Published on: 26 June 2013

Jack’s Island, the story of a 10-year-old boy living on Rottnest Island during World War II, was the focus of this year’s Year 5 Black Swan State Theatre Company experience during Term 2. Christ Church was the first WA school to take part in the company’s Literacy through Drama program, which began in 2012.

Actress and tutor Caitlin Beresford-Ord led the three, half-day workshops for each class, which were an exploration of the issues and themes of the Norman Jorgensen book through drama and movement. Year 5 teacher Sally MacKinnon said Jack’s Island was a hit with the boys. “The boys had not read the book so they were very excited to learn more and more of the plot each workshop,” Mrs MacKinnon said.

“The boys liked the predominantly boy and male characters because they related to the language boys used and the adventures that 10-year-olds like to get up to. The war aspect was also exciting.”

Mrs MacKinnon said Caitlin, who has been working with Christ Church students for the past three years, knew what worked for boys. She said she was clever in the way she structured the program because she only gave enough information for the boys to learn about the characters while also leaving them in suspense. At the end of the workshops, they were not told the ending of the novel and will start reading the text in Term 3 and in Term 4, go on an excursion to Rottnest to retrace specific scenes from the novel.

“It is a very unique program that keeps getting better each year with Caitlin tailoring the activities to what works for boys,” Mrs MacKinnon said. “She also encourages them to think and move in a creative way to study a text that would otherwise be taught in a more structured way within the classroom.

“It is also wonderful how the program seems to extract, from some boys, a creative side that I didn’t know existed. It makes me realise how powerful drama is in terms of pushing some personalities out of their comfort zone to find a confident and expressive side that is not always evident in the normal classroom learning environment.”