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Don't make a crisis out of drama

No scenes necessary if you want inspiration - these ideas and activities could bring pupils to a convenient stage.

Ideas and Activities for Inspiring Drama (11-16). Craig Boardman and Phil Parker. Folens Publishers. pound;39.99

This book is packed with suggestions, and while it has something to offer all drama teachers, I feel it could be particularly useful for those who don't have any drama training, or those who find themselves alone in a department without anyone to swap ideas with.

It covers a range of skills useful to the drama teacher: effective verbal and non-verbal classroom management signals (not always obvious if you haven't taught drama before), warm-up games, ways to develop character and short improvisations, schemes of work, including objectives and extension work, and a selection of short scripts to work from.

Finally, there is a resources section that provides yet more stimulus material (including diary entries, newspaper cuttings, poetry) and offers ways in which pupils can develop these into finished pieces of drama.

The last section is a "key stage 3 drama assessment policy", developed by the authors, which sets out the criteria for awarding Levels 3 to 7.

It identifies four strands within those levels: storytelling, acting, directing and analysing.

General aims are set out for Years 7 to 9. More specifics are outlined at each level and for each strand, including keywords. This sounds more complicated than it is and a glance at the page will quickly make things clear.

This is not the only way to approach drama assessment, but it is useful to see it presented in this way, and the book offers a relatively clear model to use if you are unsure, or if your school doesn't have a reliable system in place.

The book is in A4 format, making it ideal to photocopy. It is presented in a succinct, relatively informal way, and is easy to navigate.

The schemes of work allow lots of personal adaptation, but provide a variety of good stimulus material.

They also offer potential for cross-curricular links with PSHE, history and, of course, the English curriculum.

It is easy to dip in and out of this book and the authors rightly term it "drama Pick 'n' Mix". I would have found this book useful when I was a drama teacher, to plug the holes that crop up throughout the school year when I needed an extra one-off lesson, or a sudden cover idea.

For the less experienced teachers, the book could offer a refreshingly un-theoretical set of ideas, which could be followed throughout the year.

The Takeaway Kid and Other Plays. Mike Gould. Badger Publishing. pound;4.99

Many of the boys I teach prefer to read plays rather than novels. I think this is partly because they find it easier to make play text come to life in their heads.

- It is an experience closer to TV and films, both of which they are comfortable with.

However, it is hard to find plays with age-appropriate interest, but vocabulary modified for reading difficulties. Add this to the hope that the plays will appeal to boys as much as girls, and it can feel like an impossible search. So I jumped at the chance to read this collection of four plays aimed at key stage 2 by Mike Gould.

Each play has between four and seven short scenes. This makes it easy to read the play just for one-off enjoyment, but also offers lots of natural intervals to stop for discussions, or spin off literacy and drama activities.

There are plenty of parts for boys and the dilemmas are contemporary enough to resonate with KS3 pupils with special needs. For example, the first play deals with peer pressure and stealing, while the second play looks at the multifarious problems of family dynamics.

There are head and shoulder sketches of each character in the cast lists, and occasional illustrations throughout the book, which help to break up the text.

The words are set clearly on the page, following standard play script conventions with all stage directions italicised for clarity. It provides a good model for pupils to follow if they go on to write their own scripts, or analyse the presentation of different types of texts.

The book is well written and achieves the difficult brief of matching older interest with simpler vocabulary without feeling patronising. It is a book I will definitely be using with my pupils.

Catherine Malone is a freelance specialist tutor for pupils with specific learning difficulties working in Cambridgeshire.

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