Challenging dyslexia with drama classes

Drive for Literacy, run jointly by ARK Schools and the Driver Youth Trust, supports pupils who need extra help with reading and writing. Working across several ARK schools, the programme helps teachers to identify children with dyslexia and give them the support they need.

Last month was Dyslexia Awareness Week – a perfect opportunity to highlight the work of Drive for Literacy. The hub of activity was at ARK Brunel Primary Academy, where we ran a series of drama workshops based on the works of Roald Dahl who, as well as being one of the best-loved children’s authors of all time, also had dyslexia. The workshops encouraged pupils to communicate with confidence.

Arwen Burnett, founder of children’s theatre company Dramatic Dreams, ran the workshops. She said: “I think one of the key challenges of dyslexia is children’s confidence as they struggle with the written word. Drama really helps because we take it away from the page - children can become the characters and speak those words for themselves. It really helps them to understand stories.”

Nicola Acton Smith, Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator at ARK Brunel, explained that she is working with Drive for Literacy to screen all Year 1 children to support any pupils experiencing difficulties with literacy. “Our hope is that, by the end of the screening, all the children who are struggling will have been picked up. We’ll know what the problem is, what we’re going to do, and can plan a course of action to ensure everybody is on track by secondary school.”

Raising awareness

ARK Brunel head teacher Dominic Smith explained why it was so important for both students and teachers to understand more about dyslexia: “Children are acutely aware of how well they’re doing – they’re constantly comparing themselves with their peers. Most pupils learn to read and write relatively easily, but where that doesn’t happen it has a huge impact on how they feel about themselves.
It’s a challenge for teachers because they always want to do their best for all children, but they don’t necessarily have the knowledge and skills to support children who are dyslexic, or who have other specialist needs. Raising awareness and the level of training and expertise that staff have can only help.”

Find out more about our language and literacy work here.