My best lesson - Dramatic literature - with a modernist twist

27th March 2015 at 00:00

Teaching English through drama can be illuminating. In this A-level literature lesson, I wanted to facilitate independent learning.

We were studying an "in-your-face" play called 4.48 Psychosis by Sarah Kane. The drama is brimming with erratic and powerful utterances. One could argue that her work is rooted in modernism, so I asked the class to research The Waste Land by T S Eliot and selected plays by Samuel Beckett, and to consider similarities in form and style. They also had to research critical reviews of Kane's play.

The students came to the session fully prepared, with each group ready to discuss a different extract from The Waste Land or one of Beckett's plays. The learners had to draw out links with 4.48 Psychosis in terms of form and structure.

Extended questioning was key to this session: "Who is speaking in this sequence and why?", "What is the voice saying here?'', "Why does Kane use this sporadic number sequence?" Kane rarely assigned defined characters in her work, so a lot is left to interpretation.

I then took the opening sequence of Kane's play and chopped the lines up. The students had to consider the structural sequencing of the lines and place them in order, giving reasons for their decisions. This process enabled the learners to explore the structure, form and language of the text.

This led beautifully into some creative work. In groups, the students wrote 10 lines in the style of Kane and performed them to the rest of the class, culminating in a peer-critique.

Mark Damon Chutter is a teacher and lecturer of English who lives in Brighton

To download the plan for this lesson, visit bit.lyModernismDrama

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