Bringing Books to Life (BBL)

This month, my City Year team performed Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day for our elementary school students (Grades K-6th). By literally “bringing the book to life,” we aim to increase student interest in reading and simultaneously educate students about the negative impacts of bullying.

Despite having a team of only 7 members, we were able to create the script, make all the props, publicize the event, and develop an education section for the play as well. In spite of having only 3 weeks to act out the story, we were still able to carry out a hugely successful event. It’s even easier with elementary school students because their imagination enhanced our props and acting.

The education section is also a huge component of the BBL. In between scenes, we have “education breaks” where a team member will facilitate a discussion about the scenes that just happened. In the beginning of our story, we talked about the definitions of vocabulary words and where Australia is located since it’s mentioned in the story. We also had an education break at the middle and end to address bullying scenes in the story. Students were also asked to brainstorm various solutions to fix the bullying that happened throughout the story.

Our team acting out the story with the powerpoint projector behind us
Acting out the breakfast scene
Doing the education break and showing students where Australia is located

Here are some tips to carry out a successful BBL if you have a small team:

  • Assign specific roles for each person: For example one person writes the script, another person designs props, and another person acts as Director and assigns character roles; As for education, I would recommend having 2 people
  • Keep props minimal: For our BBL, we drew a lot of our props on poster paper and hung them on all the walls of the auditorium; we also had a projector and used PowerPoint slides to create the background for each scene; Also, to reenact a classroom and office, we used the same chairs and tables so we wouldn’t have so many props behind the curtains
  • Get extras if you can: If you want to make a stronger visual impact with your play despite minimal props, then get extra people to act as background characters; for example if you’re creating a classroom, then have extras in the background acting as students even though they don’t have actual lines
  • End the event with a raffle!: To encourage student attendance, you can have a raffle for a big prize at the end; and if students aren’t behaving appropriately, then you have the leverage to say they won’t be considered for the raffle
  • Be aware of your language/vocabulary when working with different grades: Since we performed the play for various age groups (ex: K-1st, 2nd-3rd, and 4th-6th), we had to make slight adjustments to the education and jokes/vocabulary throughout the story; Jokes that the 4th-6th graders were able to understand were definitely lost in the K-1st crowd.

Being able to partake in the BBL was a great way to educate students in a fun and engaging manner. If you have the opportunity to act for your students, then you should definitely go for it! You don’t even need an elaborate play with props/scripts. Even a simple skit is a good way to reach out to students.


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