What is Drama about?
Subject-specific terms can be found in the glossary.
Connections: Who is drama for?
Drama is for everyone.
We all have stories to share.
Drama helps us to make sense of the world and find our place in our community.
It celebrates and explores our heritages and helps us to prepare for the future by challenging us to explore the attitudes and beliefs of characters from other worlds.
Through drama, learners develop a deeper understanding of themselves and others.
Drama is for the learners of today who will be the adults of tomorrow – adults with an appreciation of who they are in relation to others, where they come from, and what kind of world they would like to live in.
Purpose: Why study drama?
Drama explores who we are, where we have come from, and where we could go.
Drama draws on the richness of diverse cultures to create new dramatic works.
In drama, learners can make connections between the real world and imagined worlds. They can use online platforms to explore their ideas and access worldwide audiences. Creating virtual characters and situations online challenges learners’ ability to comment on, challenge, and ultimately transform society.
Drama students demonstrate high engagement in their learning because it allows them to have fun while taking creative risks within a safe environment. They quickly learn that they are responsible for themselves and for others.
The collaborative, creative process of drama develops learners' skills in giving and receiving constructive feedback. Drama students learn to share, develop, and extend ideas to realise a shared goal and serve the intention of the drama.
Drama examines and challenges established ideas and prejudices. It encourages critical and creative thinking and innovation. It generates new ideas and reflects on trends in society.
Through drama, learners develop confidence in expressing their ideas as they seek to communicate with a variety of audiences and thereby influence society.
Knowledge: What is valued knowledge in drama?
Drama is a collaborative art form. Through the practice of ako (reciprocal teaching and learning), learners and teachers support and develop each other’s ideas and practice.
In Drama, learners tell stories, express their identity, and challenge the status quo. They explore and manipulate ideas and take creative risks. They share, rework, construct, and deconstruct work that is dynamic and evolving.
Learners investigate, explore, and practise different ways of creating and structuring drama through using:
- linear, thematic, cyclical, episodic, or non-narrative storytelling
- the elements of drama (role, place, time, situation, action, tension, mood, contrast, focus, symbol)
- a range of dramatic conventions to develop characters and deepen the audience’s engagement
- production technologies (lighting, sound/music, digital projection, properties, makeup, costumes, the set) to create and develop mood and settings (place and time)
- characters and situations brought to life in an imagined world.
In addition, drama students refine and craft the tools of the actor (drama techniques) by learning to:
- use their body (gestures, facial expression, stance and posture, movement) to create and recreate the physical representation of characters, relationships, and situation
- use their voice to communicate convincingly the thoughts and feelings of the characters they portray
- engage with the performance space to develop the audiences’ understanding of character and situation.
Learners’ progression across Levels 6 to 8 is demonstrated by increasing independence and creative vision. They grow their ability to collaborate constructively and serve the intention of the drama first.
Big Ideas and Significant Learning
Big Ideas are derived from the Learning Area essence statement and capture the essence of a subject, ensuring coherence rather than fragmentation of learning. At the subject level, they inform the Significant Learning – learning that is critical for students to know, understand, and do in relation to a subject by the end of each Curriculum Level. This covers knowledge, skills, competencies, and attitudes and also includes level-appropriate contexts students should encounter in senior secondary education.
Significant Learning is collated into a Learning Matrix and progresses across Curriculum Levels 6-8. Teachers can use the Learning Matrix as a tool to construct learning programmes that cover all the 'not to be missed' learning in a subject. There is no prescribed order to the Learning Matrix within each level. A programme of learning might begin with a context that is relevant to the local area of the school or an idea that students are particularly interested in. This topic or context has to relate to at least one Big Idea and may also link to other Big Ideas. The Learning Matrix is designed so that educators have the freedom to create courses that are both flexible and coherent.
The Drama Learning Matrix shows four Big Ideas that are intrinsic to subject levels 6-8 of the curriculum. The Significant Learning unpacks the experience, skills, and knowledge learners will access by engaging with each Big Idea at each curriculum level.
