At my school, we explore one period of theatre history a year in key stage 3 drama (ancient Greek in Year 7, medieval in Year 8 and Shakespearean in Year 9). This not only gives students a range of drama skills and an awareness of how theatre has developed through the ages but it also provides an opportunity for cross-curricular learning. This is particularly true for our medieval theatre module.
When faced with the task of writing a scheme of work on this topic, I was aware that I was not just looking at drama but at history and RE too. But how to structure a lesson that demonstrated this? I decided that medieval guilds and the impact they had on the theatre of the time were the perfect vehicle.
The lesson begins with some context: a brief overview of medieval guilds, including what they were and what they did. Each group of students is given a guild name and an information sheet and is assigned a guild leader (an opportunity for gifted and talented pupils).
The task is to perform "a day in the life of the guild", with the guild leader determining the roles. This improvisation activity gives the class a feel for the historical context and how it influenced the theatre of the time.
We then move into the main part of the lesson. Using their knowledge of medieval theatre, the students create a guild version of a Bible story, highlighting the features of the tale that are particularly important for their guild - for example, the shipbuilders would highlight the expertise needed to build the ark - as well as the religious lesson provided by the story.
Through this exercise, students learn why these plays were important, why they were performed and for whom. They gain an appreciation of the power of religious doctrine at the same time.
Isobel Payne teaches drama at Lingfield Notre Dame School, Surrey