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Five Engaging Ways to use Impact Sessions

September is looming and, now that exam results are behind us, we’re starting to turn our attention to curriculum planning. I’m starting a new role at a school this year. From the handover day, I realised that the students have some gaps in their knowledge and skills so I’m looking at ways to develop this purposefully through highly engaging & creative practical workshops. These will take the form of ‘impact sessions’.

If you master the art of creating and delivering an ‘impact session’, I guarantee it will be become an essential part of your drama toolkit.

In this Blog, I’m going to outline five ways in which ‘impact sessions’ can be used to supercharge your drama teaching and boost your students’ knowledge and skills, whilst fostering engagement and curiosity about a new topic. Let's do this!

What is an ‘impact session’?

A high-impact practical workshop delivered at the start of a new topic or scheme of learning.

I would describe them as halfway between an immersive performance and a practical drama lesson. The session will aim to have an impact on student learning, retention and instill excitement and curiosity about the new topic.

  • They can last anything between 1-2 hours and are used mainly for exam groups (Key Stage 4 & 5)

  • They contains creative, immersive elements, including teacher in role and other theatrical forms.

  • Students engage with a range of different stimuli in the session and learn new Tier 2 vocabulary.

  • They can be used to introduce a new text, devising stimulus, a design element or a practitioner.

How can impact sessions be used in drama?

1. Ignite curiosity & excitement around a new topic

Whether you are introducing a stimulus in Year 10 or allowing students to explore lighting design for the first time, you want each scheme to get off to a flying start and create a ‘buzz’ about the new topic.

In the first 10-15 minutes you are aiming to create the atmosphere and mood of a performance, along with facilitating a period of ‘enquiry’ and ‘exploration’ for the students, as they engage with a range of stimuli and new ideas.

The students should be given time and space to respond to creative elements and develop their personal, creative responses to dramatic stimuli.

2. Introduce context & new vocabulary

Delivering contextual information linked to a play or practitioner is necessary at the start of a scheme but can also be ‘dry’ and uninspiring. Impact sessions can help to introduce key terminology and contextual information in a creative way and therefore students are more likely to remember & retain it. For example, students engaging with objects & artefacts associated with practitioners or props belonging to characters from a set text, are a great way of introducing social, cultural and historical context.

3. Model theatrical forms and styles

Through modelling, students get a chance to experience different theatrical forms and styles live and ‘up close’. Use other students to ‘model’ and be in role or showcase your own acting ability. The students will respect you more if you go outside your comfort zone too!

4. Stretch and Challenge opportunities

Ask higher ability students to assist with creating and delivering the impact sessions. For example, if the impact session is for Year 12, I would ask students in either Year 11 or Yr 13 to help. They can take on roles within the session and take leadership roles in developing and delivering sections of the session. This is another way of modelling excellent work and empowers students to lead with confidence.

5. Build knowledge & skills quickly

Impact sessions should be pacy and ambitious in terms of the content being delivered. They are a great way to build knowledge and skills quickly and fill any gaps in knowledge which you have identified.

I like to film them and upload them to Teams or the VLE. This way, the students can access them for revision and when they are writing coursework or revising.

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