Drop of a Hat by David Farmer

From ‘Drama Magazine’, Spring 2022

David Farmer’s Drop of a Hat describes itself as a flexible, varied book filled with engaging drama activities.

A totally accurate statement. It is a wonderful resource for primary teachers and encourages staff to adapt his ideas to their context. David Farmer is a highly experienced Drama Consultant for whom this is his fifth book for teachers.

The book is packed with a huge variety of ideas and clearly explained techniques. (There is a glossary of ‘Drama Games and Strategies’ in Section Two.) David uses poetry, story and introduces Shakespeare through A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

He uses activities to create the environment of the wild wood both physically and with sound, activities and techniques that I have used successfully in the primary classroom.

There are some great ideas for bringing science to life through Drama. For example, enacting through movement the process of photosynthesis or exploring and comparing animal habitats. This kind of concrete learning is so helpful to many pupils.

He explores how Art can be used as a stimulus to develop character. Another great springboard for writing.

A particular favourite is ‘The King’s Sentence’ which has so much potential for exciting drama and powerful writing. In the story, the King bans the use of words by everyone except himself. Alexia, a girl who loves words, persuades the King to change his mind with the help of her imagination and the wind. It is a brilliant way of introducing non-verbal techniques to students but also explores the social nature of humans, the beauty of words and happiness.

‘The Lost and Found Cat’ is based on the true story of Sura and her family who fled Iraq to Europe with their cat. The activities encourage a real emotional connection with the plight and journeys of refugees. The improvised Skype call has such a strong frame that Key Stage 2 pupils will be able to improvise successfully. This is followed up by ‘Refugee Rucksack’ a simple and powerful exercise. David has included a QR code which shows the actual contents of refugees’ bags. This work is moving and thought provoking. It is an example of Drama at its best. Like much of Drama work, it is cross curricular.

Apart from: ‘The Magic Box’; ‘The Tiger Child’; ‘Funnybones’ and Art; there are cards, titles, literature and links provided.

One of Drama’s strengths is how it can allow pupils to understand and empathise with others which allows for interesting reflection. The timings are so fast that they do not always allow for the full potential of each activity or indeed the training of children to use the technique effectively. Like learning to write, new methods of learning need to be taught and carefully broken down to be used effectively. Effective role play, for example, is a slowly acquired skill that primary children need scaffolding and regular practice in before they can sustain it and use it appropriately.

Some of the activities suggested as Key Stage 1 and 2 by the objective need to be examined with care before use in Key Stage 1. It is also a shame that the objectives are so limited when the activities offer so much.

Overall this is a useful and helpful book for primary practitioners.

Gertie Whitfield

Drop of a Hat Drama Lessons, Games and Activities by David Farmer, ISBN 9781838355906