Drama in KS4 English-Where Do You Start?

Article excerpt

I don't class myself as a trained drama teacher. I don't think I trained to be one--not on purpose, anyway. My PGCE, way back in the mists of time, did actually have a drama component to it and my certificate says quite clearly that I am qualified to teach drama. My memory of this experience somewhat belies the confidence of such a claim, however--gloomy Wednesday afternoons, at least a third of the PGCE class mysteriously 'absent' at any one time, trooping shivering into I an echoey vault to be lined up and tortured with 'experiences' of drama ... oh god, I can still I vividly remember the horror of the day we were presented at the door by the worst of the worst of all experiences--TEACHER IN ROLE--and made to submit to a tortuous couple of hours where we were all expected to be characters in a mysterious fair ground and prance about 'doing what it says on the card'. That afternoon's burned on my brain. Especially since it was naively-assumed * we would throw ourselves with abandon into the whole role-play thing, which is particularly difficult considering the raw material for this experiment into post-Jungian creativity and self-expression was the group of people who spent vast amounts of their time either getting legless together or snarling with envy at each other's interview invitations. We spent the afternoon not engaging eye contact.

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(I discovered the scheme of work for this a couple of years ago, in a lovely book called Drama Structures by Cecily O'Neill and Alan Lambert, Nelson Thornes, 1984. It's called 'Rogan's Fair' if anyone's interested, and works like a charm. But then, I don't mind drama now. In fact I quite like it.)

There aren't a lot of specialist drama teachers around these days. Well, not where I live anyway. I know a lot of English teachers though, and the ones I know seem to fall into three rather distinct camps. There is Group One--the ones who don't mind a bit of drama, who submit readily enough to that little box on the timetable every year and get on with it. There are the ones, like me, who used to be in Group One, but have started teaching some GCSE and have rather taken to the whole thing and now class themselves as drama teachers (Group Two). And then there is Group Three--the ones who will never, ever set foot in a drama room under any circumstances and who go quite cold with dread (and defensively resentful) at the thought of drama at all. I actually live with a Group Three. In spite of all my evangelistic protestations to the contrary, his 'being a tree' jokes about using drama processes as teaching methodology seem to be fuelled by genuine dread. I wonder whether his prejudice is more influenced by the Rogan's Fair experience (he was on the same PGCE course) or my stubborn insistence that he watch every piece of recorded practical GCSE work my groups produce. Or whether he still thinks Key Stage 3 Drama is 'get into groups and make up a play'.

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Looking at that description of the three teacher 'Groups', there are attitudinal parallels in a description of any typical GCSE English class. There are the students who actually chose Drama GCSE, do drama outside school, are signed-up members of all things Glee and whose answer to all calls for fund-raising stir up dewy-eyed I pleas of 'Miss, let's put on a show!!!' Or the boys, (sorry, sexist) BOYS who always dominate class discussion, are masters of the one-liner, ultimately believing their achievement in English is measured against how long they can hold court and entertain their little merry band, often at the expense of others in the class. They don't shrivel at the thought of role play. But there are lots who do, including some of the highest-attaining, some of the hardest to reach, and some of those who just want to wilt quietly into the wall displays. In the past, I've not pushed the issue, to be honest. I've kept role play for the drama room and those who have willingly bought into the subject. …