Be a complete success

25th November 2005 at 00:00
The Complete Guide to Successful DramaFolens Publishers pound;34.99

Success in GCSE Drama Folens Publishers pound;13.99

Both books by Phil Parker and Craig Boardman

Phil Parker and Craig Boardman are drama teachers after my own heart. From a comprehensive school in Birmingham, they work in a successful drama department. They, along with every drama teacher I know, find the lack of any formal programme of study and assessment framework at KS34 both liberating and yet frustrating.

With the freedom to teach what we want and how we want also comes the daunting task of "where to start". Beginner teachers look at me with fear (or is it confusion?) as I explain that the curriculum and assessment procedure in this drama department will not be the same as in the other schools they visit.

Phil and Craig have found a formula that works for them, that guarantees success at KS4 and after years of experience between them have committed it to paper. They have provided teachers with a complete KS3 curriculum - complete with six units of work. The Complete Guide to Successful Drama is a handy folder with sheets you can take out and photocopy, which first sets out its rationale - it speaks of a drama curriculum for life. A curriculum that is provocative, challenging and issue led.

There is a real commitment to pupils taking control of their own learning and assessment. One of the most interesting ideas is that to ensure this ownership, pupils are given the roles of storytellers, acting coaches and directors during group work. They are then assessed in these specific areas of learning. By the end of the unit of work, pupils will have been assessed in each area and given points which you can convert to national curriculum level equivalents.

The units of work cover a range of topics, all issue based. "It's the just add water approach", an undiluted core that the individual teacher can dilute to develop. At the end of every unit they provide a drama assessment checklist, which pupils fill in by answering pre-set questions. They also have "testimony" sheets that allow other pupils to validate their work.

Success in GCSE Drama follows a similar structure: the three strands of the framework - narrative structure, character development and audience awareness -are the same. The ideas of pupils taking on the role of storyteller, acting coach and director also remain. I can see how students "brought up" in this system will find the transition from KS3 to KS4 much easier. The book then offers four units of work, ranging from a topic based on An Inspector Calls, to The Choice, an exploration of moral dilemmas.

The book is written for both students and teachers. It gives an outline of how the unit will progress. It offers support material and provides written work ideas for coursework and writing frameworks for self-assessment. As if this wasn't enough, you can also buy a DVD that acts as an accompaniment As an experienced teacher with 15 years of drama teaching under my belt, I welcomed this formalised approach to assessment for learning. However, I would have to say it took me several reads to begin to understand the concepts and I'm still not sure I've got it. I gave the books to my colleagues who both found it complicated and in parts, confusing. I think it's hard to imagine how some of the concepts will work unless you've seen it in action. We also felt that if you weren't an experienced teacher much of the work could be done with the focus on narrative, naturalism and character; physical theatre and the abstract don't really get a look in.

The publishers say the GCSE books work for all syllabuses. I found it an awkward fit for the Edexcel examinations yet, if you haven't found your own way, are struggling or a non-specialist, or are looking for some inspiration or a clear set of guidelines - then these books offer all that and more.

Rachel Ray-Choudhuri is head of expressive arts at Haggerston School in Hackney

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