There is often a preconception that all students who opt for Drama are brimming with confidence, able to articulate accordingly and have the desire to converse freely about their learning and discoveries. This in fact is not the case. In role, students are able to create conversations and dialogue with ease, however trying to encourage such detail and fluency when students are not in role, presents an issue that can directly affect GCSE grades.
Although the subject allows students to have freedom of expression and the time for true thoughts and reflections to come to the surface of discussion, most students in Drama do not take this opportunity to contribute to the lesson. A large proportion of students still do not have the confidence to express their ideas or thoughts in extended discussion. This is particularly evident at GCSE despite Drama being an option subject, students are not taking every opportunity during their examined lessons to showcase their ideas and knowledge of certain topics or play texts. Within a classroom environment, there are still some students who do not volunteer their ideas and allow others to speak. An additional issue that presents itself on the new specification is that some of the more confident speakers fall short of the higher grades due to the lack of sophisticated language when discussing and evaluating.
Initially I would like to understand what makes students confident in their approach to verbalising their ideas and contribution within lessons; are there any other strategies I could employ as a teacher to nurture this confidence? Subsequently I would then like to develop students spoken Literacy so that their contributions become more sophisticated and they feel supported in improving their own practical grades. I will also develop more opportunities to improve students understanding of the exam criteria so that they are better informed of how to improve their verbal contributions during their examined video sessions.
‘The Secret of Literacy’ by David Didau, Chapter 4: Oracy,
Modelling the use of subject-specific language to encourage pupils to think, speak and write using subject-specific language.
The use of thought stems to help scaffold their thoughts in discussions and idea of ‘if you can say it, you can write’.
Benchmarking the data
- Questionnaire – student voice
- Testing of key terms and vocab in lessons – Peer assessed – progress measured from September to December
- Written Coursework – drafts and grades recorded
- Compare Year 11 data (PP1) for last Year with Year 10 to measure progress. Bench mark data and compare directly to current Year 10 PP1 & Summative data 2014 -2015
Student voice – Contribution questionnaire to explore students’ current position and views around oracy and contribution. Written response, students tried to recognise the barriers that were present in the classroom which prevent them from having the confidence to contribute. A discussion arose from this with individual students about what I could do as a teacher and what they could do to begin to improve this.
Created student profiles for monitoring – Split class into ‘Types of contributors’ to measure progress – Students were put into the following groups and tasks were planned around developing these areas:
- Spoken Literacy
- GCSE Criteria Knowledge
- Confidence & Self Esteem
This allowed me to plan my lessons and implement strategies that would directly support individual students with improving their Oracy.
Created a Literacy wall – Key Literacy terms, common mistakes, sentence starters, higher level vocabulary colour coded – Homework rote learning and testing as starters to the lessons. Spoken Literacy group
Theatre Review – Written essay – October (1st Draft) Dec (2nd Draft) Theatre trip War Horse – PowerPoint oral presentation, idea arising from research. GCSE Criteria Knowledge/ Engagement/ Spoken Literacy. Triple impact marking to show progress – Additional literacy terms added to the ‘working wall’ Spoken Literacy/ GCSE Criteria Knowledge. I created various documents to help with the structure of the review, this should help students to understand the demands of the specification and what is needed to gain the higher grades.
Video Mock sessions – Students reflect on their contributions on camera and set specific targets – opportunity to improve their own oral contributions ahead of the official exam – engagement with Exam Criteria.
During the T&L Review – Focus on improving Oral contributions of weaker students to improve overall achievement in Drama. Received other practitioners’ observations to inform action research.
Create a hand book that would specifically support these areas as well as support their assessment of Unit 2. This worked as both a visual tool in lessons and at home.
Impact on Learning
I believe that the informal meetings with students to check progress verbally and give students the opportunity to talk about their review during the written process helped to highlight students concerns which therefore aided understanding. Because students could verbalise their concerns and talk me through their evaluative points, I was able to understand their evaluation and strengthen these by modelling more sophisticated language and alternative approaches to access higher grades. Therefore overall, first drafts were slightly higher than last years cohort with all 2nd drafts being significantly higher resulting in the overall PP1 grades being higher than the previous cohort.
Asking students to produce a PowerPoint prior to writing their reviews had a major impact as students had to stand and present their observations to the group. This served 2 purposes, it allowed a deeper evaluation of their ideas when peers questioned and responded to their evaluative comments. It also allowed me to support and stretch students with alternative phrases and key terminology, both conducive to raising achievement.
When discussing the process with students, I felt that they were far more knowledgeable about the specification at a much earlier stage than the previous cohort. Starting the process at the beginning of Year 10 as opposed to February allowed me the time and freedom to direct intervention and adapt teaching to improve achievement overall. The comparison of Year 10 Summative data from 2014 – 2015 shows that 50% of students in 2014 were below their MEG however this has reduced to 35% in 2015 and the cohort is much larger.
Overall, my research has shown that to improve oracy, the following areas need to be addressed in the classroom: 1. Improving confidence and self-esteem with some/most students 2. Improving Literacy – Equipping students with the vocabulary to be able to articulate and feel confident when discussing Drama and during evaluation 3. Improving engagement and participation – getting students to take ownership of their curriculum and have an active interest and passion for their work through mini projects and challenging activities.
Overall, I think the individual discussions are a good way to start to build up confidence and relationship which is integral to improving oracy in a whole class situation. Taking the time to understand the students’ needs/barriers is integral to being successful.
Next Steps – Moving practice forward as a result of research
- Encourage all students to have at least paired discussions most lessons.
- Encourage students to answer questions from other students to empower and support.
- Have individual meetings with students about their written Feedback to ensure they understand what I have written and get them to verbalise or start to construct the answer back to me to gauge understanding before they leave the classroom.
- Use of white boards to support ideas and give a scaffold to presenting ideas verbally to the class.