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 drama and writing 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.

BOM conducts writing residencies for low-income third through fifth graders, 98% of whom are African-American or Latino. Approximately 25-30 classrooms welcome us into their classrooms in 12 Chicago Public Schools, resulting in more than 900 students writing more than 5,500 stories each year.

For many schools, we have become a fixture of their programming. With the assistance of our donors and funding partners, we are able to continue these essential long-standing partnerships that have results, like those Principal Elsa Carmona of Little Village Academy told the Chicago Tribune about:

“Writing is one area our kids need work, and the way they [BOM] 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.”

—Chicago Tribune

BOM assesses and improves our program by measuring and analyzing the following:

  • Change in self-esteem and confidence is measured through observation of participation at the beginning, middle, and end of a residency and self-reporting in pre- and post-residency surveys by students and teachers.
  • Change in social-emotional skills is measured through observation of interchange between students during group work at the beginning, middle and end of a residency and self-reporting in a pre- and post-residency survey by students and teachers.
  • Selected student work is rated on a writing rubric to assess change in writing skills over time. A six-point scale will capture how well the writer uses logic and sequence, sensory details, structural devices, plot, and narrative voice. We also score a pre- and post-writing sample by students.

This rigorous assessment process is essential in proving the quality of our work to outside constituents, but even more importantly, leading to continual evaluation and improvement of our programs, thus improving the services to the students and schools we serve.

Assessment Results 2011-2012

Writing Skills: More than 770 student stories were scored utilizing our writing rubric. Results demonstrate that 78% 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 4 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.

From the Blog: School Programs

Make New Friends

Posted by Rachel on February 26

One of my favorite things about school shows is working with old friends, like Geoff Rice and Sarah Goeden, whom I’ve known since college in 19-hmm-hmm-hmm. The current Loyola Park show features them along with four amazing friends of… More

Over the river and through the woods

Posted by Bryan on January 15

As BOM teachers, we are often taken on spectacular journeys to faraway fantasy lands through the stories that our students write. This past fall, however, we were taken on a literal journey outside our typical stomping grounds of our beloved… More

Monkey Minute: From Page to Stage in 18 Hours or Less

Posted by Joe on July 6

Here is another Monkey Minute from super director Meredith! A Day in the Life: From Page to Stage in 18 Hours or Less Meredith Milliron As we arrive at Loyola Park for the first rehearsal, excitement is in the air. … More

Read more in the Monkey Blog

“It exceeded my expectations. The BOM staff was able to get even the shyest child to participate and join in.”

–Linda Stoller, Gale School