In Drama students of different ages and abilities have the opportunity to take part in joint creative ventures. It involves students actively and it should be hugely enjoyable and rewarding. People need to work together for the dramatic process to function therefore Drama has a huge part to play in each student’s personal and social education. Effective Drama lessons and experiences rely upon the willingness of young people to cooperate within a wide variety of different groups.
Drama is part of the core curriculum in Years 7, 8 and 9 and is an examination subject at GCSE and AS/A2 level with the option to study Drama and Theatre Studies. Our groups study a wide variety of dramatic styles and skills. Work is assessed in three areas across all key stages – making, performing and responding.
Some of the modules taught in Drama naturally lend themselves to home extension activities. However, the Drama Department at JCG believes that the most important forms of extension activities are group rehearsal during lunch breaks and in the extended curriculum work of the department such as JCG Youth Theatre, Tech Club and Junior Drama Club.
At Key Stage 3 students of Drama follow a programme of study that links from year to year in a progressive and developmental way. They use technical facilities for all performance work. In Year 7 the following modules are covered:
Module 1 (Autumn) Stage Terms and Theatre Roles: This is a good starter for Year 7 and will set each student up with the knowledge they need for their studies in this subject. Students will be taught the various areas of the stage and from then on will be expected to use the terms correctly when speaking and writing about their work. They will also be shown / steered towards videos of theatre practitioners at work. This work will further their awareness of who does what in the world of the stage and help them to realise that good theatre relies on more than just acting.
Module 2 (Autumn) Foundation Work: This is a vital area for every year group but especially Year 7. Students need to get to know one another and their space. They need to learn how to listen, contribute and value the ideas of others. They will work for approximately 4 weeks on group bonding tasks, trust exercises and concentration games. By the end of the module they will have gained an understanding of tableau, freeze-frame, development and sustaining of a role, whole and small group role-play and the introduction of stage terms and notation. H/W - glossary definitions
Module 3 (Autumn / Spring) Characterisation: In this module students will learn how to develop and sustain characters on stage and will work on creating a specific role within a series of whole class, small group, paired and solo tasks. The focus is on spontaneous and polished improvisation, voice projection, use of space and the creation / sustaining of a role. Teacher in role is a major part of this scheme of work. All students will learn to improvise on a given theme, producing pieces in small groups and pairs. H/W - character development and spy cards
Module 4 (Spring) Storytelling: This topic links very well with the storytelling module because it encourages students to think again about characterisation and more specifically the acting skills required in dramatic storytelling. Students are taught different ways of telling a story in a theatrical context. They will be given strategies to capture and sustain the attention of the audience and will learn basic stagecraft and techniques such as facing front, awareness of exits and entrances, clarity of vocal and physical expression etc. They will also be encouraged to experiment as storytellers with vocal contrast, accents, exposition and narration. H/W - what makes a good storyteller?
Module 5 (Summer) Improvisation: Students will finish the year working on a series of improvisation tasks based in the fictional world of Amadora. The tasks will help students consider some serious themes such as the meaning of family, faith, community, culture and the refugee crisis currently facing our world. H/W - a range of activities including the creation of characters, maps and news research.
