Monday, November 26, 2012

Backdrop SOS - one idea that worked!

I've not had the time to blog as much as usual because our biggest student performance of the year was on the Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving, so I'm just now recovering.  I'm also sad to say that we also had a death in our family so in the midst of my craziest season at work, I had the chance to help my family celebrate the life of my uncle who passed away from cancer two weeks ago. Believe me when I say that I missed blogging and looked forward to when I could get back to it.  I'm hoping that now that things have settled down a bit I can put together some meaningful posts that will be both encouraging and helpful.

This year I had a GREAT idea!

Why don't I have 5th grade students sign up to be in "theater tech".  The students in "theater tech" can meet after school as part of our grant funded after school program which provides both academic tutoring and enrichment.  

It really was a great idea.  My theater crew designed and created a beautiful backdrop.  They created and organized all of the show props.  They ran the sound for the show and created the program. What a great idea right?  I was hoping that my 5th graders would be a good help and not extra work for me.  I was not at all disappointed.  They did good careful work, they cooperated and accomplished as much in one hour a week as I would have accomplished in 12 hours a week. The hardest part was making sure that I actually had enough work to keep them busy.

My theater crew created a truly beautiful backdrop and were so proud of their work that I couldn't wait to show it off.  They decided to create buildings out of poster board so that we could fold up the pieces and easily store them without having to deal with them being in the way.  Each week the buildings were taken out and the students would add details.  Putting them away and getting them out caused them to be a little bit bent and roughed up, but I kept telling the students that no one would notice since the backdrop would be on the stage..... Little did I know how things would work out.....

My 5th grader tech crew was well on their way to creating a beautiful backdrop when I ran into a real and unexpected roadblock.  The cafeteria where my students perform is fairly narrow and as we got closer to the time of performance my co-teacher and I decided that we would change the configuration of where everyone was standing so that we would be less spread out.  Basically, the entire 5th grade would be on risers or steps on the stage. With this huge wall of students there was no room to hang the backdrop!  Until this year, not having space for a backdrop would have been a relief to me.  Last year I would have been thrilled because I would have just made the decision not to have a backdrop at all.  But here I was with a new plan to improve student performance AND a student created backdrop that my students were excited to share! Oh yeah..... and because I was dealing with a family crisis I was REALLY REALLY crunched for time.....even more than usual....  SO here is what we did.

 I hung the backdrop on the very inhospitable wall made of cinder block and acoustic panels next to the stage.  On the stage I have the option of using canvas, a track and hooks, or I can use butcher paper and a stapler.  But on this wall..... I had to get super creative.

Originally, since our cafeteria has been recently painted, I thought about using fishing line and an upholstery needle to sew the backdrop pieces to the acoustic panels.... but I thought that would take too much time and I had to get out of town in a hurry.

3M hooks were the pricey but necessary hero of the day.  Although 3M hooks and re-stick-able adhesive strips are a little steep, they are also reusable and you can find replacement strips for the hooks on

The day that we hung the backdrop, my co-teacher and tech crew did a whole bunch of problem solving and after an hour of guess work and figuring out, we knew what to do, but it was time for the kids to go home.

I was able to take what they had figured out and starting at 5:30, I was completely finished hanging everything by 7:00 even though I was working alone.  The backdrop was hung on a Thursday evening, survived the breakfast trash line, a Thanksgiving feast, a really cold cafeteria, a really hot cafeteria and a weekend and I only had one sign fall down.  Everything was ready for our Monday morning performance and didn't come down until Tuesday afternoon when we took it down. The backdrop took about 30 minutes to take down and I've got all of those hooks and strips for next years backdrop if I need them.

Each building was attached to the wall by two 3M hooks.  On the back of each building I built tape "hangers".  A folded piece of tape held down by two other pieces of tape created "pockets" for the hooks to hang on to. 

The musical marquees and anything else that didn't have a piece of wall to hang on were attached to the backdrop with the clear adhesive strips and packing tape.  

A little worse for wear, but overall the end result was nice.  Those were REALLY proud kiddos! 

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