Forum Theatre Techniques
Primary English Lecturer
Inspiration for the session
I developed this session as a response to some e-mails and conversations with trainees during their first school placement. The trainees were back at university, straight into lectures immediately after their block practice. I felt they had no time to reflect on or share their school experiences with fellow students. They all had a range of valuable experiences and required an ‘open forum’ in which to explore these issues in a productive and useful style which was non-threatening.
I used forum theatre as a drama technique as I had read about it but never seen it used in the primary school. Our university recently offered a workshop for lecturers which I attended and found extremely useful for exploring issues at my own level. I wanted to use principles from this session with trainees embarking into a stressful career to enable them to come up with their own solutions, rather than moaning about events at school and things that went wrong. I encouraged the students to adopt a positive outlook to problems and see these incidents as learning opportunities through which they will learn. The subject-matter was something of immediate importance and relevance to them all, based on a shared life experience.
Duration of session 1.5 hours
Aims of the session
1. To understand the value of using forum techniques for developing speaking and listening skills across the curriculum at primary level
2. To use forum theatre techniques with fellow students to help us explore solutions for problems and issues that arose during school experience 1
Description of session
Firstly, the trainees discussed their key issues in small groups of 6 during the workshop. They then elected one theme from each group to be discussed within the whole forum of 30. Within the room we then agreed on pertinent themes for exploration. These were acted out and the audience (the ‘spect-actors’) were actively involved in the drama rather than being a passive audience.
The following include just a few examples of issues that were explored through the drama:
1. A negative open evening experience
2. An ADHD child spitting at a teacher
3. A negative experience on a school trip where a child was excluded and the mother complained
4. Teaching assistants undermining trainees during lessons
5. A class mentor being consistently patronising to a trainee and giving no positive feedback at all.
6. Class teachers taking over the lesson half way through without any pre-planning of this (undermining the trainee’s expertise)
7. A class teacher asking a trainee to repeatedly re-write lesson plan ideas until they are of a high enough standard
The trainees found it extremely useful and really worked as a team to help devise possible solutions. The ‘spect-actors’ were an active audience and therefore not passive observers. They were required to stop the drama at critical moments and act out their collaboratively discussed solution/s. During the first enactment, the drama was played right through without any interruptions at all (around 3 minutes). Students were asked to watch the scene carefully and note critical moments, actions taken and the consequences. After this first showing, there may be a brief discussion amongst the audience. Then the play is restarted, usually from the beginning, and runs as before - but this time, whenever a 'spect-actor' (an active audience member) feels the protagonist might usefully have tried a different strategy, s/he can stop the action, take the character’s place, and try his or her suggested idea. The other characters in the piece will react accordingly in this new situation. In this way, through forum theatre a theatrical debate takes place where experiences and ideas are rehearsed and shared.¡ A well worth session which I will definitely plan again next year and recommend to any ITE course. It allowed me to gather useful information about school based practice and some of the issues that trainees’ face. This is often information which is ‘swept under the carpet’ and students tolerate. Sessions like this may not provide trainees with concrete answers but do they allow them to consider alternative courses of action in a ‘stress free environment’ as a third party. They can then distance themselves from the emotional stresses of the difficulty.