Most probably not.

Oh well, that’s drama out of the question then.

This article was written by our managing director Kirsten McCrossan, and was originally published in Tes (the Times Educational Supplement) on May 12th, 2017. Click here to have a look at a JPEG of the original.

Can pretending to be a tree help to close the Attainment Gap?
I was having a meeting with a lovely teacher a couple of years ago and we were talking through a session I was going to deliver. He said: “So Kirsten, you do your thing and get everyone to be a tree and so on, then we will move on to the next section”. I stopped him right there, thinking he was joking and asked him what on earth he meant by ‘being a tree’. He just looked at me and said, “well is that not what you do in drama?” Ehm, no. No it is not.Over the past couple of years I have heard this interpretation of drama countless times. The initial comedy value very quickly wore off as I realised there was an alarmingly large group of adults carrying a huge misinterpretation of what is potentially a transformative subject area for pupils.

In pure, imaginative drama, there is no need to avert eye contact with the fear of giving the wrong answer to a question. Every answer is the right answer, because it is someone’s own individual idea. Mice can’t talk and they generally don’t wear shorts and shoes, but pure imagination created Mickey Mouse. If you fed your granny a concoction of anti-freeze, furniture polish and brown paint, let’s face it, she would not be around for too much longer, but Roald Dahl didn’t need the correct answer as he had his own, much more fun, imaginative idea for George’s Marvellous Medicine.

In my thirteen years of visiting primary schools as a drama practitioner, there is a reoccurring theme that comes up consistently time and time again in every authority; and that is the pleasant shock and insight the observing class teacher has while watching a normally reserved child, let’s call them Calum, suddenly edge, step or burst out of their shell during the drama session. What could possibly have happened during an hour of drama that had such a transformative effect?

In a drama lesson that is structured in a way to allow imaginations to be free-range and for individuality to be celebrated, there can be no fear of getting it wrong, as getting it wrong in this situation does not exist. Calum might not be able to rhyme off dates, facts or figures just yet; but he can tell you in an instant what colour the invisible rabbit sitting on your desk is, and what its name is, and maybe even what it is wearing. Amazing work Calum!

In striving to close the Attainment Gap and give all pupils the opportunity to develop confidence in their own individual ideas and thoughts, maybe rule out pretending to be a tree, but please do not rule out the magic of imaginative drama.

Kirsten McCrossan is a huge ambassador for more drama in primary schools. Kirsten is a core member of Education Scotland’s National Working Group and a part-time lecturer in Education at the University of the West of Scotland. Kirsten is the founder of teacher training company ‘The Drama Box’ and through this is currently engaging primary teachers from all over Scotland in online and face to face drama training courses.