My Key Stage 3 Drama Curriculum Explained

Last year I published a post about how I’ve changed the Key Stage 3 Drama Curriculum in light of several changes that have taken place. The first is the new focus on the knowledge based curriculum in the form of the increased content load of the new GCSE’s and the second is because the school I work in are moving from a three year Key Stage 3 to a two year Key Stage 3.

I’ve designed that curriculum on the following two fundamentals.

Firstly, that teaching Drama and Theatre to young people, working with young people through the medium of Drama and Theatre and studying the theatre of others makes people better people and equips them with the skills they need to make a success of themselves. Whilst Drama is a pedagogy as well as a subject, I believe that that Drama should be taught as a subject in specific Drama lessons in secondary schools. That is not to say that the History teacher or the English teacher shouldn’t be using Drama to help students access their courses. Of course they should, indeed I encourage them to do so and I give them the tools to do so. Drama in the wider curriculum is vital – Drama as a teaching tool is vital. However, a distinction should be drawn between pedagogy and subject – and it is the study of Drama as a subject which should be taking place in Drama lessons.

Secondly, the focus on covering background knowledge of drama will help students understand that Drama is a subject of relevance, with a body of knowledge and a long established history. As I said in my first post, Drama does not have the daily public conscience that music or art does. Apart from a disjointed view of Shakespeare, most students are unaware of the history of theatre or acting or, indeed, its relevance to them. I talk a lot about performances from actors in TV programmes to help the students understand that acting is part of their daily entertainment experience – that it is relevant and it is important to our society. In the same way that our Music teacher colleagues will show students how the music they listen to today has been influenced by what has come before them, I believe that the Drama curriculum should do the same.

None of these two fundamentals take away any fun , creativity or imagination from the subject. The students still learn to be confident, empathetic and understanding. In the words of a student last week, having just performed in a scene from The Terrible Fate of Humpty Dumpty, the fact that she had to put herself into the shoes of how someone who was being bullied so much that they were risking their own life was such a challenging, empowering and powerful experience that she will see bullying from a totally new and different angle forever.

The first part of the process was to establish the timeline of Drama to teach. Starting with Greek Theatre, Commedia and Shakespeare in Year 7 and finishing with Melodrama, Naturalism and Epic Theatre in Year 8.

With that in mind I used another document I produced last year which was a list of key skills and terminology that students need to know by the end Year 11. I didn’t limit to myself to just the key knowledge to AQA GCSE Drama, the exam board I follow, because I felt that all of the key terms were appropriate, intertwined or relevant.

So, for example in Year 8 the students study Naturalism. During which they will receive a knowledge organiser with all the key dates, information and works of Stanislavski to read. They will have a list of key terminology that they will need to be familiar with in both knowledge and application. They do this through simple online tests and apply it to their practical work in the lesson. The students will be guided to examples on television or film to give them an understanding that what they are doing is real and has a real life application. The students will look at a text with which they will have to do a performance. Thus, the students will learn and apply character developing exercises to help them empathise, understand and connect with their characters situations. They will naturally compare the experiences of their characters to their own experiences. They will learn/revise about line learning, blocking and developing performance work. They will gain personal satisfaction from the completion of their product, confidence from their performance and all the “soft skills” they will need in life from the process of creating the piece of theatre.

I assess all of this using continuous assessment. I assess how the students contribute to group work, how they know, understand and apply the key terminology and how they develop ideas for performance. I assess all performances, not just the final one. I assess how they evaluate their performance in verbal evaluations and written evaluations, how they use key terminology to both describe the work they’ve done (or others have done) but also how they use that terminology to describe how to improve their own (and peers) performance work. There is no base line assessment that takes place within the first week of term. In terms of data, I use the target data for English and, across the cohort, it is generally correct. There are differences within individual students but it is across the whole cohort where you need to make the target data meet the real data.

So some people have been asking about the big picture of my Key Stage 3 curriculum is, so here it is. I hope it helps.

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My Key Stage 3 Drama Curriculum Explained by Keith Burt is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

photo credit: Lori Greig decision via photopin (license)

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