Union Fourth-Graders Put on Matilda Production

Union Fourth-Graders: “Kids Can Really Do A Lot When We Work Together”
Posted on 12/18/2019
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collage from Matilda playThe process started months ago with the question: “How do we put on the play Matilda that is both entertaining and makes sense?”

From there, Union Elementary fourth-graders led the creative process in all aspects of play production: acting/dancing, lighting, sound, special effects, prop-making, scenery-creating and playbill writing.

Putting on the play is an example of project-based learning. Students got to choose which aspect of play production that most appealed to them; they were encouraged to take ownership of their learning and were empowered to make choices from start to finish.

Ellery Wampler, who plays Miss Honey in Matilda said “at first things were a bit structured because we hadn’t put on a play before and weren’t sure what to do. But now it is all just us – with the teachers just watching and making tweaks here and there.”

This week the students brought their hard work to the stage, with two performances – including a show for parents that had an audience of over 300.

Working on the play met many curricular standards: inferencing (coming to conclusions based on non-literal interpretation), theme analysis, point of view, character analysis, and audio/visual presentations to enhance main ideas or themes. But the Matilda production touched on many other important “soft skills” like team work, communication, and problem-solving.

Courtney Smith said the one of the biggest things she learned through Matilda was “in order to do a play, you have to step out of your comfort zone.” Her fellow fourth-graders echoed her sentiments, including play narrator Brad Tunney, who “was scared to perform, but we are doing it with friends. If I had to do it by myself, I would be totally terrified.”

Overall, the students said that they have realized that kids can really do a lot when they work together.

Students weren’t the only ones who learned during the project. “I have learned SO much,” said teacher Laurie Oen who served as director for the Matilda production. “The students have astounded me every day with their personal vision, commitment and exuberance in telling this story. The more public release of our project increases the importance and impact that truly excites and motivates our students to work harder and commit to this venture more deeply.” Teacher Ginger Worley led the crew members (props, art, special effects, playbill writers) and Alyssa Collova was the choreographer and assistant director.

Oen went to Principal Kyle Lichey in the spring with the idea of putting on a play using the students’ enrichment time, and he was immediately on board. “The whole idea of our enrichment time is for students to be able to experience new things, learn new things. For Matilda, there were students using tools to build sets, to others who were singing and dancing, to yet others learning how to use lighting and sound systems. And the soft skills that students took away from the experience are invaluable.”

The production of Matilda involved half of Union’s fourth-graders; the other half will begin work on another play after winter break.