Barrel of Monkeys strives to build a community that champions the vision of every child as a way to develop kids who believe in themselves. Our aim is to use creative writing and drama exercises, coupled with professional performance, to validate children’s ideas and help them to build self-esteem while at a critical point in their development.

“Writing is one area our kids need work, and the way [Barrel of Monkeys teachers] pull out a child’s voice – my kids fall out of chairs laughing. They don’t know they’re learning, and my [standardized test] scores for reading and writing increased since we started with them.”- Elsa Carmona of Little Village Academy, writing for the Chicago Tribune

Currently, BOM serves approximately 14 different schools per year, the vast majority of which are in low-income areas and lack alternative enrichment programs for students. In 2015-16, we served 48 classrooms, teaching creative writing directly to more than 1,400 students. Are ensemble performs an original show for every school, consisting entirely of stories written by our students and adapted into stories and songs. The entire school is invited, and over 3,000 students experience these professionally-produced shows each year.

Developed with the guidance of national assessment experts from Achieve, Inc. and the National Writing Project, our assessment plan measures, quantitatively and qualitatively, our program’s impact on students’ writing and social-emotional skills.

Our rigorous 3-pronged evaluation process includes:
• Self-reporting from teachers and students before and after every residency via thorough written evaluations
• Observation in the classroom at the beginning, middle, and end of each residency by trained program evaluators, with substantial emphasis on group story writing and one-on-one interactions between students and teaching artists
• Rating of stories against a writing rubric. Names and timestamps are removed to prevent bias, and approximately 600 stories each year are rated by outside evaluators. Afterward, timestamps are replaced so that the evaluation team can determine whether change or improvement happened over the course of the residencies, from week 1 through week 6.

This rigorous assessment process is essential in proving the impact of our work to our funders, but even more importantly, leads to continual evaluation and improvement of these programs for our students.

Assessment Results

Writing Skills: More than 600 student stories were scored utilizing our writing rubric. Results demonstrate that 83% of students have a significant increase in their writing skills over the course of the residency.

Engagement: In a typical BOM classroom, on average a one-on-one interaction with a student happens every 2 1/2 minutes, a hand is raised every minute, group laughter occurs every 4 minutes, and applause happens every 6 minutes.

Self-Esteem & Confidence: 87% of teachers report increase in their students’ confidence in self-expression. 96% of students report they feel happy, smart, funny, talented, or proud while writing post-residency.

“Barrel of Monkeys made me feel happy, smart, proud, funny, and talented.”

–Miriam R., Graham Elementary