5th May 2000 at 01:00
LITERACY ALIVE! Drama Projects for Literacy Learning. Edited by Judith Ackroyd. Hodder amp; Stoughton pound;9.99.

The official QCA report on last year's English curriculum tests reminds teachers that pupils need to improve their skills in noticing patterns within texts, investigating the connotative aspects of language and exploring the force and significance of imagery.

Judith Ackroyd's very helpful collection of articles, written by a range of contributors from student teachers to university lecturers, demonstrates the power of drama to guide children towards such desirable ends.

Acknowledging that the literacy hour can become a "daily treadmill", the book provides elaborate advice on how to escape. Each chapter takes a story or poem, descibes a set of related assignments which involve drama at the centre of learning, and appends a detailed inventory of lesson plans. The national literacy strategy's uncompromising insistence on word, sentence and text work is allowed for, but within the context of true opportunities for the roused faculties of the imagination.

There is good advice on when and how the teacher should be in role, on scene-setting, the creation of still tableaux and the exploration of characters' thoughts. Finding the "tune on the page", the contours of vocal gesture and of verbal timbre and dynamics, also has a place. Every activity will encourage children to move beyond the literal meaning and cross confidently into the world of the story.

Tom Deveson

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