Primary drama - Big friendly fun

Play with words, get up and leap into new adventures with children. Carol Wright tells you how

Carol Wright

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Roald Dahl's books are great fun. One of my favourite drama lessons involved a group of special needs pupils aged 10 to 13, working on The BFG, but it would work with primary school pupils of all abilities.

The lesson began with the children in a circle doing a short physical warm-up to a rhyme (we start like this every week). We moved on to another physical warm-up, this time to song and linked to our story. We leapt like giants, climbed hills and spied juicy children to eat.

The children then did a vocal warm-up where we explored the language of the story. Each week, we introduced a "word for the week", which we practised by playing a game, throwing a beach ball to one another and yelling out the word before throwing the ball on to another person.

Dahl's use of language is wonderful and we had lots of fun yelling "scrumdiddlyumptious", "jumbly" or "brainboggling". The physical and vocal warm-ups established routine to the drama lessons and elements of the story in terms of language and movement that they could use later in the lesson.

Then we had the main part of our story for the day. We recapped on where we had left off the previous week with Sophie being snatched by the BFG and taken away. We told the next part of the story, both from Sophie's perspective and the BFG's.

We read the section where Sophie described what it was like in the BFG's pocket. Each person took a turn to be Sophie and they lay in the centre of a large piece of lycra. Everyone took an edge and we "bumped Sophie . like a sack of potatoes" all the way to the giant's cave.

The children were then given the opportunity of being the BFG. They were given a large black cape to wear, with a small Playmobil person taking the part of Sophie. They snatched Sophie and practised their giant leaping until they arrived at the cave.

Finally, they did some simple improvisation. The children were read the lines where the BFG states: "I is hungry" and Sophie replies: "Please don't eat me" - to which the BFG states: "I is a nice jumbly giant. I is the big friendly giant."

The class called out Sophie's lines while one child played the BFG. Some pupils enjoyed the sensory experience of being tossed about in the lycra, throwing the ball or dressing up. Others enjoyed playing the actions and movements of the story, or were able to act out and understand the feelings of each different character - for example, how scared Sophie would have felt.

The improvisation gave them actions to follow, but also allowed them to add their own flourishes. One child, for example, picked Sophie up, kissed her and assured her that she was safe and would come to no harm.

To end, the children formed a circle, discussed what we thought would happen next and finished with a closing song. This is important to bring them out of the pretend world of drama and back into our own, especially if there are any frightening elements.

The children became engrossed in the story, empathised with characters and worked together. Each child also felt confident and above all, had fun

Carol Wright teaches at Kersland School in Renfrewshire, which caters for pupils aged five to 18 with severe and complex difficulties.

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Carol Wright

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