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IE923-30 Drama and Literacy

Education Studies
Taught Postgraduate Level
Module leader
Cheryl Cane
Credit value
Module duration
10 weeks
100% coursework
Study location
University of Warwick main campus, Coventry
Introductory description

The Drama and Literacy module is responsive to the stress placed internationally on the development of literacy in both primary and secondary schools in recent years. Following on from Drama and Theatre Studies in Theory and Practice, it looks specifically at theories of literacy that emphasise the importance of cultural semiotics and social context. It considers the close historical relationship between drama and English in schools and explores the specific contribution drama can make to children’s language development in general and the development of reading and writing in particular.

Module aims

To introduce sociolinguistic and other socio-cultural theories of language and language acquisition that underpin the drama and literacy relationship.
To assist in the development of coherent programmes for teaching and assessing drama within an English / language curriculum that reflects the references to drama in orders and in non-statutory guidance.
To provide students with the skills and understandings to be effective teachers of drama and/or curriculum co-ordinators for drama within an English / language department.
To develop understandings of contemporary and international models of theory and practice in drama education and their relevance to the teaching of literacy.
To provide the opportunity for evaluating and critically assessing the pedagogic claims that have been made for drama as a method of learning in English / a language curriculum.

Outline syllabus

This is an indicative module outline only to give an indication of the sort of topics that may be covered. Actual sessions held may differ.

Theoretical perspectives on drama and literacy (1 and 2)
In these two introductory sessions we examine how socio- cultural theories of language acquisition, with particular reference to the work of Halliday, can illuminate the relationship between drama and the development of literacy. In the first part of each session we engage directly with theory, whereas in the second part we follow a scheme of work that illustrates how the theory can guide practice.

Drama and ICT: mutiliteracies and the democratisation of culture (Focus: KS1-3)
In this session students are introduced to the recently developed Intel DigitalBlue technologies which allow children to make and edit their own films. These are practically tested and considered in the light of theories of multi-literacies and the work of Gunther Kress.

Drama and literacy across the curriculum (Focus: KS1)
In this session we explore practical approaches to how drama can develop literacy skills within a cross-curricular framework in the early years, with close attention to the theories of Vygotsky and Bakhtin.

Developing speaking and listening through drama (Focus: KS3/4)
Here we examine the role of playscripts in developing literacy skills in the secondary school. We relate the theoretical work of Bourdieu to the writings of leading practitioners such as Andy Kempe.

Drama and critical literacy (1 and 2)
The work of Norman Fairclough is considered and related to the theories of Freire and Boal. We examine the significance of critical literacy – or the ability to read beyond the text and consider issues of political power and ideology as an essential part of literacy; and we explore how drama can be a practical aid to this purpose.

Drama, gender and writing: focus KS 2/3
In this session we use the picture story book Blodin the Beast by Michael Morpurgo to explore gendered aspects of literacy development, with specific reference to differences in the reading and writing of boys and girls.

Drama and Literacy: developing your own practice
In this final session, students have the opportunity to explore a range of story books suitable for planning drama activities to enhance children’s literacy across the primary and secondary years. They work in small groups to draw up draft schemes of work paying due attention to the theoretical and practical issues explored throughout the term.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • SUBJECT KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDINGUnderstand the relationship between drama education and the development of children’s literacy skills Develop an effective rationale for including drama within English based on the evidence of research and appropriate socio-cultural and pedagogic theories
  • COGNITIVE SKILLSStudied and critically analysed a variety of theoretical and practical paradigms in drama and literacy educationPlanned, undertaken and evaluated teaching projects that draw on the theoretical and research content of the course
  • SUBJECT -SPECIFIC/PROFESSIONAL SKILLSDemonstrate the skills to integrate effectively drama education within the English curriculum
  • KEY SKILLSDemonstrate strong verbal and written communication skills
Indicative reading list

Bakhtin, M. (1985) The Dialogic Imagination University of Texas Press; Austin, Texas
Bernstein, B. (1974) Class, Codes and Control Vol. 1 Palladin; London
Blackledge A. (2000) Literacy, Power and Social Justice, Trentham; Stoke-on-Trent
Bourdieu, P. (1990) Language and Symbolic Power Polity Press; Cambridge
Bourne J. et al (1999) Language and Literacies, British Association for Applied Linguistics
Carroll J. (2002) Digital Drama: a Snapshot of Evolving Forms in Drama and Learning: Melbourne Studies in Education, vol.43 no.2
Carter, R. (1990) (ed.) Knowledge about Language and the Curriculum Hodder, London
Delpit, L. (1995) Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom the New Press; New York
DFEE (1998) The National Literacy Strategy DFEE, London
Fairclough N. (1989) Language and Power, Longman; London
Halliday, M.A.K. (1978) Language as Social Semiotic Arnold; London
Kempe, A. (2003) Drama and cultural capital in Research in Drama Education, vol.8, no.1
Kress, G. (1994) Learning to Write (2nd Edition) Routledge; London
Kress, G. (1995) Writing the Future; English and the making of a culture of innovation NATE; Sheffield
Montgomery M. (1986) An Introduction to Language and Society, Routledge; London
Neelands, J. (1992) Learning Through Imagined Experience Routledge; London
OFSTED (2003) Yes He Can! Schools Where Boys Write Well, OFSTED publications
Thomas L. and Wareing S. (1999) Language, Society and Power, Routledge; London
Vygotsky, L. (1962) Thought and Language MIT Press; Cambridge, Mass.
Wagner B.J. (1998) Drama and Language Arts: What Research Shows Heinemann; Portsmouth NH
Winston J. (2004) Drama and English at the Heart of the Curriculum David Fulton; London

