The play's the thing

7th September 2007 at 01:00
If you ask children to write a story from scratch, they'll sit around and wonder what they should write about. But if you start with two or three sessions of drama exploring a theme, or developing characters, then you reach a point where everyone is desperate to put pen to paper. They can't wait to tell their story.

We also use drama to help pupils with their reading. Young children usually understand the events of a story, but often struggle to identify the mood. It's helpful if they can act out events, and then discuss how that makes them feel. One exercise that works well is getting a group of children to assemble themselves into a still image, which captures a particular emotion, such as hope or loss.

Drama is an extremely useful tool for assessment, because it lets you see what children have understood without having to test them. It allows pupils who struggle with writing to contribute ideas and become more confident.

You can use drama in almost any subject. In history, for example, it's a great way of exploring historical figures and events, and encourages children to see things from different perspectives and points of view, which is what history is all about.

The course also included a session on dance. Taking my shoes and socks off and dancing with a roomful of strangers was quite nerve-racking, but it threw up some great ideas.

In one exercise, you all stand in a circle. One person performs an action, and the next person repeats it, and adds another action. It's a simple concentration exercise, but setting it to music means children can't hesitate or become self-conscious. They have to follow the rhythm.

Visitors to Castle Hill always comment on how confident and outgoing our pupils are. That's definitely down to the dram *

Louise Garraway is creativity co-ordinator at Castle Hill Primary School in Croydon. She was talking to Steven Hastings

The details

Dance and Drama at the Heart of Learning, KS12, is run by Etch Training. For details of its autumn schedule go to www.etchtraining.co.uk

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