For hello-delicious-tea on this post.
So just as an introduction, I teach secondary Drama (aged 11-18) and being a practical subject, most of the writing is done in Key Stage 4 and 5 (14-18) but we are trying to get more written practise in the earlier years.
We still have grammar schools in this area. At the age of 11 students take a test called the 11+ and if they pass they go onto a grammar and if they don’t they go to state school (which is what we are). So already we are dealing with kids who have ‘failed’ which can be a challenge. Luckily, I work in a school that is very nurturing and aims to raise attainment.
Anyway, in terms of writing:
What do you do?
So mostly in Drama the written work is based on self and peer evaluating in year 7 and 8 (11-13). We teach mixed ability groups so we have students who can write very well and some who are very dyslexic and can barely get the date down on paper. A lot of the work is differentiated and scaffolded so we’ll guide them with directed questions and we encourage them to write in full sentences, even if they’re simple.
Year 9 is when (in our school) they are doing their prep work for their GCSE (exam) years and there’s a fair bit of note taking on subject specific stuff and more detailed evaluations.
In the latter years there is coursework to do which comprises of detailed self-analysis and an exam where they have to analyse a set play in terms of direction, performance as an actor and set and costume design.
Telling them to PEE all over their essays. It stands for Point, Evidence, Explain and it’s something they do across the curriculum so they’re used to the form. Also telling them to PEE everywhere never stops being funny.
When it comes to the exam, it’s very formulaic. We het them to underline key words in the question and match them up with how many points their answer is worth so they can almost bullet point the points they’ll need to make to get full marks. Once they’re in that habit they can get really into the creativity part of the task.
With my Year 9 classes, I’ve been showing them what is expected once they get into their GCSE years and it freaked them out. All of a sudden they’ve been applying themselves and making a real effort with their written work. So telling them that if they prepared now, they’d find it easier next year has paid off!
What gets in your way the most?
The lack of comprehension when it comes to spelling and grammar. It’s things like “Are vs Our” and writing “we was vs we were”. They tend to write like they speak and breaking that habit is pretty tough.
Also the myth that there is no writing in Drama has been a tough nut to crack. They seem to think that it’s unjust to make them write. Drama is notoriously seen as a ‘doss’ subject so students think they’re going to have an easy ride of it. Nuh-uh. Luckily, as a (mostly) new department this year we’ve been working really hard on them to raise their grades and word has been spreading through the year groups that there’s more writing than you think and it’s actually a pretty hard subject. Hopefully, this means that we’ll get students who are truly committed choosing it as an option and not just as an ‘easy ride’.
What do you wish you could do?
Go into our feeder primaries and see if they’ve always been spelling like this, why they care so little for punctuation and why on earth they think that they can forget upper-case letters exist yet can tell me very plainly the rules of how to use them.
What do you wish your students understood?
That as much as I wish I could sometimes, I cannot sit their exams for them. They have to put the work in and try their best. I have had students come to me during lunchtimes and after schools for one to one help and I’ve told all my kids that my door is always open to them but some of them are all talk and no action. I had one boy who really struggled with PEE in terms of Drama. He could do it in English but couldn’t transfer it over. So we came up with an alternative together. Tell me what you did, Describe how you did it, Explain why it’s important. He can remember TDE and what he needs to do; he made the effort to examine his own writing and found the problem himself. It’s so important that students understand their own learning styles (which as teachers we can help with) and they need to become less reliant on being told what to write and what to think. It’s vital that by the time they’re sitting their exams they can construct an essay independently.
Hope this helps, if you want to ask anything else please ask! I’m sure I’ve forgotten something ! :P