San Ramon Elementary School
Ms. Jones 4th/5th Grade Class
Mentor Artist Melissa Briggs, Theatre
Program: Artists in Schools
When Mentor Artist Melissa Briggs started her Artists in Schools residency in a 4/5 split classroom at San Ramon Elementary in Novato, she quickly came to understand that her students were dealing with an emotional challenge. The year prior, one of their friends and classmates had been killed in a drunk driving accident that had shaken the community deeply. The anniversary of the girl’s death was approaching and—at the same time—the driver was about to be sentenced. The children were both reacting to the high tenor of adult emotions around them and struggling with their own feelings.
Melissa’s “Theatrical Poetry” approach engages students in creating original poems through a range of verbal and physical theater games and exercises, as well as an exploration of different types of poetry. The multifaceted technique freed something in this group of students, who began to talk about their friend and their feelings. They decided to create their final class project in honor of their lost classmate.
Students worked collectively to author and edit a class poem. Then they choreographed movements to underscore their theme and performed the new work for friends and families. Rambling from striking moments of loss, to childhood musings on the nature of friendship, the work is entirely theirs. Every word.
Poem by Ms. Jones Class, San Ramon Elementary School
Dedicated to their friend and classmate
A Friend is a Friend
We ran downstairs with our clothes on to see what was going on.
I’m angry! I’m angry
I’m sad! I’m sad
She hasn’t been taken from our hearts
She will always be in our hearts
I’m happy when my friends are loyal to me
But some are snotty, and some aren’t.
Some are random, and goofy, and important
No matter what kind of friend they are, friends are always there for us to talk to.
My friends don’t care how short I am because they love me for who I am.
They love me for who I am.