This past June marked the first year that the Shakespeare in Shades summer program was operated by the Clarence Brown Theatre. The program began in 2016 with the collaboration of the Great Schools Partnership, Knox County Schools, and the Clarence Brown Theatre and was developed to help bridge the gap from elementary to middle school by improving reading and building confidence among rising sixth grade students.
The program utilizes teams of two KCS teachers (English and theatre) to work alongside four UT theatre students during the month of June. The mentors assist teachers as they work on the reading skills necessary to help stage an adaptation of a middle school novel. This year our teachers Rebecca Dudash and Lauren Andrejko, along with mentors Crystal-Marie Alberson, Elizabeth Clark, McKinley Merritt, Julia Stark, and Derrick Washington worked with nearly 30 students at Vine Middle School while staging an adaptation of Hoot. Twenty students completed the program and performed for more than 100 of their family and friends in the Carousel Theatre.
The program consisted of students who were born and raised in Knoxville to students who had only lived in the United States for a few months and everyone in between. Half of the participants were English Language Learners, coming from homes where English was a secondary language. Nearly 78 percent of students demonstrated growth in their reading abilities. Some students saw a gain of more than 20+ words read per minute while others demonstrated significant growth in their reading accuracy, comprehension, expression, phrasing, smoothness, and pace. Ninety-five percent of students showed growth in behavior, teamwork, and creative expression, while 100 percent of participants saw an increase in confidence.
The rising sixth graders benefit from this program, but so do our UT theatre students. It provides a paid, hands-on opportunity for them to work within an actual classroom while utilizing the tools they’ve learned developing their craft.
Shakespeare in Shades was made possible through the generous support of The Great Schools Partnership with additional help from the Scripps Howard Foundation and VOLStarter. To learn about this program and how you can help make a difference in the lives of our youth, please contact Hana Sherman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more about the program and VOLStarter Campaign.