Magazine article NATE Classroom

Heads out of the Sand: Developing High Level Analytical Skills through Drama

Magazine article NATE Classroom

Heads out of the Sand: Developing High Level Analytical Skills through Drama

Article excerpt

I'm not Blake and Blake's not me. The reader should only ever be concerned with Blake's thoughts and actions and the lemon-headed novelist should be hidden, ignored. If the reader, while reading, keeps thinking about the writer, then that writer has failed.

I suppose what I'm saying is, for the reader, the writer should be the very last thing to worry about. And as the author I'm happy (and doing my utmost) to be totally forgotten about. When it comes to adaptation I can take an even bigger step back. It's a little like the game of Chinese Whispers. The playwright passes my story along to another audience, repeating the good bits, leaving out what's not needed for their interpretation.'

Keith Gray writing about the adaptation of 'Ostrich Boys'

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As part of a GCSE English Language/Literature course, work focuses on the play script of Ostrich Boys by Carl Miller, adapted from the novel by Keith Gray. After a depressing and dispiriting funeral the three boys in the story feel that taking Ross to Ross in Scotland will be a fitting memorial for a 15-year-old boy who changed all their lives. A number of drama activities within a structured, detailed unit of work are used to analyse the text, characters, language and narrative. These include Sculpting, Digital Video Clips, Rolling Theatre, Naming the Space and help to prepare for a Controlled Assessment Task. A more detailed focus is on the analysis of a particular scene (stealing Ross's urn) as a way of analysing the different roles and techniques employed by the author and the playwright.

After sculpting the characters in to this scene the technique Placing the playwright is used to explore where he would be, justifying choices with textual references which analyse his empathy for particular characters, devices used to create tension and the relationship he wants to establish between the characters and the audience. A new question is raised. Does Keith Gray, the novelist remain in this scene, now that it exists as a script/play, and if so where he would be placed? After further discussion and Placing of the Author, the comments by Keith Gray are read.

Ten years ago, NATE published a new series of scripts for KS3 in response to a demand for high quality plays for young people. It was felt at the time that other publishers were promoting the popular but traditional GCSE texts or focusing on a thematic approach to scripts, with an emphasis on such ideas as homelessness or bullying. The publication of NATE's Cracking KS3 scripts marked the start of a journey to ensure young people have access to modern drama in script and performance that enables them to develop high level analytical skills, Central to this process was the way in which structured and layered drama activities, within detailed schemes of work, were used to analyse the texts and the adaptation process.

With the introduction of new GCSE specifications, continued pressure on results at GCSE through 5+EM targets and the focus on the English Baccalaureate and a renewed emphasis on Speaking and Listening assessments at KS3 through APP and at GCSE, the introduction of quality drama texts and high level analytical skills that pupils can transfer to new situations and texts continues to give the work a high priority.

The development of quality scripts and approaches has inevitably led to partnerships being developed with theatres, novelists, playwrights, publishers and exam boards and it is through this work that some of the recent exciting developments have occurred.

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'By working collaboratively with theatre companies who are committed to high quality and challenging professional play productions for young people, educators can ensure that carefully structured workshop approaches embedded in the curriculum are at the heart of the educative process shared between theatre education and school. …

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