Drama teachers rarely have enough time in the classroom to adequately focus on improving literacy in the Dramatic Arts. When so many theatre classes are group exercises that are project-driven, teachers struggle to ensure that kids learn about plays and playwrights. Further, how can theatre teachers truly measure a student’s learning progress? Luckily, computers in the classroom and constant online access have bred kids who are quick to use the internet. New programs like StageAgent for Schools have been launched to help fill these teaching gaps in the typical drama classroom. StageAgent for Schools has now been adopted by the drama programs at 24 Dallas ISD high schools. In this post, Lisa Cotie, a theatre teacher at the award-winning Booker T. Washington High School for Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas, Texas, discusses the genesis of the StageAgent for Schools program and why drama teachers need to bring StageAgent for Schools into their classrooms.
StageAgent is proud to announce a new online platform to empower high school drama teachers and students: StageAgent for Schools. With StageAgent for Schools, our mission is to help develop the next generation of actors and theatergoers by improving student literacy in the Dramatic Arts.
The StageAgent for Schools project started in the summer of 2016. At that time, we discovered that a large number of our subscribers were high school drama teachers. After interviewing some of these teachers, we learned that they often used StageAgent to help them advise students looking for audition pieces. StageAgent’s monologue and song databases helped teachers efficiently and effectively come up with ideas. Further, StageAgent’s show guides and character breakdowns made theatrical literature much more approachable for their students.
However, many of these teachers also wished that their students
could have individual access to StageAgent. They wanted their students to learn how to become more effective researchers and encourage more independence in the classroom setting. Additionally, since each student has unique needs and interests, it became challenging trying to customize preferences for so many individuals within a single account.
To solve this problem, we produced a ‘beta’ version of StageAgent for Schools allowing for teachers and students to all have unique StageAgent accounts managed by an overarching school account. Teachers and students alike were now able to access StageAgent’s extensive content and research tools. During the 2016-2017 school year, we worked with 8 high schools in two states to pilot the program. Teachers and students told us that they loved having access to accurate and reliable theatre research tools right at their fingertips.
“StageAgent has been a wonderful tool for my students. With just a click on the computer, students have access to monologues, audition choices, show information, and much more. It has been a great tool to give students access to a lot of information on a variety of shows. ”
– Laura Rose, Drama Director, St. Francis High School, Mountain View, CA
The teachers and students from the pilot high schools also gave us some suggestions on how to improve the school service. Teachers asked us to develop lesson plans to help them integrate StageAgent into their classroom activities. They also wanted a way to measure student progress and to ensure that students were actually absorbing information. Meanwhile, students told us that they wanted an easy way to sign in without having to use an email address. They also wanted a simpler user interface that was more kid-friendly.
After receiving this feedback, the StageAgent staff worked diligently throughout the summer to create a new StageAgent for Schools platform that would solve these issues. The new platform not only provides access to amazing theatrical resources, but it also includes a series of features making it appropriate for use in academic environments.
On StageAgent for Schools, students can access show guides, character breakdowns, monologues, songs, and scenes. Students can bookmark their favorite materials and use keywords to search by theme. Self-paced quizzes provide a fun way for students to test newfound knowledge, and they can help teachers measure student comprehension. Meanwhile, teachers now have their own dashboard where they can access dozens of lesson plans, grant students’ access to StageAgent’s materials, and view student progress reports.
StageAgent for Schools also provides COPPA/FERPA privacy protections. Students are able sign in with a unique 6-digit passcode and do not need to share any personal information.
We invite all high school drama teachers to visit our new website for StageAgent for Schools (https://stageagent.org) to learn more. After signing up for a free trial, we believe you will be convinced to make StageAgent for Schools a part of your teaching and learning curriculum.
“StageAgent helps make theatrical literature approachable and accessible to students of all cultural and economic backgrounds. As a COPPA-compliant resource, StageAgent offers a safe internet environment for students to conveniently access both in and out of the classroom. Further, it helps save our teachers time by providing students with an accurate and reliable research tool for independent study.”
– Rachel Harrah, Director of Theatre and Dance, Dallas Independent School District