David Booth is Professor Emeritus at the University Of Toronto, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. He has over forty years experience in teaching and also conducts workshops and lectures for teachers and educators. He is an advocate for the use of visual and performing arts with in the school curriculum. Furthermore he has a special interest in the use of drama for language development and literacy. David Booth is a well know author of educational books. His topics include, but are not limited to: language and literacy, children’s poetry, text for teachers, and gender and literacy.
Booth explains in one of his books entitled, Story Drama, Reading , writing and role playing across the curriculum, that during his earlier years as a teacher, he knew very little about drama. However that soon changed while he pursued his undergraduate degree. He made it his duty to take as much Theatre history, English literature and Poetry classes as possible. He gradually changed his teaching style from the traditional director based, learning plays by rote theatre, to a more dramatic approach. This was achieved after many workshops with educators such as, Brian Way, Gavin Bolton, Richard Courtney, David Kemp, Agnes Buckles and Dorothy Heathcote. (7-8)
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He began experimenting with a method called whole group drama. This method allowed the drama to materialize from the children’s imaginations as opposed to him giving directions. He realized the genuine learning value in this method and began to conduct all of his classes using various dramatic techniques and methods which he learnt in the various workshops he attended. He began to understand the true power of drama and its importance in the field of education. He saw that drama developed children’s language in many ways because they had the opportunity to use language in their performance without it seeming like a task. Thus he began developing his own philosophy of what drama in education could be. (8)
Drama can be associated with every thing one may do, see or experience. Furthermore storytelling is a natural human occurrence. In his book Drama Words Booth explains how children learn through stories and that Drama allows everyone to tell stories. “The simplest retelling of yesterday’s events is an act of imagination, as we have the option of reinventing the characters, the experience, the circumstances, the motivation and the outcomes.”(55). Booth was able to develop his own method using both the technique of storytelling and drama. He coined the term Story Drama.
Story Drama, as he described in his book Story Drama: creating stories through role playing, improvising, and reading aloud, simply put is, “Improvised Role play stimulated by a story” (8) However it is not as straightforward as it sounds. This method can be used to improve student’s literacy, confidence and improve their writing skills. Role play helps children to understand the world around them and it is for this reason it is one of the better teaching methods. Therefore understanding the Story Drama method and the roles the teacher and student play is of utmost importance.
A more in concise explanation of the Story Drama method can be found in his book Drama Words. It explains that:
Story Drama (Booth,1980) occurs when the teacher uses issues, themes, characters, mood, conflict or spirit of the story as a beginning for dramatic exploration. The students draw from within themselves ideas and feelings and the conclusion based on the story. Drama involves people in some kind of struggle or problem; the action in story drama develops as the participants solve or work through the dilemma symbolized in the story. [â€¦] (60)
Story drama can be used to help students make art and life connections as well as facilitate the development of problem solving and writing skills. “In drama the students can explore all strategies open to the teachers of writing – free writing, journals, letters, interviews, brainstorming, [â€¦.].” (Drama Words, 79)
Story Drama begins with a story. The story can be in any form, such as a personal experience, a report, folktale, novel, short story, song, film, poem or even a picture book. The children must experience the story through it being read to or by them if it is a text. If it is a song or film they will familiarize themselves with it accordingly. After the children have listened to, read or viewed the story, then the process of creating drama from it begins. If your lesson is based on problem solving then the problem is highlighted by the children and they come up with solutions while in character. They can also do it out of character and then act out the solution. (Story Drama 62-64)
The role of the teacher is not to direct the children but to facilitate their own creative, critical thinking. The teacher prepares, narrates, summarizes, side coaches and can also become teacher in role. It is the children’s responsibility to live through the drama. They must explore the ideas and reflect on the issues within the story, which can be done individually or as a group. The teacher can employ many techniques and strategies, such as the use of art, movement, flash backs and flash forwards, rituals and ceremonies.
David Booth was one of the founders of CODE in the 1960’s. During his career in education, he taught drama to grade 6, 7 and 8 students, became the drama consultant for Hamilton, and subsequently for the City of York in Toronto. He completed his graduate degree in England studying with Dorothy Heathcote and Gavin Bolton. In 1973, he began teaching at the Faculty of Education at the University of Toronto, where he taught BEd drama courses, AQ drama courses, and later graduate courses in drama and the arts at OISE. He has been on the executive of CODE several times, and has spoken and given many workshops at CODE conferences during the last 30 years. A popular international speaker, David Booth has authored several books and articles on drama in education, and in 2006 was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Alliance for Theatre and Education.