Every year, the drama teacher will be faced with having to plan a sequence of lessons on various aspects of drama, whether this may be acting, theatre study or special needs drama. When one considers that there are diverse topics on the subject, it might be little wonder that the teacher will feel overwhelmed. However, Ausubel’s Subsumption theory can be used to work out a series of coherent lesson plans within a drama course.

Drama Teaching Using Ausubel’s Subsumption Theory

The Cognitivist David Ausubel believed that information should be presented in a logical and hierarchical fashion from the simple to the complex. This will help students remember information and make sense of what has been learned.

This principle is explained within the context of the classroom within Geoff Petty’s book Teaching Today – a Practical Guide (3rd Edition) [Nelson Thornes Limited, 2003]. For a drama course to be effective, lessons should start with the shortest and easiest tasks and progress to the complex. Attaching new information to the old also makes the new information meaningful and easy to remember. This is known as “assimilation.” When information overlaps one another it can finally be appreciated holistically.

Organising Drama Lesson Plans when Teaching Drama

A programme of study on how to write scenes for drama, for example, might begin in session 1 with an introduction to the course, an initial assessment and perhaps an icebreaker. The following sessions might follow thus:

  • Session 2: Introduction to drama. Definition of drama within plays
  • Session 3: Drama in everyday life
  • Session 4: What is a scene? Structuring a scene: the set-up, the problem and conclusion
  • Session 5: Creating tension in dialogue
  • Session 6: How to make action and dialogue work together within scene writing
  • Session 7: Creating characters for scenes
  • Session 8: Practical exercise on writing a dramatic scene
  • Session 9: Presentation of the one-act play
  • Session 10: Consolidation and final assessment

Organising a Drama Module

The following principles must be followed when practicing Ausubel’s theory in planning a scheme of work for drama:

  • Each lesson must follow from the simple tasks to the complex in a logical fashion
  • The drama activities within must begin with the shortest and progress to lengthier and involved activities
  • Each lesson must begin with what is familiar and end with the unfamiliar or unusual
  • What has been learned must be reinforced by plenty of recapping
  • What to expect within the next lesson must be supplied via advanced signposting

Creating a Drama Course

Organising a challenging scheme of work such as a drama course can be aided by the use of Ausubel’s Subsumption Theory. Using the example of designing a drama course in writing scenes, for example, the drama teacher may begin the course by devising activities exploring the simple question of what constitutes a scene, and conclude the course with assigning the students with the challenging and complex activity of writing a scene and presenting it.
One activity must lead to another in a logical fashion and in gradual increments, from the simple and familiar to the more complex and unfamiliar. By a gradual process of learning, each student is likely to feel prepared for the more challenging tasks ahead.