Scripted Drama

A convert to scripted drama!

I was a late convert to using scripted dramas in the classroom.

My conversion came when I attended a workshop run by Kate Brennan, Ruth Lingard and Helen Snelson at an SHP Conference. Kate was, I think Helen and Ruth would agree, the team leader, an inspiring teacher who had built up her use of scripted drama in her Hull school from slightly hesitant beginnings to a confident belief in their value for students, supported by the results of her own action research for an MA.

What is scripted drama?

In Kate’s own words, it is

‘an extended written text that has been carefully crafted for its performers – taking a story from history and making its twists and turned accessible to them. … We use them at all key stages, with students of all ages, working at all levels of attainment. Although we begin by providing students with lots of carefully crafted words, the process gets them talking for themselves, generating and refining their ideas, equipping them to explain and argue… These are not scripts to be learned and performed to an audience. They are scripts for the cast.’

A couple of years later I had a chance to take part in one of Kate’s dramas. She had written a script for the National Trust that told the story of Fountains Abbey from foundation to dissolution, for use on site by visiting schools. The premiere was with a Y7 class from Helen Snelson’s school in York and I had the great good fortune to be invited along as a guest actor, playing, despite the physical disparity, the part of Henry VIII.

The event itself was joyful because of the commitment and concentration shown by the pupils as they walked around the abbey site, taking part in each act of the drama, but what was even more impressive was the feedback from Helen a few days later. Back in school her class had exhibited a remarkable degree of recall of the story in outline and in detail  and also understanding of the issues, explanations, changes and continuities – and this applied across the wide range of ability and literacy represented in the class.

Why scripted drama?

My introduction above has suggested some of the reasons why scripted drama is a valuable technique to develop as a teacher:

a) it stimulates thinking, questions and discussions because students have taken part – the activity has become theirs as a result.

b) it helps students develop a strong knowledge and understanding of complex topics – it makes complexity more accessible. One of Kate’s first scripts was on the early stages of the Wars of the Roses for an A level class struggling with too many names, too many switches of allegiance – and if you can make that accessible …

c) effective scripts focus on the problems students have with topics – either or both understanding of people and events and also understanding of the process of studying history – questioning and using evidence, analysis of causation or change and continuity etc.

d) it motivates students to read with greater confidence, a really important benefit at all levels but especially at A level

e) it’s memorable and therefore knowledge can be revisited later in the course. One piece of feedback I had on my own script ‘Journey to the Middle Ages’ was how memorable students found the detail and the outline of the story – ideal for later in the year when you want to ask ‘do you remember when … you travelled back to the Middle Ages? What did you learn about …’

Creating scripts

Of course, you do need to write a script to start with! Having done so myself I can say it’s great fun. I got a real sense of creativity from the process. I knew what I wanted to achieve – I wanted students to appreciate the extent of change in the period, to develop respect for the intelligence of the period, to understand some of the key developments across time – and building all that into the script was a challenge but also gave me a sense of achievement.

I didn’t have a specific class in mind but that’s one of the practicalities to take into consideration – who will play each part you create? You can tailor the different parts to individuals you know well. Scripts can also be of varied lengths so you could start small and build up as you gain experience and to suit the needs of different classes.

And now, over to the experts – the core article on scripted drama.

Scripted Dramas: The Core Article

Rather than giving you my second-hand version of scripted drama, I’ll now introduce something far more valuable – an article written by Kate, Helen and Ruth for Teaching History (vol 148, 2012). It’s called:

‘The best way for students to remember history is to experience it!’ Transforming historical understanding through scripted drama.

And you can find the PDF HERE …


Sadly …

… very sadly, Kate Brennan died in 2017.

In part, I have added this section of the website in tribute to Kate, a brilliant and inspirational teacher and good friend.

Kate Brennan – a shining light and joyful spirit

Read my appreciation HERE …

Please note that Kate’s website, mentioned in the article, is no longer available. And links to the website and her contact details have been redacted from the footnotes.

Some Examples of Scripted Dramas on this Website

Journey to the Middle Ages – an overview of the Middle Ages for Y7 HERE …


The Reign of Elizabeth I – by Jen Thornton for her GCSE classes HERE …


1646-9: Who was to blame for the execution of the king? – another written by Jen Thornton for her A level classes HERE …


Martin Luther and the Road to Worms – written by Mark Fowle for his A level classes HERE …


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This Technique

Download the Core Article

Example Activities