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, October 14, 2009

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

The Monkey Minute!

Posted by Amanda Farrar on April 24

The overwhelming majority of Barrel of Monkeys’ programming occurs in Chicago Public Schools. During the school day, a team of five teaching artists teach third through fifth graders over a six-week period using theater as a tool to teach creative,… More

The Monkey Minute!

Posted by Amanda Farrar on April 16

There is a predominant concept in improvisation which is “Yes, and!” The idea is that if your partner presents an idea, your job it support the idea and add to it. Barrel of Monkeys embraces this concept in all of… More

Where are my props?!?!

Posted by Mary T on April 15

Listen. Come a little bit closer. Lean in close to your computer monitor or laptop or teeny tiny phone screen or large computer-sized phone screen. I’m going to tell you a secret. Here it is: Barrel of Monkeys runs… More

Read more in the Monkey Blog

“Barrel of Monkeys is a great way of learning, especially when they make you laugh. My experience with barrel of monkeys was ecsellent and I might even become a monkey teacher!”

–Hillari L., Avondale Elementary