Covering the Curriculum with Stories a wonderful book! As a former drama educator I have enjoyed reading it and I am very appreciative of the way in which Sharon and Paul have so skilfully and clearly described and explained how to use play, story and drama in a way that is accessible and inviting to class teachers.
When I first received this book I was struck by the illustration on its beautiful cover which I found immediately arresting and suggestive of magic and adventure to come. Three children peer into the mosaic tiled entrance of a very small, dark room in the foreground of which is a large, unopened red book placed on a wooden table. The children appear fascinated, expectant, even reverential. Something inner and deep is suggested here.
On the other hand, the title above the illustration, suggests something more formal and controlled with words such as covering, curriculum, cross curricular and projects in spite of the playful double meaning of the word "covering'.
The cover thus encapsulates what I understand to be the challenge and purpose of the book: to be mindful and respectful of the current physical and social environments that teachers inhabit, the pressures on them to "deliver' a curriculum and the use of language that is expected in formal educational settings; then to engage in a journey from what is known to what can be discovered, with much learning and fun on the way, that may lead to a deeper quality of experience such as that depicted in the cover illustration.
Sharon and Paul approach these challenges throughout the book with breathtaking skill, sensitivity and care "spending time' in the opening chapters with teachers in the teachers' own areas of comfort and expectation. In the chapter entitled "Why work like This?' Sharon and Paul explain to the class teacher that it is fruitful and exciting to use, play, drama and story in school with children. They clearly explain "How Stories Can Develop Learners' and, to allay fears of retribution, they are at pains to reassure with examples and references that these approaches are in line with current developments in the curriculum. How could anyone not wish to proceed at this point?
In the next chapter The Play Write Framework Sharon and Paul explore the six components of a good story and Christopher Booker's work, The Seven Basic Plots " Why We Tell Stories. This is followed by the chapter Dramatic Conventions " the tools for the job which is one of the most clear and informative explanations of ways of approaching the teaching of Drama I have read. In particular, the section on Teacher in Role will enable even the most disinclined teacher to make a start in working in this medium. At this point I would expect all to be comfortably on board and looking forward to the projects in parts Two and Three.
In Part Two there are three projects for three to five year olds and in Part Three there are three projects for five to seven year olds. Each project is fascinating journey rich in learning styles, beginning with a Planning Checklist and a Teacher's Overview to get started and, on the way, in addition to the main development of the story, are Optional Extras sections to explore. The projects conclude with sections on Potential Cross Curricular Learning and there is a helpful CD that includes lots of material that can be downloaded for each project. For example, in Mrs. Hope's Shop a plan of the shop and shopping cards can be printed. Following the projects, the book closes with two helpful and relevant appendices: Professor Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligence Theory and Dr. Anthony Gregorc's Mind Styles Analysis.
Having journeyed through the projects I feel that many teachers will feel empowered to use what they have learned in new and different contexts, to play with the ideas and the medium and to create their own projects. However, perhaps, like the red book on the cover, "something deep and inner is suggested' through the use of this book. In her jewel of an introduction Dorothy Heathcote quotes T.S. Eliot in his Journey of the Magi: "(We are) no longer at ease here in the old dispensation'. It may be that this book's most profound effect is unstated: through the use of this medium teachers may receive intimations of a different relationship with themselves and with the children in their care and sense the beginnings of a rediscovery of their own innate playfulness.