On school plays with preschoolers

Before starting this whole adventure, if you asked me what a 3 year old was capable of, I’d probably have responded with “very little…they’re 3…”. Before this I’d had very limited interaction with this age group before and therefore my understanding of their understanding of the universe was nonexistent at best.

Now if you ask me that question, boy do I have a much different response!

These past two and a half months have been a rollercoaster. The whole school has been preparing for the annual Christmas Performance and I didn’t realize what an undertaking it was about to be. For my little guys, I had to adapt a short story to fit the acting capabilities of 4 year olds, teach them a short choreographed dance routine, teach them a short simple song, and help them learn rhythm and how to keep a beat with simple instruments while playing along to a live piano.

And if things weren’t busy enough, the performance also included one costume change. It would have been funny watching two teachers trying to help change 14 kids in a small overheated room if I wasn’t one of the teachers swimming in that chaos.

If that sounds like a lot, it was. It was a herculean effort.

And a very long day.

Our drama was a stage production of the Gingerbread Man story, except it was an adaptation befitting 4 year olds, (so it got really really simplified). I wrote it on a train ride and it took them 2.5 months to learn their lines. They had about 5-10 lines each, and all lines were said in groups of four, so its not like any of them had any solo speaking parts. Then we all danced to a bubblegum poppy song from the 90’s, followed by a version of “row row row your boat”, but with the lyrics changed to “stomp stomp stomp around, like a dinosaur”, because my class likes dinosaurs more than boats. After that they had to keep a simple rhythm using either a castanet, bell, or tambourine along with the song “Its a Small World”.

Everything else was fine, but I kind of wanted to smash the tambourines over my head each time we had to listen to “Its a Small World”. It was paaiiiiiinnful.

But somehow they all managed to pull it off! It was nothing short of a miracle if you ask me… Sure, there were some times that they stumbled over their lines while on stage in front of a big audience, but at least one person in each group saved it for the rest of them. The other hurdle for them was speaking their lines together. They have no problem in the classroom repeating after me together as a class when learning new vocabulary words, but when they have to speak together by themselves, sometimes there was an echo. “Run run, as fast as…. run run, as fast as you can…. you can….. you can’t catch me…. catch me….. me….” (you get the idea).

Next was the dance. There was one part in the routine where they all had to spin once clockwise, clap four times, then spin back counterclockwise, and clap four times again. That was rough. Those little guys do not get the concept of clockwise and counterclockwise yet… they barely get the concept of left and right. The left/right thing is usually taught via “your chopstick hand” or “your not chopstick hand”, and that works well enough but I have two lefties in my class (three counting me) and those poor girls get so confused sometimes seeing everyone else holding up their right hands while they are holding up their left hands. I feel for them, I really do!

So yes, some kiddos spun the wrong way, and clapped way too many times, but it was expected. And my guys didn’t have all the pressure on them to be perfect, so it was still cute that they were a little backwards at times.

The singing went well, but I expected it to go well. They will break out into song at the drop of the hat in the classroom sometimes if I just happened to mention certain words. And its about as much fun as you think it is listening to a classroom of 4 year olds sing… Its cute at first, but the fourth time, not so much.

The musical piece was funny. I got to play conductor and try to keep time and beat for the three instruments which was probably a full show in itself. I have very long arms and you better believe I was using every inch of them to get the attention of the wayward castanet players who were daydreaming through the whole thing. I think I looked like an octopus having a stroke with how much flailing about I was doing.

In the weeks leading up to the big day, I heard stories from my predecessor in this role that she went full crazy Dance Mom during this performance and was stressed out beyond belief. Hearing that, I decided that whatever was going to happen, was just going to happen on that stage. So that’s the attitude I adopted for the whole practicing season. Yes, the munchkins practiced everyday, but once it’s showtime, they’re going to do whatever they want to do.

Thankfully though, they did it mostly right! Overall it was a success in my mind, I’m sure someone else out there has other thoughts, but their thoughts don’t really matter. What matters most is that no one cried on stage (including me) nor did anyone fall off or push anyone off stage (including me). So that’s a major win!

With Christmas break so close, things are still full blown crazy at school, but I’m the fool for expecting anything less. The Japanese teachers decorated the school a little for Christmas, but it’s a shallow sort of feeling. Christmas isn’t a native holiday to Japan, and while my kiddos know Christmas, they don’t know it know it like we do at home. I can’t blame them though, it’s just not their culture. But you better believe I’m trying to teach them as much about it as their little brains can handle! The other day I named all the reindeer and I blew everyone’s mind.

It’s currently Wednesday night and in three nights, I’ll be on an airplane homebound for Christmas. I have not been this excited to go home in the past few years and I am already looking at a packed schedule with the holidays and visits to friends. My bags are (mostly) packed and I’m almost counting down the hours until I leave. There is still so much to do before I get on that airplane, but I know somehow it will all get done. And what ever doesn’t get done, who cares… its finally Christmas!!

4 thoughts on “On school plays with preschoolers

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