Lesson Plan: Listening + Method Acting: readiness

 

Have you ever felt like you understand a situation around you, but you just have a hard time responding to that stimulus immediately?

Maybe it’s in the middle of an argument and you can only think of a come back two hours later, or perhaps your interlocutor reacts unexpectedly and leaves you speechless.

I guess we’ve all been there.

In order to avoid that from happening once again, we could draw some help from the creator of Method Acting, Konstantin Stanislavski. But this time, we could focus on his concept of readiness and how it can aid spoken communication through active listening.

Why use Stanislavski’s readiness concept into Active Listening?

The imagination that leads to faith begins at the very moment the actors allow themselves to be available for any kind of stimuli the environment might present. By developing a sense of readiness in his actors, Stanislavski aimed at fostering acceptance of external stimuli. This technique demands from the actor a volatile, agile and alert mind, which is capable to respond to these stimuli through action, whether physical or verbal. And that is exactly the link between acting and ELT: attempting to develop the learner’s listening so that skills such as perceiving, analyzing and responding to auditory stimuli can be enhanced.

 

This activity in particular intends to create a sense of emergency that leads to deep focus and readiness. Just like during rehearsals for an actor, the students are faced with a situation which demands high levels of attention, language recollection and creativity and allows them to let the target language sink in through active listening and drilling.

I hope you have fun with this one as well!


Listening + Method Acting: readiness

Type: Listening

Age: Young adults and Adults

Language level: A2-C1

Aims: Actively involve learners in the listening process; promote sense of readiness to perceive, analyze and respond to auditory stimuli; encourage metacognition development.

Interaction Pattern: Whole group, pair work, group work, individual work.

Material: Course book; recording; audio player; white board or similar.

Timing: 60 min (full lesson)


Procedure:

1. Before listening, activate learners’ schemata by discussing the overall situation in which the speakers will be in. You could come up with questions or use the ones in the ‘pre-listening section’ in the course book you usually follow. Ask follow up questions to personalize the situation and elicit as much language as possible such as: ‘What would you say in this situation?’; ‘What do you expect the other person will reply to you?’.

 

2. Tell learners they are going to listen to a conversation, but you will pause the recording a few times. Every time you pause, they will be given thirty seconds to write down what they believe the next sentence will be. (Tip: depending on your class goal, pause right before the target language for that class is used in order to draw extra attention to it). Tell students they are also supposed to check if their predictions were correct when you continue playing the recording. Play recording, stopping before language you would like them to focus on (give learners enough time during pauses).

 

3. Ask learners to compare in pairs what they had predicted and what was actually said. Write on the board: ‘Can the sentences you predicted actually be part of this conversation?’; ‘Why do you think the speakers decided to use these words/sentences to continue the conversation?’; ‘What else could they have said?’. Learners discuss in pairs.

 

4. Tell learners they will listen to the conversation again and you will stop the recording at the exact same parts. However, this time, instead of writing down predictions, they should speak up what comes next. Play recording, stopping before language you would like them to focus on. Learners speak in unison during pauses. Play as many times as needed until most learners remember the target language by memory.

 

5. Assign learners a few questions to develop metacognition of their listening skills, such as: ‘What were you listening to?’; ‘What helped you to understand the text?’; ‘What prevented you from getting the correct answer?’; ‘What did you do to understand as much of the text as possible and remember it afterwards?’. Give learners a few minutes to reflect on their own listening processes. Afterwards, divide learners in small groups and have them share and discuss their findings with their peers.


If you would like to have this lesson plan as a PDF, click here


 

Lesson Plan: Listening + Method Acting: faith

Method acting

Many have heard this term but few outside the Drama field know what it actually stands for. Method Acting is the title given to the acting methodology created by Konstantin Stanislavski, the Russian director who is still one of the most influent thinkers and practitioners of the dramatic arts until this day. It is a rigorous system, which intends to guide actors through their craft from character-building, to rehearsals and performance.

Among many crucial topics covered in the Method, one can be particularly interesting for language teachers, especially when it comes to listening instruction: the concept of faith.

 

Truth on the stage is whatever we can believe in with sincerity, whether in ourselves or in our colleagues

Stanislavski, K.

 

For Stanislavski, communication can only be truthful, meaningful and purposeful on stage if the actors truly believe – or have faith – that what is happening at that moment between them is real. And this concept can be very useful to help our usually forced, unnatural and artificial listening classes into something students can actually relate to, actively.

Why use Stanislavski’s faith concept into Active Listening?

By inviting learners to be participants in the conversation they are about to hear, not only is their schemata activated but also their faith in its reality developed. It gives them purpose to listen and enhances the sense of usefulness and meaningfulness about the target language. Instead of passively eavesdropping on the speakers, students are invited to actively ‘be in the conversation’ with them. It also stimulates their promptitude abilities to respond or react to what is listened to at the time of speech, as they would have to do in real life.

