________________ CM . . . . Volume XIX Number 26. . . .March 8, 2013


This Book is Not About Drama...It's About New Ways to Inspire Students.

Myra Barrs, Bob Barton & David Booth.
Markham, ON: Pembroke, 2012.
160 pp., trade pbk., $24.95.
ISBN 978-1-55138-269-2.

Subject Headings:
Role playing.
Drama in education.
Language arts (Elementary)-Activity programs.

Professional: Grades 1-6.

Review by Jocelyn A. Dimm.

**** /4




This Book is Not About Drama...It's About New Ways to Inspire Students is as good as any of the drama books collaborated on and/or written by David Booth. However, if you own Story Drama, you probably don't need this book. Even if Barrs, Barton, and Booth chose to describe this text, as 'not about drama', it is a manual full of drama strategies, and the qualities of active and social literacy that are inspired through dramatic engagement.

      "Teachers can bring about a sense of community in their classrooms by creating regular opportunities for students to negotiate, collaborate, and share their learning." The "regular opportunities" described by Barrs, Barton, and Booth are found in the two sections (Part A, Part B) of the book and are a collection of drama activities.

      Part A offers "Becoming the Story" broken into four chapters: Giving the Imagination Play (role play), Talking Their Way Through Writing (oral rehearsal), Understanding Character Through Role Play (plus still image), Observing Students Inside the Learning (students in role).

      This section of the book "explores the role played by imagination in reading, writing, thinking, and learning" and the exploration involves students in drama and role play with stories, not unlike Booth's Story Drama.

      Part B offers "Demonstrations, Strategies, and Texts for Role-Playing" broken into the last secven chapters: Joining in the Learning (games; dramatic ritual; movement), The Storyteller Arrives (oral storytelling), Who Will I Be? (writing in role; character), Mining the Stories for Riches (deeper meanings), Researchers and Role Players (Readers Theatre; dialogue), and Sharing Our Role-Playing (ensemble drama).

      The last section of the book focuses on "the conventions, structures, and strategies that help us to develop units of work that will promote student engagement, artistic action inside forms of drama, and personal reflection about the issues, about how drama functions, and about the way to learn from being both inside and outside the work".

      It isn't difficult to see that this text is full of strong literacy strategies built through and around dramatic engagement. Why title a book full of drama "This Book is Not About Drama…"? Perhaps to get the attention of teachers who have yet to explore drama strategies in their classrooms? Perhaps to reflect again on the important role active imagination plays in deepening meanings and learning? Whatever the case, much of the material re-introduced in this text, has been previously introduced in other texts, such as Story Drama, including the stories. Some of the text is new, the appendix of activities, and the drama conventions glossary are welcome, and some comments offer different insights.

      If educators are without any of Booth's previous drama texts focussing on story, literacy and dramatic engagement, I would recommend this one.

Highly Recommended.

Jocelyn A. Dimm has been a classroom drama teacher, and a drama instructor at the University of Victoria where she taught drama education and young adult literature in the Faculty of Education. She is currently an elementary school library technician, and Language and Literacy Strategist in SK.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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