Creativity, imagination and a portly pug named “Mr. Beefy” have taken over Peter G. Schmidt Elementary School in Tumwater.
This month, almost all 600 students at the school helped create and perform skits based on the 36-word poem “Mr. Beefy” from the book “Once I Ate a Pie,” written by Patricia MacLachlan and Emily MacLachlan Charest.
Writing specialist Diane Hall said the project is part of the Readers Theater program she developed, in which students read, write and perform original scripts inspired by the same text.
“All of my students work with the same poem, using text-based evidence to write the dialogue for their plays,” she said. “With my first-grade and some of my second-grade students, we write the play together, with student-generated dialogue. But the rest of my students create their own plays.”
Hall said the project was designed to help support the Common Core State Standards, which aim to cover core skills with increasing complexity as students progress through the grade levels.
“The new emphasis on Common Core is having writing as important as reading,” Hall added.
The original plays are short, and some closely follow the poem about a dog that likes to eat butter — and one time ate a pie. But others wrote about the dog’s owners or more mischief by the dog.
The dialogue they wrote was based on inference, and students had to defend their choices with details from the text, Hall said.
“The text isn’t very complex, which makes it accessible,” she said.
The complexity of the project came with the students’ use of inference and point of view, development of characters and settings, and other playwright and performance skills, she said.
Sixth-grader Sahara Stanley, 12, said she enjoyed watching her classmates’ performances.
“Everybody’s story is unique,” she said.
Sahara worked with three friends on a skit titled “Chunky Puppy.” It included a short musical number and dance that’s similar to the Oompa Loompa skits from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
“I was thinking of Willy Wonka when we were doing this,” Delaney Boe, 11, said with a giggle.
Jamie Kier, 11, said she enjoys the class and watching the skits. But reading a script in front of the classroom isn’t easy, she said. “I was kind of sweating,” Jamie added. “I was shaking all over.”Lisa Pemberton: 360-754-5433 firstname.lastname@example.org @Lisa_Pemberton