(Vice Principal - Helen O'Grady Drama Academy Pretoria and Midrand

Friday, April 23, 2021

Drama is a like a Brain Massage

I don’t about you, but I love going for a massage. Nothing beats that feeling of the stress melting away and you can just let go and forget about all the issues of your week. Even just the physical space that you are in, with gentle music playing and hushed voices, adds to that feeling of escaping the pressure of life. It’s definitely one of my guilty pleasures and frankly something I need to just get through the week sometimes. 

Well, Drama is kind of the same thing, but just for your brain. Now, hear me out. Just as the physical massage is a way to escape and relax, Drama, as a right brain activity, is a way to escape from left brain activities like logical, rational and analytical thinking. We all need to break away from too much thinking and just do something creative - no analysing or logic required. 

Our kids a have to deal with a large amount of pressure of academic achievement, which is mostly left brain centred, from a fairly young age, and by the time they reach high school and especially grade 10 and up, this can all become very overwhelming. And this is where Drama comes in: That one hour a week where they can step away from all that stress and expectations, and just relax and let their right brain take over and have some fun. 

Right brain activities can raise serotonin levels which reduces anxiety, stress, depression, and can even improve sleep. As part of the Helen O’Grady curriculum, we also teach breathing, stretching and relaxation techniques, which are often included in coping techniques for stressful situations like writing exams, and classroom and homework pressures. 

So, next time you have all those nasty knots expertly worked out of your tensed up back or shoulders by the nimble fingers of a masseuse, think about how, by letting your child do Drama, it helps to massage their brains and work out all the stress of life by the expert teachers who offer the fun, escape and the freedom their brains so desperately need.

Friday, April 9, 2021

In a world where you can be anything…


Sometimes, just when you think life cannot surprise you anymore, something seemingly quite insignificant can make you sit up and pay attention. This recently happened during one of our Drama activities and I can’t deny it put a huge smile on my face and gave me the warm-and-fuzzy’s all over. First, some background info to set the scene: we teach drama to children at an upmarket private school in Midrand, so it’s safe to say that these children come from a more privileged background than a lot of children in South Africa. A few weeks ago we did one of our quick-fire Intro activities, this one was about finding a tree in the jungle that has money growing on it instead of leaves. The children had to pick as much money as possible before I shouted “freeze”. As usual , I gave them a chance to comment on the activity and tell me what they would spend the money on. Of course, I got the expected Ferrari’s, Bugatti’s, Mansions, rockets to the moon, the latest Xbox and games, apple gadgets etc. But what really made me sit up, was the number of children who said they would give half, or all the money to charity. Some wanted to build houses for homeless people, or buy shoes, food, blankets and clothes. They wanted to give money to animal shelters, orphanages, cancer research and children’s hospitals. They wanted to build schools where children with no money can go to for free. I was honestly blown away! Somewhere, someone is doing something right. Between the parents, teachers, school, and other influences that might have an impact on these children, we are bringing up a new generation who might just get it right. To hear children be aware of their privilege, and say they don’t need more money or stuff, they would rather make life better for people whom they know have so much less than they do was a truly humbling experience. One of my favourite life mantras just kept playing over and over in my mind: “In a world where you can be anything, be kind”.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

The Art of Conversation

 Conversations are at the true heart of all dramatic productions, be it a play, a movie or a TV show. They are all basically made up of a string of conversations, strung together by actions and a change of scenery – conversations interspersed by characters going to work, walking, running, eating, sleeping until they have their next conversation. 

 One of our favourite Drama activities takes things right back to the basics of conversation and is aimed specifically at developing this art, this skill to focus on one conversation at a time. I am of course talking about the humble Snippet. It is literally a snippet of conversation, as if overheard in passing, about something as random as a bucket, a lost item, or a Birthday Party. It is quite amazing how much learning can be packed into an activity that takes all of 30 seconds to perform and perhaps 5 mins to teach and prepare. 

Firstly, we work on memorisation skills. The kick-off point of each Snippet is a few given lines that the children must memorise. We usually divide the children into groups of two, each child must assume a character, and is given a line or two to memorise that starts the conversation. 

We use a very effective memorisation technique that becomes the way in which children learn lines for much longer and more complicated scripts for scenes and plays, and ultimately improves their ability to retain information and recall it when required. 

Next we focus on improvisation and creativity as the children have to complete the conversation using their own words. We encourage them to be creative and come up with an unusual, funny or surprising ending. They also have to think about their characters, the relationship between them and the setting for the conversation. 

A Snippet builds Teamwork. 

The children must work together as a team when coming up with the ending or resolution of the situation and rehearse what each one is going to say. Eventually they become so comfortable with these scenarios, that the entire Snippet can be improvised on the spot, using the given lines as a springboard. 

This demands a lot of trust and fast thinking from the children as their confidence and creativity grows. It is an excellent activity for new students to understand the basics of improv, memorisation and performance as a whole.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Up, up and away 2021!

Hurray, hurray! All our Helen O’Grady Pretoria and Midrand Studio venues have opened at last! 
And yes, I know, it’s the 6th of March already, but as with so many things lately, it has been a bit of a slow start. But that does not mean we haven’t been busy. 

Thanks to Zoom, we were able to at least kick off 2021 with online classes until we were able to meet face to face once more. And what a pleasure it has been to see each other after such a long December and January holiday. 

 Of course, we still offer Zoom classes for those who prefer to continue online, and we are still not free of all the protocols and precautionary measures brought on by COVID-19, but thanks to the support and trust of our students, parents and community, we are able to spread the love and joy of doing Drama, being creative, connecting with our peers and building confidence and life skills once again! 

We are so grateful and excited about this year and can’t wait to see what fantastical things it brings!