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 March 26

Three years ago, Barrel of Monkeys had the wonderful opportunity to offer our arts education program as part of Super 7, an after-school program for girls at Willa Cather Elementary created by singer-songwriter, composer, and record producer Janelle Monae. Barrel of… More

The Monkey Minute!

Posted by Amanda Farrar on March 18

After teaching creative writing residencies in a Chicago Public School or the Chicago Park District, teaching artists collect the students’ notebooks and share them with several of the company’s ensemble of professional actors and musicians. Together, the teaching artists,… More

The Monkey Minute!

Posted by Amanda Farrar on March 11

In each and every school show since Barrel of Monkeys’ inception in 1997, one or more student-written stories have been adapted into song for the stage. Multiply that by upwards of 15 original school shows each year, and you have a couple… More

Read more in the Monkey Blog

“The residency exceeded my expectations! The monkey teachers were wonderful and their enthusiasm was contagious.”

–3rd Grade Teacher, Lorca Elementary