Get out of the rut

21st November 2003 at 00:00
Rachel Ray-Choudhuri recommends new books for teachers looking for fresh ideas

GCSE Drama for Edexcel by Ken Taylor and Jos Leeder Hodder pound;9.99

AQA GCSE Drama by Joy Morton, Ron Price and Rob Thomson Heinemann pound;12.50

GCSE Drama for OCR by David Cross and Christopher Reynolds Heinemann pound;12.50

The GCSE Drama Coursebook by Andy Kempe Nelson Thornes pound;11.50

Having taught GCSE drama for many years, I admit I get stuck - stuck in a rut of tried and tested schemes of work, lesson plans and source materials that I know will work, will allow the students opportunity to fulfil the exam criteria, and will offer a range of teaching strategies and skills.

But I also know I am bored with them. There are four new GCSE drama books that offer solutions. If you are in a small or one-person department, if you are new to teaching drama or not a drama specialist, or - worst case scenario - you have inherited an empty filing cabinet and a new specification that neither you nor your students can make head or tail of, here is your answer. These books have several things in common: they are written for the pupil in clear, easy-to-understand language (I know, because my Year 11s have told me). And three have been written specifically for exam boards.

Having taught the Edexcel syllabus, I, like many others, found last year's specifications daunting. I wish I'd had GCSE Drama for Edexcel last year.

It's great. It explains the course requirements in Year 10 speak. It lays out exactly what a student needs to do, with examples. It doesn't pretend to be a "how to teach GCSE dramaI", but acknowledges the subject's spontaneity and puts itself forward as a support to teacher and student.

I liked the fact that it used the "language" of Edexcel and a variety of stimuli that embraced cultural and gender diversity. "Why haven't we got this, miss? We've got books in all our other subjects." Why indeed? It's all the worksheets I've never written, and more, in a book.

AQA Drama was given a thumbs-up by Year 11 for being easy to understand.

Its five sections take students step by step through the course requirements. It explains how to use the different sections and gives a range of activities to explore as well as advice on how to extend the work.

I particularly liked the "examiner's tips" - Jmy students felt they were being given secret special advice and were very impressed. The appendix is packed with useful photocopiable worksheets, such as rehearsal logs, audience and costume design sheets. The simple tickbox self-assessment guide for students allows them to judge their own progress and plan how to move forward.

GCSE Drama for OCR is, like the others, clearly laid out in three sections.

Section A deals with course requirements, examiners' tips and extension work. Section B has schemes of work, resource materials and definition of drama techniques. Section C focuses on assessment, how to record work for the portfolio, and approaches to the practical exam. I particularly liked the photographs and the variety of songs and plays from classical Greek theatre to the 1980s politics of Billy Bragg. Despite being unfamiliar with the two specifications, by the end of each of these books I felt I had a clear understanding of what was required - useful if you're considering a change to a different exam board.

The final book - The GCSE Drama Coursebook - is not specific to one board.

This book acknowledges the new drama specifications as well as students'

need to "appreciate complete and substantial play text".

It takes the common ground from different exam boards and offers a "wealth of resources and practical ideas". Its six chapters offer a range of texts linked thematically, for example women in wartime. My Year 11 enjoyed the suggested activities and produced some thoughtful work. They liked the way it was linked to the text. They also liked the background information given, such as in Chapter 4: Roots, Rocking and Ritual. Not only could this be used at key stage 4, a lot of the ideas could be used well at KS3 and, as a general resource, the book is excellent.

Rachel Ray-Choudhuri is head of expressive arts at Haggerston School, London

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