Drama is influenced by whakapapa and is a way to respond to and share identity, culture, and perspectives
This Big Idea is about the way in which drama enables the exploration of the past and how that informs the present and future. Drama requires a participant to examine the experiences of themselves and others, to look at how peoples' understandings are shaped by their experiences and their contexts. Through exploring characters and situations, ākonga can come to better understand our own identities.
Learners are encouraged to engage with Theatre Aotearoa as a unique and valuable theatrical context. Te Ao Māori is an integral component of Theatre Aotearoa. Māori theatre - theatre made by Māori, with kaupapa Māori and tikanga Māori - is important and valuable for all learners to have the opportunity to learn through and engage with.
Drama can be used to explore, articulate, and contest cultural and national identities and narratives. Drama holds a mirror up to society and can encourage reflection and challenge dominant cultural narratives and paradigms.
Drama is a collaborative, creative process
In Drama, learners embody the creative process and are required to collaborate to make work, whether that is rehearsing a scripted piece, or scripting or devising their own work.
Drama can challenge ways of thinking and working that privilege individualism, and promote practices that value collectivism and service, both to others and the intention of the drama. Learners will grow in their understanding of the importance of serving the needs of the drama through the work of a group.
The process of making through collaboration helps to develop learners' skills in listening as well as communicating their own ideas. In order to effectively take direction, ākonga need to listen, interpret suggestions and guidance, and incorporate that into their performance. To contribute effectively, learners must communicate their ideas in a clear and constructive way.
In group feedback situations, learners will explore incorporating feedback from multiple sources, testing and experimenting with different ideas to create interesting, effective, engaging, and purposeful drama.
Drama is storytelling, communication, and expression
Drama is a vehicle through which we can engage in kōrero from generation to generation. Learners can engage with stories and ideas from our past and contribute to the stories that carry forward into the future.
Learners will explore how the stories we tell and the way we tell them shape our understanding of ourselves, our world, and our place in it. They will explore stories as a means of understanding other people and other worldviews, and they will experiment with storytelling as a means of self-expression.
Drama is an act of whakawhanaungatanga; meaning is created through the reciprocal relationship between the drama and audience
Drama enables learners to create and explore connections, not just between themselves and those with whom they are collaborating, but also the distinctive connection between performer and audience.
Learners will have opportunities to experience both sides of this relationship, exploring how performers work to evoke audience response and how that response feels as an audience member. Learners will engage with the immediate and transient nature of live drama; no experience, for performer or audience, is ever exactly the same.
Key Competencies in Drama
Developing Key Competencies through Drama
Learning in Drama provides meaningful contexts for developing Key Competencies from the New Zealand Curriculum. These Key Competencies are woven through, and embedded in, the Big Ideas and Significant Learning. Drama provides learners with opportunities to develop insightful and collaborative practices and behaviours in practical and engaging contexts.
Students of Drama will:
- think on their feet
- react to creative offers to advance the drama
- put their own thought into action
- reflect on work and adapt based on feedback
- develop understanding of the context of work; historical, social, cultural, political, and economic, in order to create meaningful drama
- develop research skills in exploring the contexts of dramatic work
- explore their own and others' ideas in work they experience and work they create
- investigate roles, worlds, contexts, attitudes and themes in drama.
Using language, symbols, and text
Students of Drama will:
- develop their use of language in rehearsal, scripting, and devising processes
- discuss their work and experiment with language used in performance
- understand and use discipline specific vocabulary and develop multi-modal literacies including audio, gestural, linguistic (verbal and written), spatial, and visual
- interpret texts, stories, and direction
- engage with and explore what can be expressed through props, costume, set, technologies, motifs (recurring symbols), text, dialogue, movement, gesture, and conventions.
Relating to others
Students of Drama will:
- negotiate, cultivate and explore a variety of relationships; the relationships between performers, the relationships between characters, the relationship between the performer and the role and the relationship between the performer and the audience
- explore the perspectives and experiences of others, increasing their cultural awareness, responsiveness and acceptance
- understand and play to different strengths in order to enrich the work.
