New to teaching LAMDA? Gabi Maddocks, published LAMDA expert, teacher, actor, director, writer and PerformingArtsTutor.com member, shares insight into how to best approach LAMDA exams and shares some great insider tips!
Gabi spent three years at Cambridge University. In between acting in and directing plays and musicals, she even managed to squeeze in a few lectures. She left in 1997 with a 2:1 in Natural Sciences. After Cambridge, Gabi did postgraduate training as an actress at Drama Studio London. Her career history is a patchwork of drama and teaching, often at the same time.
In 2008 Gabi established The Playing Space and now enters nearly 300 students for LAMDA Exams every year, ranging in age from 4 to adult, and across all the different subjects in the syllabus. Now Gabi divides her time between teaching drama, training teachers, publishing teaching resource books and directing shows. Her next show is Mirrors, at the Leicester Square Theatre in March/April.
Preparing students for speech and drama examinations for the first time can be a daunting process. There are three accredited boards to choose from: LAMDA, Trinity and New Era. I’ll be focusing on LAMDA exams in this post, as this is where my experience lies, but it’s worth checking out the syllabus for the other boards as well, especially if you’re new to the area. One of the main advantages of LAMDA over the other boards is that it is the most well-known by parents and schools, so it’s more likely to get your phone ringing. One of the main disadvantages is the length of time it takes for the results to come through (up to 6 weeks compared to a matter of days with the other boards).
So, the first thing you need to do as a new teacher is get copies of the syllabus for the exams you wish to teach. With LAMDA examinations you have the following options:
- Introductory Exams – if you are teaching children as young as 5, then these are the exams you will focus on.
- Communications Exams – these exams are for children aged 8 and above. These exams focus on skills such as verse-speaking, sight-reading, prose reading and public speaking.
- Performance Exams – also for children aged 8 and above. These exams focus on skills such as acting, devising and miming.
- Musical Theatre
- Group Exams (NB These are not accredited as children are assessed as a group rather than as individuals)
For some teachers, especially those that have experience taking LAMDA Exams themselves as children, the syllabus will be all they need in order to get going and start preparing their students. But for many new teachers the syllabus can be confusing and more support is needed. This can be found in a variety of ways:
- LAMDA Examinations offer training courses for teachers every Summer. Contact them to ask to join their mailing list, and you can find out more here.
- There are some really great Facebook groups. I recommend “LAMDA Teachers Sharing Forum” and “Interested in Acting, Drama and Musical Theatre Examinations”. If you have a question on the syllabus, post in one of these groups and you will usually get a prompt and well-informed answer from one of the more experienced members.
- I run training courses for new teachers at The Playing Space, in North London, twice a year. You can find out more information about our Spring Courses here.
- Find a local experienced LAMDA teacher and offer to work for them as a volunteer, or teaching assistant, enabling you to gain experience and skills. You can find a list of LAMDA teachers here.
- The Playing Space has published a really useful teaching guide that covers all the Level One Acting Exam pieces. You can read the glowing reviews, find out more, and order a copy here. (Full disclosure – The Playing Space is my drama school!)
When you feel ready to put your new information and skills into practice the next step is to find some students! If you are already running a Stage School then you have a prime audience of willing and eager students – you might want to run a special LAMDA group, or spend one term focusing on exam work with everyone. Just be warned: you can’t teach LAMDA in large groups (unless you are working towards a group exam). Many LAMDA teachers work with individual students or pairs, either at their own home or by traveling to their homes. You can try and generate leads by running free workshops in local schools and handing out your flyers, and by posting your details on the LAMDA List of Teachers mentioned previously (there is a £24 annual fee). You can also approach local schools to find out if they already have an in-house LAMDA teacher, and if not whether they would be interested in having one!
For advice on what to charge in your area, I would contact the Society of Speech and Drama Teachers. This is also a great organization to join if you plan to continue working in this area – they offer excellent advice and run annual training sessions to improve and expand your skills.