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What is audience etiquette?

As cited in the Ontario Arts Curriculum 1-8 Glossary (2009), audience etiquette "is the acceptable audience behaviour for a dance or drama performance". 

Why is it important to teach students about audience etiquette?

The critical analysis process is a central part of the arts curriculum.  In order for students to continually develop their critical abilities, teachers need to create the conditions for critical response by ensuring that students are engaging in performance work through appropriate audience etiquette. 

A detailed explanation of the importance of audience etiquette can be found at http://www.paone.ca/pdfs/roleofaudience.pdf

Curriculum Expectations

Elementary Grades 1-8

The Arts - Dance: A2.3 Identify and give examples of their strengths, interests, and areas for improvement as dance creators, and audience members
The Arts - Drama: B2.3 Identify and give examples of their strengths, interests, and areas for improvement as drama creators, performers, and audience members
Language - Oral Communication: OE 1 Listen in order to understand and respond appropriately in a variety of situations for a variety of purposes

How do you teach audience etiquette? 

An Instructional Approach

Before: Prompt students with the question: What is the difference between live performance and pre-recorded performance?

During: Divide students into small groups. Students will take turns being performers and audience members. Have the students perform a popular, well-known song (i.e. Happy Birthday, O' Canada, nursery rhymes, Old MacDonald). The remaining students will act as the audience. The teacher in role (see The Ontario Curriculum Arts Drama Glossary) will become a student and will create different scenarios where he/she will demonstrate inappropriate audience etiquette (i.e. excessive gum chewing, talking on their cell phone, unwrapping candies, talking to their neighbour, fidgeting, using inappropriate sitting posture).

  • After each group has had an opportunity to perform, have a discussion (small group or whole class) using the following prompts. Were there any problems during your performance? How did you feel during your performance? How did this effect your performance?
  • As a whole class, facilitate the creation of a student-developed set of criteria for appropriate audience etiquette. For more information on creating criteria refer to: "Making Classroom Assessment Work" by Anne Davies.
 Sample Criteria Set
  1. Listen quietly during the performance. 
  2. Sit up straight.
  3. Look at the stage.
  4. Sit calmly and quietly.

After: Use sample assessment checklist to create a checklist based on your classroom criteria. Following a performance have the students complete the self assessment checklist. Teacher uses the same checklist for assessment.

Levels of Readiness

  • If needed, simplify inappropriate audience etiquette scenarios to make them more noticeable to performers.
  • Create visuals on criteria list with symbols or pictures if appropriate (i.e. a person sitting properly in a chair).

Extensions 

  • The teacher in role will become an usher to monitor and reinforce audience etiquette for an in-class performance. 
  • Media Literacy: Students can create an informational poster on audience etiquette.
  • Students can create audience etiquette presentations to share with the rest of the school in preparation for school presentations. 

Notes

  • Whenever possible, preview the show before taking your students to see it. This helps prepare you and your students.
  • Use study guides provided by performance groups or create your own to ensure students participate in pre-viewing and post-viewing activities. This will maximize their overall experience by improving audience etiquette and allowing students to reflect, respond and analyze. The Critical Analysis Process in the Arts Curriculum document provides example questions that are helpful for this process.
  • Students may pay closer attention when given a "look-for" prompt in advance, for example - "Watch how many times the lead character changes her costume."