COVID-19 has affected virtually everything surrounding education, and teachers have had to be extremely creative in delivering learning experiences for their students. While that has created a wealth of challenges, it has also enabled some unique opportunities. When the pandemic hit, Chad Tallon, drama teacher at Metcalf Elementary School, knew he had to change how he engaged with his students. Drama, in particular, has a performance aspect to instruction that would be inherently missing in this new alternative learning format.

Changing the scene

Tallon’s classes became based on choice and what interested his students. They were given several options to personalize their curriculum, such as creating a costume design based on the pandemic, remaking Broadway playbills using photo editing skills, writing and performing monologues or scenes, or simply just watching and responding to a free Broadway show on the internet.

“When students are at home their routine is thrown off tremendously,” said Tallon. “It is my job as an educator to support them how I can, and I feel that by letting them explore the arts in their own way, I am giving them what they need at this time.”

One of the activities that drew significant interest from students was an option to deliver a short video of them lip-syncing a song that was based on the pandemic. Things quickly progressed to a higher level for Tallon and his students.

Challenge extended

The issue of finding pertinent curriculum options was not unique to students in the Lab Schools. It was a situation that affected all students, so Tallon decided to cast a wide net to recruit participants for a lip-sync competition.

“As soon as the pandemic hit, my mind started racing,” said Tallon. “As an artist and a sports fan, I was so bummed that the NCAA tournament was canceled and so I decided to reach out to all my artist friends via Instagram and Facebook and create a month-long lip-sync tournament.”

Twelve different groups signed up for the tournament. Many were from the Lab Schools, but some came from other states as well.

The competition morphed into a single-elimination tournament where people could vote for their favorite videos via social media. Participants were given a different theme each week, and videos would advance until crowning one ultimate winner. Tallon noticed that the participants were really upping the ante from week to week.

The finals came down to a family in California and the Richardson family, whose three children Aidan, Atley, and Addison, all attend Metcalf. While the California family ultimately won the championship, the Richardsons were excited to come in second and had plenty to say about the experience.

“Overall I think the best part of this experience was getting to spend time with my family,” said twelve-year-old Aidan Richardson. “Because of COVID-19, my musical at Metcalf was canceled. This was a way to do something fun and make things a little better.”

“I really had fun pretending to go to Disney, crying during ‘All By Myself’, and eating sweets,” said nine-year-old Atley Richardson.

“I liked acting and spending time with my family,” said eight-year-old Addison Richardson. “I really liked it all!”

“It’s hard when your kids aren’t getting to see their friends and are away from their school that they love so much,” Marcy Richardson said. “They missed activities such as Junior Gamma Phi Circus, Metcalf Musical, and track season which made being at home extra hard. It made a huge difference to have this distraction from everything and just have some fun.”

“I really enjoyed watching the kids just go for it and not hold anything back,” Curt Richardson said. “It was fun collaborating creatively with my wife and children, seeing the finished product, and making lifelong memories. I want to thank Chad Tallon for making this opportunity happen. His ability to engage and find innovative ways to support our children during this time is priceless.”

With a little creativity, Tallon created a learning experience and an opportunity for family time that students will remember for years to come.

To view all the video contest submissions, join the Musical Madness Facebook group.