View reading list on Talis Aspire


This module is inter-disciplinary through the synergies made between education studies and drama / literacy development. It involves some elements of literacy learning across subjects and therefore responds to the need for participants to be able to communicate across disciplines.

Subject specific skills

Students should demonstrate a critical understanding of -

  •          the underlying values, theories and concepts relevant to literacy and drama education
  •          the diversity of literacy definitions and the complexities of the development of literacy
  •          the relationship between literacy and drama education, and the extent to which participants (including learners and teachers) can influence the learning through active engagement
  •          a range of possible pedagogic approaches to enhance literacy through drama education  
  •    organisational structures and policies for literacy and the possible implications for learners
  •          constructively critique theories, practice and research in the area of literacy through drama education.
Transferable skills
  • Active listening
  • Analysis and decision making
  • Attitudes and aptitudes for work
  • Cognitive flexibility
  • Communication skills
  • Complex problem solving
  • Confidence
  • Coordinating with others
  • Creativity
  • Critical thinking
  • Emotional intelligence
  • language learning
  • Initiative and also follow instructions
  • Intellectual ability
  • Cultural awareness
  • Interpersonal and communication
  • Knowledge of chosen job/career (teaching / literacy)
  • Leadership (of literacy learning)
  • Literacy
  • Motivation, tenacity, commitment
  • Negotiation
  • Passion
  • Performance skills
  • Personal development skills
  • Persuading/influencing
  • Planning and organisational skills
  • Problem solving
  • Reasoning
  • Self-management/resilience
  • Team working

Study time

Type Required
Lectures 10 sessions of 1 hour (3%)
Seminars 10 sessions of 1 hour (3%)
Practical classes 10 sessions of 1 hour (3%)
Supervised practical classes 1 session of 5 hours (2%)
Private study 265 hours (88%)
Total 300 hours
Private study description

Independent study hours include background reading, completing reading/other tasks in preparation for timetabled teaching sessions, undertaking research using the library resources, follow-up reading work, working on individual and group projects, the completion of formative and summative assignments, revision


No further costs have been identified for this module.

You must pass all assessment components to pass the module.

Assessment group A1
Weighting Study time
tbc 100%
Feedback on assessment

Written assignment feedback


This module is Core for:

  • Year 1 of TIES-X3BA Postgraduate Taught Drama Education and English Language Teaching

This module is Core optional for:

  • TIEA-X30C Postgraduate Taught Drama and Theatre Education
    • Year 1 of X3C2 Drama and Theatre Education by Dissertation
    • Year 1 of X3C3 Drama and Theatre Education by Portfolio Route

This module is Optional for:

  • TIEA-X31L Postgraduate Taught Educational Innovation
    • Year 1 of XL03 Educational Innovation with Specialism in Business
    • Year 1 of XL05 Educational Innovation with Specialism in Drama
    • Year 1 of XL06 Educational Innovation with Specialism in English
    • Year 1 of XL08 Educational Innovation with Specialism in History
    • Year 2 of XL04 Educational Innovation with Specialism in Childhood
    • Year 2 of XL05 Educational Innovation with Specialism in Drama
    • Year 2 of XL12 Educational Innovation with Specialism in Foreign Language Teaching
    • Year 2 of XL08 Educational Innovation with Specialism in History
    • Year 2 of XL09 Educational Innovation with Specialism in Leadership
    • Year 3 of XL04 Educational Innovation with Specialism in Childhood
    • Year 3 of XL05 Educational Innovation with Specialism in Drama
    • Year 3 of XL08 Educational Innovation with Specialism in History
    • Year 5 of X31L Educational Innovation
    • Year 5 of X31L Educational Innovation
  • TIEA-X31M Postgraduate Taught Educational Leadership and Management
    • Year 1 of X3M3 Educational Leadership and Management by Professional Route (SSAT)
    • Year 1 of X3M5 Educational Leadership and Management by Professional Route (School Networks)
    • Year 1 of X3M4 Educational Leadership and Management by Professional Route (UCST)