Interpretation of Performed Text

Grantham College

The aim of this project was to explore the benefits of providing GCSE English resit learners with video recordings of dramatised readings of extracts taken from 19th century literature and to provide insights into how such recorded performances could improve learners’ understanding and enjoyment of written texts.

You can download a PDF of this report on the Excellence Gateway.


Grantham is a small college in a rural/market town. The learners are from the local area, surrounding villages and other local towns. The college analysed the impact that lockdown had had on learner engagement, overall, to ascertain what mitigations could be implemented across the English and maths departments with a view to improving learner satisfaction. One key finding was in relation to the barriers and attitudes that prevent learners from engaging in reading. Learners seemed to have become increasingly demotivated when asked to read extracts, especially 19th century literature. We wondered whether we had underestimated the value of the support that teachers provided when they dramatised and interpreted texts in face-to-face class teaching and which had been missing during lockdown.

We decided therefore to explore the possible benefits of providing dramatized versions of texts in terms of improving learner engagement, focus and reading comprehension. We involved teachers and learners in creating video recordings of extracts and then monitored their impact on learners’ understanding of the texts and their levels of motivation and enjoyment.



We considered that one of the reasons why learners seemed to struggle to find joy in reading was the extent to which the practices of reading and being read to at home seem to have dramatically diminished and that this was probably in

Image of slide 1 of the lesson PowerPoint

Lesson PowerPoint: Slide 1

direct correlation with the increase of technology-based play and the rise of the social media community. When our survey was completed only 27.2% said that they were often read to as a child and very few enjoyed reading a book. The survey suggested that only 16.3 % enjoyed reading for pleasure but double that number really disliked reading and tried to avoid it where possible.

Understanding of the extracts was also an issue with 60% of learners stating that they had to read a text more than once to gain any understanding of the extracts. They were also asked if they would prefer stories and extracts to be read to them. 13.6% said ‘no’ and wanted to be completely independent with this area of their studies. However, 7% stated that they hated reading so much that they wanted it read to them, 42.7% said they would sometimes like extracts read to them and 36.3% stated that they wanted this all the time as it helped them to understand the extracts better. Please see appendix two for responses.


The findings above suggested another approach was necessary to engage GCSE English learners and we decided that we would involve staff and students in the activity of performing specific 19th century extracts. The extracts were chosen because they were previous exam extracts, texts that we knew had been popular in sessions and were part of the Pearson Edexcel Anthology. It was felt that these extracts were the most appropriate as it would help to prepare the learners for the exam. The extracts were then performed by a member of staff first and if this was deemed to be successful the Performing Arts learners were also given the opportunity to take part.

We would then see if this helped the comprehension of texts by asking the learners to watch the video and then complete a recall activity of 25 questions. Finally, the learner would be given exam style questions to answer in class to see if they had greater understanding and to ascertain if the activity had helped with the analysis and the evaluation of extracts.

The learners were asked questions along the way informally about their enjoyment and engagement and eventually they were asked formally as part of interview / open questions to get a deeper understanding of the effect of the project.

Professional Learning: Evidence of changes in teaching, learning and assessment practices

The findings of the study and the insights into the reasons why learners find it so difficult to comprehend texts have prompted the GCSE English Language team at the college to re-evaluate their methods in teaching. They plan to continue to use dramatised texts, show film clips where possible and encourage reading in sessions where appropriate and possible. Learners are often very reluctant to read aloud and suggest that this is down to anxiety regarding looking foolish in front of peers. Only around 8% suggested that they would read in class when given a survey but in practice this may be fewer. There are also very few adult learners who are confident enough to read in class and perhaps only 1 in 10 will offer. This is encouraged by tutors but it is often the tutors who read aloud and explain the text for meaning.

The learners were very complimentary about the recording of the videos and saw them as a really useful resource. 73% of the learners interviewed enjoyed having the extract performed for them. If the learner does not want to access the video resource or finds listening to the recorded performance difficult (especially when delivered remotely) due to specific needs like hearing impairments, then they still have the option to read the extract to themselves quietly or with a learning support assistant (if available). When they were asked if it helped them understand better 72.7% felt that it helped them remember the extract. One learner suggested that they did not enjoy the video but suggested ‘it helped me remember.’ Interestingly, of those asked if they would like this to continue going forward, 84.8% suggested that they would like to have these videos continued, which is a huge proportion. It is important to note, however, that the videos should not be overused as it is important to offer a range of resources and independent reading without audio support is still encouraged.