Students of Drama will:
- develop self discipline and an understanding of their role as part of the group
- practise self-management in practical contexts; arriving to rehearsals on time, learning lines, being prepared, and taking responsibility for different aspects of production (props, costume), theatre and performance protocols
- set goals
- accept direction and feedback
- question and critique themselves and others.
Participating and contributing
Students of Drama will:
- work together, contributing their own ideas and responding to the ideas of others
- explore how to adapt and work in different environments, with different people and contribute to building a group dynamic that is responsive to the needs of the work and the participants
- develop courage and generosity in making offers to advance the drama and giving feedback as well as openness and humility in accepting feedback and extending the ideas of others.
This section of New Zealand Curriculum online offers specific guidance to school leaders and teachers on integrating the Key Competencies into the daily activities of the school and its Teaching and Learning Programmes.
Introduction to sample course outlines
Sample Course Outlines are being produced to help teachers and schools understand the new NCEA Learning Matrix and Achievement Standards. The draft Course Outlines that were published at the end of Phase 1, Level 1 product development are now being taken down. Work will continue on these, reflecting the changes noted in the SEG responses, and the additional detail that will be provided in Phase 2 products. They will be re-published for the next cycle of feedback on the Phase 2 products in early August 2021. Exemplars of student work will be provided after the Pilot phase in 2022.
Unpacking The Standards
These statements help to unpack the ways in which the Achievement Standards assess the Significant Learning in the Learning Matrix.
1.1 (Internal) Demonstrate understanding of how culture is expressed in a dramatic context
This standard provides learners with the opportunity to demonstrate the connections they have made between their own world and the world of others.
Learners will demonstrate their knowledge about different forms of drama. They will understand that different times, places, and contexts give rise to different types of drama and that there are protocols and conventions for drama that may be different in different contexts.
Learners will discuss how meaning is made and how ideas of culture are expressed through the function of conventions and aspects of drama that convey meaning.
The internal mode of assessment for this standard allows for the collection of evidence over a period of time as the learner's understanding of identity, culture, and perspective in drama deepens and complexifies. It also allows the learner to present evidence of their understanding in multiple forms including performance, presentation, visual, verbal, or written.
1.2 (Internal) Demonstrate understanding of a creative dramatic process
Learners will demonstrate their ability to participate in and contribute to a creative process, be that rehearsing scripted work, or devising.
Learners will practise whakawhanaungatanga, and show that they can contribute to an effective ensemble culture.
They will demonstrate ability to give and receive feedback, explore different ideas, and translate those ideas into a piece of dramatic work.
The internal mode of assessment for this standard allows for the collection of evidence over a period of time as the creative process takes place.
If a devising process is used, students will need to participate in discussion to select or develop shared kaupapa for their group and a shared artistic vision for their work.
Learners will experiment with elements and conventions to communicate dramatic meaning. They will need to identify and select ideas that strongly support the drama and let go of those that don't. They will need to refine the group's vision throughout the process.
In a rehearsal process, learners will show they understand what it is to be part of a group by taking responsibility for their preparation, for instance: attending rehearsals reliably and on time, learning lines to meet deadlines, and accepting direction openly.
Learners will explore blocking, and use of techniques to convey characters. They will explore interaction (action/reaction) with other characters to show role, relationships, and situation. They will contribute to discussions about the text to create a shared understanding and vision for the interpretation of the work.
1.3 (External) Use drama techniques to perform a role within an Aotearoa New Zealand context
Learners will demonstrate their ability to sustain a role using techniques such as body, movement, space, and voice. They will demonstrate the ability to respond to and interact with other characters.
This can be assessed in a devised or scripted context.
The external mode of assessment for this standard reflects the single point in time nature of a performance. Whilst the performance could be for a live audience, it will need to be recorded for assessment.
1.4 (External) Respond to drama performance
For this standard, learners will need to identify choices made by the production team of a performance and explain the effect of these choices. Learners will show understanding of the audience’s role in drama performance and the reciprocal relationship with performers.
Learners will be assessed on their ability to critically respond to a drama performance they have experienced. They will demonstrate their understanding of the relationship between aspects of the performance and audience response.