________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 28 . . . . March 27, 2015


Dramathemes: Classroom Literacy That Will Excite, Surprise, and Stimulate Learning. 4th Ed.

Larry Swartz.
Markham, ON: Pembroke, 2014.
159 pp., trade pbk., $24.95.
ISBN 978-1-55138-300-2.

Subject Headings:
Drama-Study and teaching (Elementary).
Drama in education.
Language arts (Elementary).


Review by Jocelyn A. Dimm.

**** /4


In the past three editions of Dramathemes, Larry Swartz has provided a collection of dramatically engaging literacy resources for anyone involved with arts-based experiential learning. In other words, all of the lessons, games, and resources in this comprehensive manual provide the instructor with the means necessary to engage the students in participatory educational strategies focused on literacy skill building.

      However, why purchase the fourth edition if you already own the other editions? Swartz has updated resources, complemented strategies with further details, and expanded areas of critical reflection for both the instructor and participants.

      The beginning contents of the book introduce the themes developed over the 10 chapters. These themes/chapters include:
  • Revealing identity
  • Planting hope
  • Sparking imagination
  • Learning lessons
  • Confronting bullies
  • Recognizing homelessness
  • Moving on
  • Accepting others
  • Posing possibilities
  • Staging worlds

      Following the contents, Swartz has included an overview grid outlining the games focus, drama exploration, drama structure/using a resource, and assessment profiles presented for each chapter/theme. For example, Chapter 1: Revealing Identity/Connections includes a names games, choral dramatization, "Hector Protector" nursery rhyme (source), and choral speaking (assessment strategy).

      Swartz shares a few words about his book:

At the heart of this resource, drama promotes literacy growth, and literacy growth promotes drama exploration. In this book, I have included a variety of literacy genres, such as nursery rhyme, picture book, poetry, fable, novel, and script, not only as a means of suggesting ideas for activities, but also to engage the imagination and to enrich the creativity and thoughts of our students.

      The 10 chapters are based on popular thematic explorations in literature for young people:
  • Connections
  • Sustainable Environments
  • Fantasy Worlds
  • Animal Tales
  • Relationships
  • Communities
  • Immigrant Experience
  • Belonging
  • Journey to the Future
  • Cultural Encounters

      Swartz also includes a short summary of what is different about the 4th edition of Dramathemes:

In this new edition, you will find a variety of sources for storytelling, improvisation, interpretation, and movement; descriptions of key drama conventions; guides for planning drama; voices of experts; and line masters of source texts, assessment profiles, and rubrics for evaluation.

No book can serve as a definitive statement on practicing drama. Recognizing that, I have included an updated list of titles in Recommended Resources (page 154), which will provide you with support, as they have given support to me. These resources will help you find answers to your questions about teaching. That said, the answers to your questions won't be found only on the pages of books. The discovery and the learning for both you and your students will happen, as you live through imagined experiences in your classroom.

      The quote above is intended to answer 'why' this text would be a welcome addition to any educator's library.

Highly Recommended.

Jocelyn A. Dimm has a Masters degree in Drama Education and has taught Drama Education, Literacy Design, and Young Adult Literature for 13 years at the University of Victoria, BC. She is currently the Library Technician and Literacy Expert at WMES, AB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
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ISSN 1201-9364
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