CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 1 . . . . September 6, 2002
In the third edition of The New Drama Themes, Larry Swartz has provided a teacher's resource that is not only versatile in the elementary classroom, but a valuable resource for anyone who is working with children in this age range and is looking for an opportunity to introduce them to drama activities. Having a table of contents that features themes rather than age levels speaks to the diversity of learners and their needs. These themes, addressed in ten chapters, are Humor, Mystery, Fantasy, Animals, Relationships, Folklore, Community, the Past, the Future, and Diversity and Equity. Each chapter includes a well outlined structure: Games, Drama Exploration, a Drama Structure, Beyond the Drama, and Recommended Resources. The introduction, "About this book," describes what the categories of each chapter refer to and what the reader will find there. For example, the Mystery theme's section focuses on communication; the drama exploration focuses on questioning and reviewing; and the drama structure resource is the picture book, The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, by Chris Van Allsburg. This information is readily available in the table of contents.
Since the book is designed with teachers in mind, Swartz includes learning opportunities, learning extensions, and assessment. He also includes recommended resources comprised of valuable teaching references and children's literature. Along with the well planned learning activities, Swartz has also provided appendices of assessment and evaluation forms that are available for photocopying.
Some of the other features of this book include a varied collection of poems, stories and novels from diverse cultures, including works by Maya Angelou, Joseph Bruchac, Lois Duncan, and Martin Luther King Jr.
What makes this resource so appealing are the clearly outlined lessons and the many recommended "theme" resources at the end of every chapter. An index is included, as well as charts, and diagrams to support the teacher's application of the strategies. These are widely dispersed throughout the book and include language and writing style appropriate for the intended audience of educators. The directions are clear, and there is no mistaking the "drama terminology" as the learning opportunities included "speaking-in-role" and "tableau." It may have been helpful for Swartz to include a glossary of drama terminology with this resource, but this deficiency does not detract from the value of the book and can be added to the next edition.
As the back of the book points out, Larry Swartz has been working with students and drama for over thirty years. His expertise in the field shows in The New Drama Themes.
Anyone wishing to "embark" on a drama experience with elementary age children should be very pleased indeed with the versatility of this resource.
Jocelyn A. Dimm is a sessional instructor and a PhD student at the University of Victoria where she teaches drama education and young adult literature in the Faculty of Education.
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