 

Thinking about these benefits and applications into modern listening instruction, I thought about a possible lesson plan combining these two worlds and you can find it below. Hope you all enjoy and test it!

And, as usual, have fun with the games!!!


Listening + Method Acting: faith

Type: Listening

Age: Young adults and Adults

Language level: A2-C1

Aims: Actively involve learners in the listening process; Promote sense of belief (faith) that the situation portrayed in the recording is personally relevant, useful and meaningful to learners; Develop skills such as listening for gist, listening for detail, promptitude to react or respond to interlocutor.

Interaction Pattern: Whole group, pair work, group work, individual work.

Material: Cards with background information about speakers; Course book; Recording; Audio player; White board or similar

Timing: 60 min (full lesson)


 

Procedure:

1. Before listening, distribute cards to learners describing the situation divided in different points of view. For example, if there are two people talking, half of the learners receive a card describing background information and motivation of speaker A, while the other half receives cards with similar information, but about speaker B.

 

2. Divide learners in two groups, according to the character they received. Tell students they ARE these characters now. Assign some questions to get them emotionally involved, such as: ‘Where are you?’; ‘Why do you want to have this conversation?’; ‘Why are you going to talk to THIS particular person?’; ‘Which pieces of information do you expect to get from the other person?’. Have learners discuss their motivations in groups.

 

3. Tell learners they will listen to the conversation and their task is to check if the motivations they predicted are the same in the conversation. Play the recording. Ask for interpretations from the whole class. Ask follow up questions such as: ‘So where are you, actually?’; ‘Why did you choose to talk to this person really?’; ‘What is your real motivation to have this conversation?’.

 

4. Assign first question to develop listening for gist. You could come up with one or use the one in the course book you usually follow. Play the recording. Check answer. Ask follow up questions such as: ‘What was you overall intention while speaking to this person?’; ‘Were you satisfied with the result of your interaction with this person? Why?’.

 

5. Assign other tasks to develop listening for specific information. You could come up with some or use the ones in the course book you usually follow. Play the recording as many times as necessary. Learners compare answers in pairs, justifying it. Check answers. Ask follow up questions such as: ‘What motivated you to say ___?’; ‘Why did you use the word /form ____ ?’.

 

6. After listening, assign tasks that promote interaction between learners and characters, such as: creating a script with an alternate ending, based on the motivation and language learners believe would be more suitable and realistic for this situation; reporting the conversation based on the character’s point of view (gossip to a third party).


If you would like this lesson plan as a PDF, click here


 

Lesson Plan: Storytelling – Listen, judge, repeat – Vocabulary / Function practice

chinesewhispers1

Stories.

So much of what we speak daily consists of reporting facts. Gossip, news, jokes, catching up, recollecting a fact, explaining causes of injuries to a doctor, reporting past procedures, lying. So much language use devoted to narrating fiction or facts. Yet, classrooms still lack storytelling time and teachers still see it as a distraction or time filler.

We often ask students how their weeks went as they enter the classroom, although seldom do we truly focus on the language being produced at that point. Or worse, too much focus on form rather than meaning could inhibit students from sharing future personal experiences and that could end up damaging rapport.

 

Teacher: So how was your weekend?

Student: My dog die.

Teacher: DIED. Can you repeat?

Student: (sobbing) My dog died.

 

Storytelling is part of being human. Also, it is a great tool to enable students to connect to their peers and teachers while practicing the target language. In expressing their personal views and experiences freely and feeling their voice is truly being heard, they allow themselves to strengthen bonds and untie any emotional knots that might be sabotaging their language acquisition process.

I have recently taken part in a workshop entitled ‘Personal and creative storytelling: telling our stories’ given by David Heathfield. Apart from proposing a few activities to use storytelling in ELT, he also pointed out a few academic findings regarding the effects of storytelling in our brain.

One of the most interesting experiments in order to investigate what happens to the brain when there is an exchange of personal stories is called neural coupling. Research on the issue has found that the same areas of the brain of the listener and the speaker light up, almost at the same time, when a story is being told. As if the listener’s brain would ‘guess’ where the story will go as the speaker tells it.

brain

This leads to building bonds and confidence through sharing a narrative. Steven Pinker, a sociobiologist heavily influenced by Chomsky, affirms that:

“The areas of the brain that processes certain senses are activated though being engrossed in a compelling narrative.” PINKER, 2007.