Evidence of improved collaboration and changes in organisation practices

There was very much a sense of cross college collaboration which we hope to continue as the project develops. The English and Maths department worked with the Media and the Performing Arts departments and it is hoped that more cross college projects can be undertaken as the departments all face common challenges. The reader of the first two extracts was from the Media department and was very keen to be involved. We were also able to use their technology for filming and editing to produce a more professional look. The media learners would have been much more involved if the Covid-19 pandemic had not caused so many issues.

The Performing Arts department were extremely keen to be involved and every learner produced something towards the project. Some read aloud and had their voices recorded if they were concerned about being on camera, but others created background effects and performed the extracts on stage. The Media Technician is still working on all the recordings of the extracts, so we are hopeful that we will receive finished products before the end of the year.

Evidence of improvement in learners’ achievements, retention and progression

The case studies in the appendices indicate the following benefits for learners –

  • AB was in his second year of a two year Performing Arts course and had struggled to hand in any GCSE English work in his first year but being involved in video recording process has motivated him and his behaviour has become much more positive
  • CD has a difficult home life. She found the videos extremely helpful as they brought the ‘text to life’ and ‘helped her to understand how it should sound in her head when she is reading it.’ when she is reading it.’ Her exam analysis and evaluation answers have improved greatly and she feels much less anxious about completing work in sessions. She is set to pass GCSE English with a TAG grade as her work is so much improved.
  • EF is studying Animal Care and has dyslexia. Originally from Italy she also has some language comprehension difficulties and the recordings helped her to understand ‘the correct tones’ and that this helped ‘entertain and give emotion’
  • GH is currently in her first year at college studying Childcare Level 3. She says she really enjoyed watching the recordings of the extracts as they really helped her to ‘understand’ all the ‘words that are different to the ones we use now’, putting them into context for her and helping her analyse them better.

Learning from this project

The project has really brought life into the GCSE English department and will be the basis for improvements going forward. The pandemic has challenged the college to use technology in ways we never had explored before. The development and the use of extracts were an essential part of these changes and we realised high quality video recording needed to be prioritised to engage learners who would otherwise see through something that did not look professional. This focus on quality needs to be continued and carefully planned to ensure the resource is fit for purpose. We also learned early on that it is not a mode of delivery that suits all learners. The learners need to be fully prepared for the session with a paper copy to hand so that they can follow along with their own extract. This was especially important for those learners who have a hearing impairment. We had not anticipated this in our planning and it was an oversight as some learners reported being stressed and anxious when they could not hear the video. This was soon resolved. The learners in question were asked if they would prefer not to have the video at all, but they enjoyed the drama of it and as long as they had their extract to follow through as it was being read, they wanted to keep the videos.

To encourage and motivate GCSE resit learners to read, creative and active approaches are needed in the classroom and this only doubles in importance when they are learning remotely. The texts do, we found, need to be read by a variety of voices and some learners complained about the man’s voice in the first 2 videos. They suggested that he had a monotone delivery and they wanted more intonation. They wanted a range of readers to keep them engaged and inspired to read.

Image of slide 2 of the lesson PowerPoint

Lesson PowerPoint: Slide 2

We found that when a text is dramatised the recall of the events is far greater as the extracts are brought to life for the learner. In the recall activities with the text alone learners would on average give the correct answers for about a third of the questions but this increased to 100% for most learners when the text was dramatised,. This subsequently made answering exam style questions easier as they became more familiar with the text. As the extract was read, they were also able to hear when the tension or action was building which made analysis and evaluation better.

As a result of what we’ve learned on the project, we will –

  • continue to work collaboratively with our Media and Performing Arts colleagues to produce high quality dramatised recordings
  • engage as many learners as possible in making recordings so that they are actively processing the language in use
  • use the recordings to engage and motivate students in preparation for the ongoing challenge of analysing 19th ct texts
  • continue to explore recall activities as the start of a phased and graded approach to tackling exam questions
  • look for more opportunities for cross college collaboration as they reveal the common challenges that we all encounter