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Finding the pulse

Drama and English at the Heart of the Curriculum

By Joe Winston

David Fulton pound;16

Sarah Nunn is head of creative arts and assistant headteacher at Charles Dickens Primary School in London

This book is pulsating with exciting and challenging ideas. Its central aim is to encourage teachers and student teachers to explore how drama can produce meaningful work across the curriculum. It has been developed from a series of projects taught in a variety of schools in the West Midlands and the South West in 2003.

In the introduction Joe Winston insists that his book is "Intended as more than another beginner's guide to teaching drama". Evidently, it offers much more. It contains practical guidance for teachers and detailed personal beliefs of the value of employing drama in the primary and middle-school classroom.

Also integrated into the book are detailed schemes of work, advice on assessment and a brief appendix of drama conventions and games. The opening chapter is theoretical; it provides readers with the author's vision of good drama. It reveals the core of what he believes constitutes good drama - that it should be magical, "playful", well structured, emotionally charged and liberating.

Woven within this chapter, to support his philosophy, is an introductory lesson based on the story of Tom Thumb. The following chapter highlights the central ingredients for language learning - speaking and listening and the need for pupils to be visually literate. It concludes with an excellent "checklist" for teachers to identify the drama techniques they are already using, such as storytelling, use of circle time and role-play.

The heart of the book focuses on sharing practical ideas. There is a range of schemes exploring refugees in Victorian Britain, English and citizenship (which uses the "selfish giant" as a starting point), and information and communication technology to empower children with English as a second language.

The outline of the drama, the learning intentions, the specific objectives and the roles and props that the teacher will require to fulfil the scheme are clearly stated.

By far the most valuable chapter for teachers is how to incorporate the use of ICT and drama to deliver a really creative learning experience. Using The Tempest as a starting point, the author demonstrates how to use email, digital photos and PowerPoint to explore characters and plot.

This scheme is written in such a supportive way that teachers will be itching to have a go. Drawing on the examples, they can adapt, alter and apply the suggestions, and begin to employ drama with relative ease into the heart of their teaching.

Sarah Nunn is head of creative arts and assistant headteacher at Charles Dickens Primary School in London

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