Key Stage 4 Resources.

On this page are a range of lesson plans that I have used successfully with a variety of groups at several schools. If you find these useful you may like to consider purchasing the schemes of work which contain much more detail and all the materials that you need. There is also a page which offers advice on writing evaluations.

Slavery Assessment.

It is a challenge to find a stimulus for G.C.S.E. work that will lead to good Drama, especially something that will move them away from soap opera plots. With this in mind I dug out a copy of "Amistad" by Steven Spielberg and after showing the group the scenes of slavery, from their capture to the slaves taking over the ship, we discussed a drama that would take as its theme the idea of slavery and how a society can become dependant on this cruel system. To avoid too much tension we created an imaginary society known as the Republic, which regularly raided the surrounding countries to provide a supply of slaves. As their neighbours are considered to be barbarians, the slavery is justified on the usual grounds. This level of distancing is important and also helps in that the Republic does not have to be in a particular time period. Students are told that the Drama must have a message, and not just that slavery is wrong. A range of attitudes and opinions should be evident as well as the necessary conflict. The challenge for higher ability students is to try and "muddy the waters". Can slavery ever be justified? Can we be sympathetic to characters who hold offensive views? What is the motivation of a character who goes against their country, family and friends in order to stand against slavery?

Two Scene Assessment.

Another project that I have used came from a desire to concentrate on characterisation and motivation in just two scenes. Often students are so busy constructing wonderful plots that they lose sight of subtle characterisation. This project entitled, Sibling Rivalry, involves two sisters, the younger of whom has always been dad's favourite. The younger sister has been married for a few years and her husband has got them into serious debt. The couple decide to sell their house and move into rented accommodation and use the money to pay off their debts. The parents gave them £6,000 towards buying the house and the daughter is too ashamed to admit that she is in such debt so she lies to her parents and says that they are staying in rented accommodation until they find a suitable property.

It is the father's sixtieth birthday and so Mum plans a luxury cruise as a present and asks her two daughters to contribute a thousand pounds each towards it. The younger sister goes to her elder sister and asks her to lie and say that they can't afford it. The older sister agrees but Mum is so upset that when Dad finds out he storms round to his older daughter to confront her. There are two scenes. The first is when the father confronts his eldest and pressures her to tell him the real reason for her refusal. The sister reluctantly reveals the truth. The second scene takes place several years later . The sisters have not spoken since dad found out about his younger daughters debt and lies. The elder sister has decided that it is time to try and repair their relationship and calls round to see her younger sister and try and sort the mess out. The students have to concentrate on realistic motivation for the characters. What is it that the father says that makes the elder daughter admit the truth? If the sisters are able to make up how is this achieved? They also have to consider how to handle the exposition between the two scenes. How can they let the audience know that several years have passed and that the sisters' lives have moved on?

Narrative Theatre.

After a series of lessons on narrative theatre and its techniques, I present the students with a copy of "The Glass Cupboard" by Terry Gilliam which was featured in the N.E.A.B English anthology about four years ago. Although on the surface a childish story, it is a fun piece to work on and students are forced to work in small groups so that they have to tackle doubling and use movement and voice effectively for the variety of characters in the story. They also need to consider how they are going to contextualise the story. Some of them start at the end and then show how the globe came to be. Others simply go with the fairy tale nature of the story and present it straight. If you need a copy then let me know.

Structuring Difficult Scenes.

The book "Dramawise" by Brad Hiseman is excellent for introducing the basic elements of Drama. I have adapted one of his ideas which looks at how we can structure our Drama to tackle difficult topics. The example I use is a riot in a poor inner city area. There is no way we can show a full blown riot on stage. It is no problem for film as they can move location quickly but on stage we need to think about where and when our scenes are set in relation to the dramatic happening which in this case is a riot. Consider :

a group of frightened teenagers huddle in an alleyway as the mob fights the police in front of them. All of a sudden a youth stumbles in to the alleyway, bleeding from a serious head wound.

the next morning a reporter interviews local people and gets their reaction on what has happened and what should be done to avoid more trouble.

a family are listening to news reports when they realise that that is where their uncle lives.

tension continues as injured police officers and youths are brought into Casualty at the local hospital.

a panel on a current affairs show discuss the findings of a report on the riots six months later.

on the anniversary of the riot, a reporter goes back to the area to see whether things have changed over the past twelve months.

What other scenes can the group create that are related to the main event but are distanced from it somewhat by either time or space?

Murder Mystery.

For those of you who are looking for an excellent Speaking And Listening assessment that can be used with Years 10 and 11 then here it is. This idea can also be used as a fund raiser by Drama groups. The basic concept is that six individuals take on the role of suspects in a murder mystery and are interviewed in turn by teams who then have to decide who did it, how and why. Each of the suspects has a likely motive and knows the motive of one or more of the other characters which they will reveal under questioning. The teams have to work their way through a mass of facts searching for the clues that reveal whodunnit!

It can be run simply in the classroom over two, one hour sessions, or as a fundraising evening with six teams of five or six players. If it is run as an evening event, there is a short role play that introduces the situation and the characters and provides preliminary clues. It's a sort of advancement on those "Host A Murder" parties. They can be staged very cheaply and with only a little preparation, ideal for school groups. For details see Sales.

War Poems.

Another project which provides excellent speaking and listening assessment involves linking the poetry of the First World War with photographs. If you prepare a Powerpoint collection of photographs, the students can select which photographs they wish to use and in what order they will appear. They then record their spoken commentary as a WAV file using Windows sound recorder, through a microphone plugged into the sound card. The sound file is then placed into the Powerpoint presentation at the appropriate moment.

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