Under stress;Cross phase;Literacy

1st May 1998 at 01:00
TAKE A LESSON IN POETRY. By John King. Foulsham pound;6.99

TAKE A LESSON IN DRAMA. By Kate Smith. Foulsham pound;6.99

Whatever age-range Take a Lesson in Poetry is intended for (middle school, perhaps? We are not told), it is far from satisfactory. Although John King on "word power" is reminiscent of Ted Hughes on "words that live", the glossary is full of question-able definitions. Educating Rita got "assonance" wrong, and so does King; he confuses para-rhymes and half-rhymes; he defines blank verse in terms of syllables, not feet; and his definition of a syllable is not very enlightening if you don't already know what one is.

In the main text, he starts discussing rhythm by dealing with haiku, which are governed by syllable-counting, not the stress-patterns that determine rhythm in English.

Similar solecisms abound, which make me angry because I care about poetry and children. Although King has a feel for poetry, and his own enthu-siasms come across, the exer-cises he suggests are run-of-the-mill and he is not a trustworthy technical guide. There are many better books on the market.

Take a Lesson in Drama is a ragbag of a book, designed to provide ideas to use with nine to 16-year-olds for teachers who have suddenly had drama dumped on them. For a book written with non-specialist teachers in mind, it is strange that there is no advice on planning lessons or discussion of aims.

What the book provides are exercises in improvisation, with a few lessons on the history of theatre thrown in. In the discussion of classic plays, the level of dumbing-down is depressing. The activities are itsy-bitsy, not directed towards performance, telling stories, examining dramatic texts or exploring life issues through conflict of characters.

The book might do the job it set out to do - enable a non-specialist to get by for a lesson or so. But drama treated like this does not deserve a place in education.

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