At Key Stage 3 students of Drama follow a programme of study that links from year to year in a progressive and developmental way. They use technical facilities for all performance work. In Year 9 they cover:
Module 1 (Autumn): Theatre Practitioners: Students will look at the style and ideas of a range of theatre practitioners to include Stanislavski, Brecht, Grotowski, Artaud and Berkoff. They will create short pieces using the guiding principles of each and will share their work frequently. This brief overview of practitioners and their vision for the stage will help any of those intending to continue with Drama at IGCSE. H/W – research and wider reading to expand knowledge and understanding
Module 2 (Autumn) Text and Characterisation: In this module students will use scenes from DNA by Dennis Kelly to help them create characters, improvise scenes and stage extracts from the play itself. They will research cases of real crimes and disappearances and will discover how the written word and a writer’s choice of language can be used for impact on stage. Empathy and self-discovery is a fundamental expectation of this module. H/W – research and line learning
Module 3 (Spring) Group Devising: The focus of this module is spontaneous and polished improvisation, teamwork, directing, shaping of material, target setting and the meeting of deadlines. The stimulus of the final piece will be provided by the teacher and students will use the style of Verbatim Theatre, in particular the work of Paperbirds Theatre Company, to create their individual devised response to the theme. Whatever the stimulus, students will be directed by their teacher and each other through a variety of techniques, culminating in a complete performance to be shown to their class. Students who prefer not to act will be given the chance to work on design and technical areas. H/W - research linked to the chosen theme and / or subject matter plus extra rehearsal
Module 4 (Spring / Summer) Exploration of Script: The aim of this module is to explore and act a range of pivotal scenes from Blood Brothers by Willy Russell. Students will consider the themes of the play – class, family, inequality and superstition. They will work on one of the scenes as an exam performance. Lines will be learnt for this task. The role of the Narrator in this text will also be explored. H/W – line learning and rehearsal
Module 5 (Summer) Solo Acting: This module leads students into areas of solo work not previously covered and sets them new challenges in terms of characterisation and performance. The emphasis is upon developing and sustaining a role, rehearsal, line learning and performance. The solo assessment will also help those who are planning on taking Drama IGCSE in Year 10. Various stimuli are used including character studies, pre-written monologues and a possible whole class characterisation project. H/W - monologue script writing and learning
IGCSE Drama is offered in Key Stage 4 and we follow the Cambridge syllabus. There are usually two sets in each year group with staff liaising, planning, discussing and moderating work together. The course is divided into two sections, practical and written. Practical work is worth 60% and written work is worth 40% of the overall grade.
Students work on a range of tasks across the course of the two years at IGCSE. All assessments are marked for acting only. Technical assessments are not available in this particular specification. For group work, students can act in pairs but the largest group size is six. The first assessment (Group Devised Piece) is completed in the spring of Year 10 and there are 50 marks available for this piece. Teachers provide students with a theme and they devise their piece based entirely on that.
The second acting assessment (Solo Acting) takes place in the summer term. Students have free choice in their selection of play and in their performance they are expected to show an understanding of the writing and characterisation. There are 35 marks available for this assessment.
The final acting task (Group Performance of an Extract from a Play) is assessed in the autumn of Year 11. Teachers will suggest potential scripts for groups but students are welcome to offer suggestions too if they are interested in a particular script. As with the Solo Acting piece, students are expected to convey a clear understanding of repertoire and characterisation. As with the Group Devised Piece, maximum group size is 6 and minimum is 2. There are 35 marks available for this assessment.
The total marks available for IGCSE Drama practical work is 120.
Students are encouraged to keep reflective logs of their practical preparation and progress in order to use these for revision for Year 10 and 11 exams. The written exam in Drama expects students to describe and reflect upon their personal practical devising work and to answer questions on an extract from a play. This extract differs every year and the students will receive their copies in the December of Year 11. In the exam, students answer 6 short questions on the extract and 2 short questions on their devised piece. They also write one long answer on the extract and one long answer on their devised piece.
The total marks available for IGCSE Drama written work is 80.
At IGCSE students attend local theatre productions regularly and are encouraged to make concise notes on the pieces. Student understanding of theatre they have seen is further developed by occasional visits from professional companies to JCG for workshop opportunities. Students are also invited to go to London on a four day theatre trip with A Level students. In past trips, students have watched up to five West End performances, attended backstage tours (National Theatre, Drury Lane and Shakespeare’s Globe) and participated in workshops with a range of companies. They have also visited the V&A Theatre and Performance Exhibition.
Students who opt for AS and A2 Drama and Theatre Studies study the AQA specification.
Written Work: All are expected to study set texts (one at AS and two at A2 level) and are also expected to write essays on response to live theatre. For this reason, we have been keen in the past to stage productions of A level set texts (Phaedra, Yerma, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Good Person of Szechwan) and take the group to both local and off island theatre.
Practical Work: In terms of practical work students produce two pieces for moderation by a visiting AQA examiner. At AS the piece is scripted and girls are able to act, direct, design or work on technical elements of the performance. The play chosen must convey the clear influence of an influential practitioner, director or theatre company. At A2 level the piece is self devised and must display a highly sophisticated understanding of a selected theatrical style. In preparation for all of this students are taught a wide range of theatrical styles and influences. Personal research tasks and independent learning are a vital element of the course and prepare students well for the demands of university study.
Many Drama students from JCG have gone on to study Drama at major universities including Bristol and Exeter and in recent years have been offered places at RADA, Guildhall, Drama Centre and Central School of Speech and Drama for both acting and technical courses. One ex student this year is about to embark on her second year of studies at the Michael Howard Studios in New York!