As I have started teaching Key Stage 3 Drama for the first time in several years in my school I am reunited with, what we call in my school, Achievement Assistants (Learning Assistants or Teaching Assistants in old language). Having previously been only a Key Stage 4 and 5 teacher I haven’t had the presence of anyone else in my room for a while. I wanted to do some research and refresh myself on how best to employ them so they could best support the pupil or pupils they are working with.
Being an achievement assistant in a drama class can be a daunting and unfamiliar thing. The unstructured nature of the room and the high energy levels of the lesson can often feel at odds with the rest of the school. The reality is that within that veneer of confusion there is actually a strict structure and boundaries that are followed.
The Lesson Plan
Each lesson follows the same basic lesson plan based on the principle of Make, Perform and Respond. The students start by getting a stimulus of some kind, which could be a script, an idea, a picture etc… and following some kind of starter / warm up activity they are tasked to explore that stimulus in some way to create ideas. They then have time to make a piece of drama, often shaped by the subject specific learning that the group has been doing recently, and then perform it to the rest of the group. That performance is then responded to through discussion.
With each part of the lesson there are different ways in which you can support and help students.
Start of the lesson and creating drama.
The start of the lesson is about discussion and having ideas. Often students need the most support here, they might need the stimulus or question broken down for them some more or explained to them in a different way. They might need you to give them one or two ideas to help them begin to form ideas of their own. They also might need to your to explain to them the ideas of other people and how to add ideas to it.
In the majority of cases, the work is done in groups of mixed ability and although you are there to support individuals rather than classes, it helps if you can support that group. Sometimes a group will need help to coordinate everyone’s ideas, especially including the ideas and thoughts of the student you are supporting. Many students are not used to, or have the experience of making sure that students with AEN are included in their groups and will, as default, make decisions for them.
You also might need to help the students with understanding the specific key terms of the lesson such as Still Images, Eye Contact or Naturalism. There is no specific necessity that you know what those key terms or concepts beforehand as the teacher will take you through them with the class. However, being able to break down the understanding of the term or concept for the student would help them understand it.
There are of course some behavioural issues that might need to be dealt with during this phase of the lesson. For much of this phase the students are working independently and some may find this a struggle. They may need to activity breaking down into smaller deadlines (e.g. do scene 1 by this time or the 2nd still image by this time). Obviously part of our responsibility is to help students manage their own time effectively, but this is an area where students may need the most help with.
Hopefully, this is the point where the miracles happen and you see the impact of your work! The vulnerable and shy student speaking in public or the difficult to manage student perform with commitment and purpose. Hopefully.
An important part of the process of drama is also the evaluation of the students own work and the work of others. Most of the time we will build into the lesson a short period of small group discussion before sharing our evaluations with the rest of the class. This is a time for you to support your student by giving them some feedback on their performance, helping them to form some self-criticism and using the key terminology of the lesson to evaluate the performances of others.