Rhinegold Bigger than before: this year’s Expo features a huge choice of workshops

Sarah Lambie

Issue: Autumn Term 2 - 2016/17

Raising the roof

3:25, 14th October 2016

February 2017 may seem like a while away, but the Music & Drama Education Expo is creeping ever closer, with most of the programme now having been announced. Sarah Lambie shares some highlights from the line-up of what is sure to be a fantastic two days

It’s been a real pleasure to programme the content for 2017’s Music & Drama Education Expo, which will fall on 9 and 10 February in London Olympia. After the success of the first Musical Theatre & Drama Education Show, there were many more fantastic workshops and seminar proposals for this year than we were able to programme, and already I’m looking forward to next year’s opportunity to incorporate some of those sessions which haven’t made it in this time. Now that the programme has been announced, you’ll see that there’s a fantastic selection of sessions for drama teaching delegates at the show: two days full of workshops catering for teachers of all key stages. And this won’t even be all – there remain some star speakers and initiatives to be confirmed.


Day one

On day one, after a performance from the Coldstream Guards to blow the cobwebs away, we will be treated bright and early to a 9:35 warm-up for all delegates with Disney’s Aladdin. Taking one song from this well-loved show, Disney’s Teaching Artists will explore tips and tricks for correct vocal technique, warm-up ideas, musical theatre moves and the importance of dramatic intention, ending in a mass singalong to get us all going for the day.

After the warm-up, Key Stage 4 and 5 teachers will be able to move on to a session on devising using verbatim theatre techniques. Teacher and drama writer Rhianna Elsden will put forward practical activities linked to the form, discussion on the key things to consider as a verbatim practitioner, and ideas on how this 45-minute session could become an entire assessed scheme of work linked to exam requirements. Others may choose instead to attend the networking speed-date session in the Rhinegold Theatre, where you’ll be given tips on networking before being sent on a circuit of the room to meet other delegates and forge relationships which we hope will last beyond the two days at the Expo, and provide opportunities to share best practice and schemes of work going forward.

Next, ‘The Purposeful Warm-up’ will look at ways of setting off your drama lessons with practical starters that link directly to practitioners for study in the curriculum. Billed for teachers of Key Stages 4 and 5 due to the curriculum relevance of the content, there is nonetheless no reason why teachers of other age groups shouldn’t attend and steal some warm-up ideas for their classes. Then at 12:25 there’s a unique opportunity to fire questions at Education Minister Nick Gibb, and to hear what he has to say about current policy on performing arts in education. We expect this to be a very popular session, so get there early!

After that, on the performance stage, we’ll have a fireside chat which will perhaps be a little more frivolous than the hard-nosed political drama to be found in Nick Gibb’s session – I’ll be interviewing musical theatre composer George Stiles and writer Anthony Drewe about their work on award winning and popular shows for young people such as HONK!, Betty Blue Eyes, Peter Pan and The Three Little Pigs. Inspired by Stiles and Drewe, you can then move on to the ‘Mask and Musical Theatre’ workshop with Trestle masks – you wouldn’t necessarily expect the two to go hand in hand, but using a case-study piece about the Native American Yarico, Emily Grey, artistic director of Trestle Theatre Company will explain how masks can be used to tell a musical theatre story.

Next, a practical look at technology for your drama studio: Skip Mort will take delegates through lighting techniques, exploring how you can make the most out of a limited lighting rig and design lighting to wow the audience for school productions. Finally, for all Key Stage 4 teachers there will be an invaluable session explaining grading for the new 9-1 GCSE qualifications. Led by OCR’s Music and Drama specialists, this seminar will nonetheless be applicable for teachers of all exam boards, and will be an excellent insight for the impending first set of exams under the new system.


Day two

Day two will open with an energising whole-show warm-up led by practitioners from Stagecoach Theatre Arts – apart from getting us all going for the day, there will be plenty that’s worth stealing for your own lessons, so bring a notebook and be prepared to scribble down what you remember when it’s over!

After a curriculum-focussed day one, day two will feature plenty of sessions to cater for our primary and early years delegates, as well as those teaching all the way up to A level. Our first drama session of the day is ‘Teaching Drama to Early Years’: a practical workshop exploring drama activities, classroom management techniques, advice and guidance on putting on a show and the power of interactive story-telling across this age group.

Immediately following this will be a ‘Circle of Life’ workshop with teaching artists from Disney’s The Lion King, plenty of inspiration for delighting your younger students with a story they will love.

At 12:35 on day two, our first session catering to all of our secondary teaching delegates together will be Jill Lloyd- Jones’ workshop on ‘The Internet as Text: Engaging the heart’. Many teachers would like to use the internet in their lessons but are afraid to work with students in an area they consider the students’ own domain. This workshop will explore a theme or issue that is an internet text intended to engage students on their own ground, and will use specific drama strategies to bring it alive.

At 2:35, drama teacher Rhea Walker will lead a workshop on ‘The student as the expert: How to master effective peer assessment in the classroom.’ ‘By positioning the student as a professional instead of a child,’ she says, ‘we see a vast improvement in behaviour, engagement and outcomes.’ Join this hands-on-workshop to explore the freedom of structure afforded by (and how to capitalise on) harnessing the student as the expert for effective peer assessment. Teachers will leave the workshop with plenty of strategies and templates to ensure they too can make effective progress in lessons using peer assessment.

Finally, I’m really looking forward to a session for everyone at the end of day two – ‘Physical drama skills for on and off the stage’. This workshop will take the movement techniques of Rudolf Laban and apply them not only to your teaching practice for sharing the practitioners’ theories and systems with your students, but also look at how you can use your understanding of movement through Laban’s techniques to inform other parts of your life as a teacher.

Meet and engage with delegates from across the UK – and even other countries
Meet and engage with delegates from across the UK – and even other countries

Branching out

Don’t forget, though, that drama workshops are only a part of what the Expo has to offer – there will be many music teaching delegates and sessions and you are always welcome to drop in to any of their workshops as well. I for one am looking forward to the gospel choir and African drumming workshops on day one, and those on the ukulele and on STOMP-style body percussion on day two! The show is a great way to benefit from the expertise of your colleagues in the music department, and to discover ways in which you can share skills within the school environment, and teach cross-curricular lessons.

Though the bulk of sessions have been announced, there is still more to come, so do keep an eye on the expo website: www.musicanddramaeducationexpo.co.uk – registration is open!

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