Keep them talking;Secondary;Reviews;English;Books

12th June 1998 at 01:00
SPEAKING AND LISTENING: Integrated Activities for Pupilsat Key Stage 4. By Chris Phillips. Folens. pound;29.95.

DRAMA ACTIVITIES FOR KEY STAGE 3. By Jan Ashcroft and Leonie Pearce. Folens. pound;29.95.

Be careful what you wish for," says the old man in the story, "for your wish may be granted."

This is supremely true of the status now given to speaking and listening in the national curriculum. For many years, English teachers rightly battled for this most crucial of skills to be given a higher priority. However, now that their wish has been granted, they have encountered huge problems in providing the contexts in which speaking and listening can be fostered.

Trying to find a range of audiences in school stretches ingenuity and timetabling skills almost to breaking point, while setting up stimuli for a range of activities often drivesteachers to the paradox of again and again giving students written materials about which to talk.

Neither of these fundamental problems is solved in Speaking and Listening: Integrated Activities for Pupils at Key Stage 4, nor can they be, since this is a folder of worksheets heavily dependent on student role-play. However, within the real-life constraints of school, this is a useful resource for teachers, with sound self-assessment sheets, well-differentiated activities, and a solid sense of how the materials will work in the classroom.

While oral work has, for the moment at least, a secure place in the national curriculum, drama is under considerable threat. However, DramaActivities for Key Stage 3 is much more than just the rearguard action of a subject in retreat.

The introduction not only presents a clear rationale for the place of drama in English teaching, but it also shows how even the least experienced teacher can set up constructive activities in the classroom.

Drama can be an invaluable way of enabling even the wariest readers to find their way in what is increasingly a text-dominated subject. With rigorous activities such as these to draw on, teachers will be well placed to continue to use drama to inform and enhance their students' learning.

Sarah Matthews is a former headof English at Chipping NortonSchool, Oxfordshire

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