How useful is your PPA time?
For teachers, it’s a much-needed chance to step out of the classroom and to get on with planning and marking. But what about the children? How useful is it for them?
Headteachers have told us before that coordinating PPA time can take a disproportionate amount of focus, and that the children often don’t get as much value out of it compared to their other lessons.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
A few years ago a school asked us if we could provide PPA Cover for their KS2 classes. We put our heads together and, with them, developed a programme of creative projects that both developed the children’s creative skills while also focusing on the topic they were studying with their class teacher.
For us it was a way to expand on our existing work, and to extend the impact of a one-off dance or drama workshop to make a long-term, lasting difference to the way children learn. For them it was a way to enrich the creative and cross-curricular learning throughout the school, and simultaneously develop the children’s understanding of their class topics.
After two years of delivering the programme to only that school, we extended our Creative PPA Cover to other schools in Greater London, making sure that each programme remains bespoke and tailored to each specific school.
Key to our PPA Cover programmes are the West End calibre actor-facilitators who lead the sessions. However the approach of combining performing arts-based learning with a focus on the existing class-topic is one we would recommend to any school.
These were our aims:
Engage children in their current class topic
Dance, drama and music don’t have to stand alone in their private creative learning bubble. In fact, we would thoroughly recommend using creative projects to help children engage with any topic.
It’s been proven that storytelling itself has a unique effect on the human brain, and in particular that it can help the development of children’s brains. This is because of the unique way in which the brain engages with a story as opposed to listening to facts, meaning that there is more activity across the brain which in turn gives children a deeper experience of what they are learning. Similarly drama can help to familiarise the unknown and help children to engage more actively in a topic.
By applying storytelling and drama to a topic the children are already learning about, they gain a new perspective on ideas that they are already familiar with, and can take their experience back with them into their other lessons.
Reach every child
It’s no secret that different people learn and absorb information in different ways. Some children are simply not as confident with information that they read or hear. But drama or dance can change this completely, whether for dyslexic learners, for EAL/ESL children, or those who are simply unenthusiastic when it comes to books and worksheets.
By looking at a topic through the medium of dance, drama or music, different children can have the chance to gain confidence and shine. And when developing a dance routine or exploring a book or environment through drama, it’s possible to see the progress of every child, not just the ones at the top or the bottom of the class.
Put learning on its feet
Have you ever been stuck on a problem, and then found that a simple walk outside, or a shift into a different location can solve the problem as if by itself? Sometimes being in a new environment can help us to see the wood from the trees. The same can be true for children who spend most days in one particular classroom - the chance to explore a topic in the school hall, in a different way, can remove pre-established mental blocks and help them to learn without even realising.
The surprising effect of a dance or drama session on children typically considered shy or difficult to engage is something many teachers comment on in our one-off workshops as well. Whether through our Bringing Books to Life, Story Explorer, or Shakespeare workshops, we often hear that dance or drama can boost children’s confidence and enthusiasm in a book or topic.