By Natalie Hentze, First Grade Teacher at King Elementary

What is Focus 5’s Acting Right?
For our first year as a Turnaround Arts: California partner school, King Elementary School in Seaside decided to implement Focus 5’s Acting Right, which uses drama as a classroom management tool, school-wide. Acting Right is an arts-based strategy that provides students with the tools to remain calm, focused, and balanced.

The Actor’s Toolbox begins with students signing a silent contract that they promise to control their bodies, voices, and imaginations and to concentrate and cooperate. Then, students practice strengthening their concentration and cooperation skills through a series of challenges. Adopting a common language pinpoints areas where students are making strong vs. weak choices and provides students with a sense of ownership over their behavior. This language, and even signing the contract itself, can be done throughout the day to reinforce set expectations. It also prepares students for deeper applications of content through the use of drama and provides teachers with both a management tool as well as a way of assessing student understanding.


Acting Right Training at King: Highlights
Our recent Acting Right training focused on phase one — Introducing the Actor’s Toolbox. The Actor’s Toolbox reminds students that they can call on a variety of tools that actors use to help them throughout the day. The training taught us how to teach students that they are in control of the choices they make and how to calmly respond to students in a way that empowers them to make stronger choices.

Paige Whelan, our trainer, modeled the Actor’s Toolbox for each grade level so that we could see how it would translate into our own classes. We had the opportunity to observe a positive way to redirect students by reminding them that their behaviors are a choice. It was a challenge to sit back and watch Paige work through the appropriate responses to each behavior, but by the end, it was interesting to see that the students eventually modified their behavior to match her expectations. Later, Paige trained the teachers a bit more in depth, giving background and research to support the way the strategy is introduced to the students. We also practiced the strategy as students, and it was interesting to see that most of our students picked it up much faster than we did. It was a valuable experience because a lot of the vocabulary and concepts are just as critical for our teachers as for our students. Calm body, focused mind, balanced emotions — when we are calm, focused, and balanced, we are better able to give our students what they need, and when our students are calm, focused, and balanced, they are better able to accept and work for what they need.

Acting Right at King: How is your team planning to implement these strategies?
We are so excited to be implementing Acting Right at King. A majority of our teachers and staff are already utilizing this strategy, and our goal is to have the whole school implementing it in the next few months. Students are already responding to the common language, and having the tools to self-talk and understanding that they are in control of their behavior has been an amazing transformation. We see students encouraging one another using the same vocabulary we have been using, and we have also had parents tell us that some of their children are using many of the phrases such as “strong choices” and “I am the boss of my brain” at home. With how well this has taken root in our school culture, we can’t wait to see what the follow-up trainings bring to King!


Looking Ahead: What do you think King will look like six months from now, six years!
In six months, we expect our students to be immersed in the language and positive culture that Acting Right encourages. We would like to hear that our teachers and staff are consistently using this strategy, and we hope to hear more parents share the impacts it is making on their children in and out of school.

A few years from now, we want to see our students who have used this strategy for years continue to use it to build concentration and cooperation skills, as well as self-regulating their behavior by remembering that they are in control of their behavior and that they are equipped to make strong choices. We hope to create a thriving school culture that students and teachers are excited to be part of. We believe that Acting Right is just the beginning of a huge, positive shift for our school and community, and we cannot wait to see the end result!