Any English Questions? Our Regular Feature Which Invites Questions for Different Guest Respondents Each Term
Bunyan, Paul, NATE Classroom
1. We have a drama specialist in our school so why do I need to concern myself with drama?
Because, every good teacher should use in their work the pedagogy which has developed through drama education in their work. As things stand, Drama has an identified statutory place in the English curriculum and as such requires, as with Media, that English teachers have English Drama and Media expertise. English teachers' use of drama approaches lie at the heart of good practice and improve standards and should, therefore, be clearly evident in all key-stages.
Many secondary schools have specialist drama teachers and departments, either in their own right or as part of a performing arts or expressive arts structure. In this context the drama specialist may organize and plan towards performance rather than the development of language and critical analytical skills required in the English context. The teachers responsible for drama will have knowledge and experience of the appropriate application of drama techniques and conventions, an understanding of drama's position in the arts and are conversant with the genres and styles of theatre. It is important that where separate Drama and English departments exist, a spirit of cooperation, collaboration and effective training ensure consistence of good practice. What there must be is a close relationship to ensure quality of planning and provision. This relationship could involve: shared inset, interdepartmental planning, team teaching and collaboration on whole school development.
2. We don't have anyone in the school who knows much about drama so where do I go for advice?
Even a year ago I would have said go to your local authority or neighbouring local authority Drama, English or Arts adviser, but I know they are in increasingly short supply. You could get advice and possibly in-school support from subject officers of your examination board. You could talk to English or Drama staff at a university or college near you that offers PGCE or graduate training in English and Drama or you could get help from consultants who would be known by the subject associations such as here at NATE or at National Drama or the National Association for Teachers of Drama NATD.
You could refer to NATE's publications addressing drama teaching: NATE Drama Packs; Cracking Drama and Cracking Key Stage Three Scripts, all of which advise on the resourcing and teaching of drama in English. You may get some of the advice you need also from the DfE on their web pages Developing Drama in English; A handbook for English subject leaders and teachers.
3. Do you think that more English teachers would use drama in their teaching if school buildings and teaching spaces were more flexible?
I know it seems perverse but some of the best drama in English work I have seen in secondary and primary education has been in classrooms, not dedicated drama spaces. Where drama is integrated into the work, the pupils have a 'no nonsense' approach to moving the desks to create appropriate space and some of the drama conventions such as 'placing the text', 'communal voice' and 'hotseating a character' don't have to take up a lot of room in the classroom. 'Teacher as narrator' and the sensitive use of a recorded soundtrack can create atmosphere and a sense of when the fictional context has begun or has ended and may thereby replace lighting. I don't think the apparent lack of flexibility of a space should be an excuse for the pupils receiving anything less than their entitlement to drama. As long as the teaching space has a clean floor, preferably carpeted, the facility for a circle of chairs, adequate sound technology, appropriate display space and projection facilities, you're away.
4. Drama approaches and techniques have to struggle for room on crowded ITT/ PGCE programmes. Are you optimistic about the place of drama within English as secondary teacher training becomes more school-based? …