I have heard a rumour that some people don’t do drama assessments at all; they, apparently, just pluck their drama grades from thin air. I can’t imagine why! Drama can be an extremely enriching experience for both you and your pupils.
Creating and Sustaining Roles (AQA English Language GCSE)
To get top marks in the GCSE drama assessment, pupils need to be given the opportunity to create complex characters; they must explore complex ideas in role and respond to a given situation showing the complexity of their character.
THE BUILD UP
Drama is a difficult topic to sell to pupils. Their spontaneous response being: “I am not doing that”. Put yourselves back in their shoes, can you blame them? You need to approach drama sensitively and plan several build up lessons to the final assessment. Start with a lesson that allows them to put in as much or as little as they wish. Set ground rules before you begin. Explain that you will only accept criticism if it is constructive. Stress to your pupils that it is a practice; we are here to look silly and to enjoy looking silly.
I always start with artistic interpretations of a play. Pupils are allowed the freedom to create something they feel comfortable doing. I start by showing the whole class what I mean by an artistic interpretation. They can represent what is happening in a scene through sound, movement, a single word. Challenge more able pupils by not allowing humour in their interpretation. It is easy to act silly on the stage; it is difficult to create other emotions in your audience such as fear or sadness.
Create several lead up sessions that allow students to build their confidence in a fun way. Each lesson, create a more challenging task to develop their confidence. For example, they may begin with artistic interpretations and end by singing and dancing to a song that they have just converted to match a new topic. This week we converted The Twelve Days of Christmas into twelve things you’d miss if the school burnt down. The challenge was to look at the situation from someone else’s’ point of view and have the class guess who they were.
One of the best things about this assessment is that you can go wild with your imagination and create any experience that you want. Tailor your assessments to your pupils’ tastes. Make the final assessment less scary to perform than the sessions that lead up to it. This way, pupils are not out of their comfort zone and are more likely to achieve.
IDEAS FOR ASSESSMENTS
There’s been a Murder!
I turned my classroom into a murder scene complete with two pupils from GCSE Performing Arts that played the part of the dead bodies; they frightened the life out of the class when they jumped up and delivered the learning outcomes.
I used yellow paper to create crime scene markers and covered my dead bodies with white, paint splattered sheets. The class were given new personas and had to remain in character as they investigated the clues (paint soaked diary/ love letters). They had several challenges to complete including using thinking hats to ask searching questions about peoples’ motives and alibies. Eventually they were asked to plead their innocence in court. I modelled what I wanted from them by remaining in character as detective Ashes.
The pupils were desperate to know which one of them was the actual murderer; they all thought that they had figured it out. The truth was I hadn’t actually allocated the murderer. If anyone had been clever enough to work out who the murderer was early on in the lesson, the search would have been over too soon.
The problem that I posed for our community meeting was: our school is shutting down to make way for an overflow car park. A community meeting has been called to allow you to discuss your concerns. The personas that I allocated the pupils were: a group of residents, teachers from our school, and teachers from a neighbouring school, SLT from our school, politicians and our pupils’ parents.
I modelled remaining in character by being Councillor Readsalot. Pupils began at once with discussions about their concerns in role. This gave me the opportunity to quietly remind pupils they were responding in role without coming out of character to the whole class. If I heard: “A teacher might say…” I could say you mean “As a teacher I feel…”. After creating questions to ask others, they were asked to stand up, walk around and pair up with someone not from their table to continue their discussions with someone holding an alternative view.
The final challenge was to air their individual views to the class. After their artistic interpretations, singing for their supper and discussions in character with their peers, a one minute discussion in role as a local resident came quite easily and the whole class performed magnificently.