“Drama is life with the dull bits cut out.”
– Alfred Hitchcock
The creative principles of Creating, Performing and Responding are the foundations of the Drama curriculum structure at Millthorpe. Through exploring these, all students develop specific knowledge and understanding of Drama as an art form, whilst also developing interpersonal skills that are transferable across the curriculum and through all aspects of life – we refer to these as the Six Cs (Communication, Concentration, Co-operation, Creativity, Commitment, Confidence).
Motivating and enabling students to strive for ‘Going for Gold’ Learning Conduct underpins the planning and teaching of lessons within the department – there are high expectations of students’ engagement in lessons and support and challenge for all is provided, to ensure that all students have the opportunity to become the very best that they can be. This experience is enhanced by a variety of extra-curricular enrichment opportunities, for example school musical productions, the LAMDA offer and regular theatre visits.
What does progress through Key Stage 3 look like for a student in Drama?
In years 7 and 9 students study Drama one hour per week, in year 8 students study Drama one hour per fortnight. Each year’s study is split into units of study that sequentially build upon each other, allowing students to embed and refine their practical skills over time and acquire increasingly challenging subject knowledge and vocabulary. Students’ use of the Acting Tools (voice, movement, gesture, facial expression, relationships with others on stage) is developed through practical activities undertaken throughout the Key Stage, enabling students to develop as confident, skilled performers and prepare them for the demands of GCSE. Strands of the Personal Development curriculum are woven throughout the work covered and addressed explicitly in unit three of year 7 and 9 where students use practical drama activities to develop their knowledge and understanding of real world issues. Students are formally assessed at Key Assessment Points throughout the Key Stage on both their development of subject knowledge and practical skills through theory and performance Standardised Assessment Pieces at the end of each unit; this approach enables all students to achieve success in demonstrating both their refined practical ability and expanding subject knowledge.
What do students learn in Year 7?
Focus – MOVEMENT AND STAGING
In Year 7 we begin by studying the scripted play ‘The Demon Headmaster’ by Adrian Flynn, which has been specifically chosen as it is a text through which many key drama techniques can be introduced to students as they take their first steps on the drama learning journey. The play has a focus on the use of physical movement and comedy through its storytelling and enables students to be introduced to the Acting Tools through practically exploring scenes and characters from the play in an accessible way.
From scripted drama we move on to look at Movement-based Theatre in term two, building on the work students have completed in unit one around mime and physical comedy. We look at professional practitioners, introduce the concept of naturalistic and non-naturalistic styles of drama and study the principles of how to make a creative and effective movement-based performance in a range of defined theatrical styles.
In the final term we move on to exploring how practical drama activities can be used as tools to investigate areas of study outlined in the Personal Development curriculum. Through scenes from the play ‘Romeo and Juliet’, students explore different relationships with a focus on what defines healthy and unhealthy relationships and what they can do to recognise and manage these positively within their own lives. Opportunities are also taken to further extend the work completed throughout the year on movement by exploring stage combat, proxemics and stage positioning in this unit.
What do students learn in Year 8?
Year 8 begins by studying the scripted play ‘Our Day Out’ by Willy Russell – this builds on the movement work completed in Year 7 and introduces students in more detail to how actors can also use their voice, and particularly a variety of accents, effectively on stage. Through practical exploration of the play, students further develop their use of the Acting Tools, with a focus on presenting contrasting characters and demonstrating character development on stage.
In unit two we continue to develop the use of voice as an Acting Tool through the exploration and performance of an audio play. We begin by studying how actors prepare their voices before they go on stage and then how they can change their voices in a variety of ways to both effectively portray different characters (projection, pace, tone, pitch, clarity, accent, pause, emphasis) and for creative effect in the devising of sound effects and soundscapes.
What do students learn in Year 9?
In the first unit of Year 9 we study devising in the style of Theatre in Education through looking at the principles of what makes a good TIE performance before students create and perform their own non-naturalistic TIE piece, aimed at Year 6 students and exploring the topic of homelessness. Students devise from a range of stimulus materials and include both a range of creative techniques that been covered in their study in Years 7 and 8 (freeze frame, mime, physical theatre, thought-tracking, soundscape, split-staging/ cross-cutting, etc.) and some that are taught new through this unit (sequencing, flashback/forward, line story).
Unit two moves on to studying the scripted play ‘Noughts and Crosses’ by Dominic Cooke; this builds on the TIE work completed in Year 9 as it is an issue-based play with a strong message around the theme of the impacts of racism. Through the study of this play, students are introduced to Epic Theatre and the work of Bertolt Brecht as new distinct theatrical styles.
In the final term we enhance the Personal Development curriculum by using practical drama activities to examine the representations of stereotypes within society and to explore attitudes towards, and different views of, these – these are investigated and challenged through practical exploration of scenes from a range of contemporary plays, including ‘Teechers’, ‘Bouncers’ and ‘Shakers’ by John Godber and ‘DNA’ by Dennis Kelly.
Students in Years 10 and 11 have the option to study the AQA GCSE Drama (8261) course.
What do students learn in Year 10?
Focus – GCSE COURSE FOUNDATIONS
Year 10 begins with an introduction to devising drama and creative drama techniques, revising and consolidating work covered throughout Key Stage 3 and laying the foundations for the course ahead. Alongside this students study the necessary knowledge required (stage configurations, stage positions, roles and responsibilities of theatre makers) to enable them to successfully complete Section A of the written exam.
In unit two students study ‘Blood Brothers’ by Willy Russell (a playwright students have knowledge of from unit one of Year 8), both in preparation for Section B of the written exam and as a mock performance text for their scripted NEA, building on their experience of studying a range of playscripts in Key Stage 3, whilst also introducing them to a new style of theatre – the musical.
In the final unit students focus on preparing for Section C of the written exam – Live Theatre Productions Seen, ensuring that by the end of Year 10 all the course content has been introduced and secure foundations have been laid on which for students to build on in Year 11.
What do students learn in Year 11?
Focus – SECURING EXCELLENT FINAL OUTCOMES
Students begin the year by completing their devised NEA, worth 40% of their final GCSE grade, based around a set of provided stimulus materials – to guide their performance in this students use feedback received on the mock devised NEA they completed in unit one of Year 10. This assessment is marked within the department and moderated by AQA. Alongside this students complete revision activities with a focus on Section A of the written exam.
In unit two students complete their scripted NEA, performing scenes from the play ‘Things I Know to be True’ by Andrew Bovell (created in conjunction with Frantic Assembly who students have knowledge of from unit two of Year 7); this is worth 20% of their final GCSE grade and students are guided by the feedback received on the mock scripted NEA they completed in unit two of Year 10. This assessment is marked by a visiting AQA examiner. Alongside this students complete revision activities with a focus on Section B of the written exam.
Whilst written exam preparation activities run throughout the course, preparation for this final 40% of the GCSE grade takes sole focus in the final term of Year 11 and students are provided with opportunities to revise work undertaken throughout the course, practise responding to exam questions and act on individual targeted feedback before sitting their final written exam at the end of Year 11.
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