Do you use books in Key Stage 3 Drama?

A few weeks ago I put a poll on Twitter asking a simple question. Do you use books in Key Stage 3 Drama? I asked this question because it seems to be a divisive issue that people feel passionate about for varying reasons. Reasons range from books being an important part of Key Stage 3 for recording students responses or feedback to books having no place or value in Drama via being forced to use books by SLT and not using them for the simple reason that teachers only see students once a fortnight.

I placed the poll on twitter with an open mind, but I expected that more teachers would respond to say that they do use books rather than they don’t. Turns out I was wrong! 63% said that they didn’t use books whereas only 25% said that they did.

twitter poll

It is a pretty clear result, although it is also a simple poll so don’t pull apart the method too much! Yet, for me it raised all sorts of questions. Questions which I see repeated in Twitter again and again, not only from Drama Teachers but from teachers of Art, Music and PE.

What are books for in Key Stage 3 Drama?

How and when are they used in Key Stage 3 Drama?

Work role does the books play in the practical work of Key Stage 3 Drama?

How central a role is that? Is it integral to the lesson or on the periphery of it?

How do you show evidence of progress in a book for a practical subject?

The answer to the last question in short is no, but in a longer form, the answer is yes. The key focus of a Drama lesson is the practical work. In fact, when we use the word ‘work trawl’ it is the practical work we should be trawling. The book, I think, is there then to support the practical work. Support it through;

  • noting down key terminology and concepts,
  • writing down scripts and ideas,
  • recording peer and teacher feedback and
  • self-reflection.

Whilst those things I’ve listed there are not the ‘work’ of the Drama lesson, they are evidence of work and can tell a story of what the student has done in their practical work. Potentially tell a story of how the student is making progress in that work.

If you are going to use books then they need to be used in a way that will be productive and add to the students experience of Drama. It can’t be just using books for the sake of it.

@KaterinaLee11 put it very well when she said that books allow “students the possibility to evidence their understanding of key concepts and ideas that they haven’t been able to communicate practically or verbally. It can support some students in accessing drama before they have the confidence to do more.”

Like I said I use books at Key Stage 3, and after a good deal of negotiation I am beginning to find a way of producing the kind of book based work that will provide the right kind of evidence to show progress in made in practical work. The is a structure of peer, self and teacher based assessment / reflection that is not onerous, difficult or time consuming.

But the responses to the poll were in favour of not using books, which for me raises bigger questions.

How lessons work without books?

What structures and policies are in place to allow for work trawls that look for evidence of learning?

How is peer, student and teacher feedback recorded? Reviewed? Reflected on?

What structures and policies are in place for work trawls or department reviews?