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Beginning Drama 4-11

Joe Winston and Miles Tandy
Published 2009
ISBN# 9780415475839
Publisher - David Fulton
Price at time of review - £19.99

Those new to drama will find some sound advice and many good ideas within the covers of this book. It was originally published in 1998, when the Literacy Hour was in full flight. Now, in its third edition, it takes account of the Revised Primary Framework, especially in relation to a greater flexibility in terms of longer units of work.

The content is organised into 7 chapters covering drama in the early years, drama and literacy, drama and cross curricular work, community and performance, and progression, continuity and assessment in drama. It also includes a chapter on beginning drama with games and another on using story.

The chapter ‘Beginning Drama in the Early Years’ is excellent and could be a book in its own right. It not only covers drama lessons but includes good advice on using role play areas to best effect. The lesson examples for all ages are based on some tried and tested principles of drama in education, which never go out of fashion. However, as often happens with revised editions, the presentation now appears a little out-dated in parts. For example, in the chapter on ‘Drama and the Curriculum’, the lesson examples are presented in quite a dense narrative style which makes it difficult to hang on to the sequence of events. The examples are summarised later in the chapter with clear bullet points on the main activities, but I felt the summaries needed to be placed alongside each of the narratives. Having said this, the examples are very good and well worth trying to follow. I found the Points to Consider sections, placed at the end of each example, very informative and much easier to read.

It used to be taken for granted that teachers would use story as a way into drama, but these days we are often encouraged to focus on aspects of story writing or reading in order to fulfil a particular set of objectives. So it is refreshing to see a whole chapter devoted to beginning drama through story, especially as it is complemented by a list of ten good storybooks for use with drama. Once again I found the examples a little busy without bullet points to help me along, but nonetheless they are age-related, practical and will provide the novice with a wealth of ideas.

Drama games can be useful in developing social skills and can sometimes be employed to introduce a drama lesson. The chapter devoted to games in this book is very comprehensive and clearly explained, but I was surprised that it was placed at the start of the book. I feel that to place games at the start of a book for beginners implies that inexperienced teachers should start their drama work with games, which I believe is misleading.  In my experience warm-up games are unnecessary if the drama itself is engaging. and, what’s more, they can take up valuable time. I also have some reservations about aligning drama with playing de-contextualised games, since the notion of a game does not sit easily alongside the need for integrity, emotional engagement and depth in drama. Whilst the authors do acknowledge similar reservations to mine, they still feel that games can have an important part to play in a drama lesson, which is where we probably have to agree to differ.

Despite my reservations on a few matters, such as the importance of games and the narrative flavour of some of the examples, this book is full of ideas and useful tips and is one I would certainly recommend for those starting out in drama. 

Buy now via the NATE Amazon link

Larraine Harrison, 23/06/2009

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