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Sunday, 23 March 2014

Drama and investigative learning in the Classroom

Our topic at the moment is Traditional Tales and we have been reading a selection of stories and noticing how they have the same elements but can still be really different. One of our favourites at the moment is The Three Little Pigs.

I decided that in order to help my pupils become familiar with the key elements of The Three Little pigs which never change such as the 'I'll huff and I'll Puff and I'll blow your house down' I would set them the task of producing their own mini play. This knowledge will then feed into them writing their own playscripts next week.

They were put into groups of 4 and initially given only one instruction which was they would have to each play 2 parts - The Three Pigs, Mum, The person carrying the straw, the one carrying the sticks and the one carrying the bricks and finally the Wolf.

I always enjoy this initial part of a group activity because it is interesting to watch children organising themselves. Like adults each pupil falls into a category. They are either:

The organiser who immediately knows what to do and sets about organising the others. 

The observer who sits back and watches and listens waiting for the fuss to end so they can then have their say.

The moaner who turns immediately to the nearest adult with cries of 'it's not fair' if it's not going their way. 

The bossy one who wants it's all their own way and will do everything they can to make sure it happens.

The peacemaker who tries to please everyone and finally the 'looker out of the window' who takes no part whatsoever and gets dragged along.

What is interesting is that no matter how many times you do group activities the children's roles are already defined and fixed. Its as if these roles are defined at birth!

Once the groups were organised the children set off creating their play. Unless directed otherwise children, unlike adults, generally jump in and 'do' letting their play evolve as it goes along rather than planning first. 

After about 10 minutes observation it was clear that one thing they all were struggling with was how to create each of the pigs houses, so at this point I stopped the action and gave a couple of suggestions to solve this problem. After that they were left completely to organise the play themselves. 

With 34 children in the classroom the noise levels were inevitably high but all of the children were 'on task' they were communicating by talking and demonstrating, they were exploring different ideas, problem solving by abandoning quickly things that didn't work and were getting to grips with their lines and stage directions. Slowly but surely their plays began to take form, each slightly different to the other .

When, after observation, it was clear they were ready I told them they would each perform in front of each other. The front of the classroom was the 'stage' and off they went. What was really interesting was that I, because of my observations, had a pretty good idea of what each group were up to but after the first 'funny' play which got the class laughing it was clear that each group and I in particular the boys, were alibiing in order to get laughs too. 

They all really enjoyed performing and what I love is that the fact that they all took part without any fuss at all, even the shy children who don't normally contribute in whole class situations. 

As they had performed so well I gave them an extra treat which was, in their groups to create one of the scenes from their play using the construction sets in the classroom. They were all delighted and set off enthusiastically. Again they were talking, organising and making decisions. When the time was up they took photographs of what they had created which will be posted on our school eplatform for their parents to see.

The whole morning was a huge success the children were in charge of their own learning, and I believe they learned a lot, and I was able to observe them and take photographs. True assessment in action!