 

One of the storytelling activities in the workshop really stuck with me for the many benefits that may arise from including it in an ELT lesson. It has the power to foster better rapport among students due to the fact that they have to, literally, put themselves in their colleagues’ place. Additionally, it provides them with the opportunity to explore not only verbal, but also physical language to convey their message. Also, it might help students with short attention spans to focus through observing their colleagues globally, not just focusing on what they are saying, but also what they are doing. Finally, it ensures enough time for students to play with the target language as they please, making attempts at including it in their everyday linguistic repertoire in a safe environment.

Therefore, after considering these many upsides to this activity, I have elaborated a lesson plan inspired by it and I hope you can enjoy and apply these techniques in your classrooms too.

Enjoy and, as usual, have fun with the games.

 


Drama Game: Storytelling: Listen, judge, repeat– Vocabulary/Function freer practice

 

Type: Vocabulary / Function practice

Age: Young adults and Adults

Language level: A2-C1

Aim: Create a social bond and practice target vocabulary / function freely

Interaction Pattern: trios

Material: none

Timing: 20-25 min


The suggestion here is to insert this storytelling activity after you have already presented and worked on the target language in a very controlled way. Therefore, students should be aware of what the target language is, how to use it (form) and when to use it (meaning). Only then would you ask them to attempt using it in a freer manner, combining it with personal memories or creating a narrative with it.

So the recommendation would be to assign this task at the last half an hour of the lesson in which you introduced the topic or as a reviewing activity at the beginning of the following lesson. In the first scenario, it would be used more quickly as freer practice; in the second, you could devote a full lesson just for the practice of the target language, providing late correction of what was performed during the storytelling.

 

Procedure:

Set the task carefully and make sure students understand what each member of the team is supposed to do: Tell your students they are going to be in trios and one of them will tell the others a story; they should decide who will tell the story first, who will listen and who is the judge; the person who tells the story has to use the language learned in the lesson and tell a story (real or not) in a very interesting manner; the listener has to pay close attention and look for mannerisms, mimics, intonation, tone of voice AND content. The listener will have to retell the story AS THEIR PARTNER, with the same mannerisms, mimics, intonation, tone of voice AND exact content; the judge observes everything and gives feedback in the end on vocabulary use and fluency to the storyteller and on retelling the story accurately to the listener.

Tips for giving instructions:

To make sure students really understood the task and know exactly what they are expected to do, you should use Instruction Check Questions, or ICQs. You should prepare them beforehand baring in mind the difficulties that may arise in comprehending the procedures to be followed. For more on the topic, here are a few links to help you:

https://eltstew.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/here’s-a-blog-about-task-checking/

http://efl-resource.com/icqs-making-sure-your-students-know-what-to-do/

 

Set the objectives carefully and make sure students understand WHY they are to perform this task: Tell your students the objective of the storyteller is to practice the language learned in class and improve their fluency; the objective of the listener is to practice retelling stories they have heard and improve their language use (spoken and physical); the objective of the judge is to observe if the other people in the group followed the instructions thoroughly and practice giving constructive feedback.

Why talking about goals?

Especially when proposing activities that are not common place in ELT – such as this – it is advisable to make sure students know the reason they are being asked to perform the task. In other words, be prepared to answer questions such as: why in hell should they play games in class? How can any of this help me show my boss the English course he is paying for is bringing me results?

Students are a lot more receptive to new classroom practices if they comprehend the outcomes expected from using these tools for language learning. You will not have to explain the objectives every time. Nevertheless, you ought to at least for the first time you introduce an unusual activity.

 

Students take turns performing their tasks: first the storyteller tells the story; second, the listener reenacts it; third, the judge gives the previous two feedback on both their performances.

Now, students change roles: storytellers are now judges, listeners are now storytellers and judges are now listeners. Repeat all procedures.

Once more students change roles, taking the ones they haven’t performed yet.

Tip:

While students perform the task, you can monitor their work and take notes on ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’: ‘the good’ are examples of successful use of the target language; ‘the bad’ are examples of language that is not necessarily wrong, but can be improved; ‘the ugly’ are examples of misusage of the target language that should be corrected. You could use these notes to make an extra reference sheet for the following class and hand it out to students or you could provide them with a late correction activity as a follow up to the storytelling.

 

As students finish the task, praise them on their accomplishments, point out what has to be worked on and ask them for feedback on their production during the activity. Alternatively, you may ask them how they FELT during the activity and how they think it helped them practice the language.

Ice breaker – Word Cloud

First impressions.

Some might say they can define the whole nature of a relationship.

So how to facilitate student-student or teacher-students first impressions to be favourable and make sure it stands as a solid foundation for further positive rapport in the classes to come?

As part of classroom management, establishing rapport and dealing with different cultures and moods in the classroom are always a challenge.

One suggestion is to initiate every course with an ice breaker and keep stimulating students to create and strengthen a social bond between the whole class (teacher included) throughout the course.

This does not mean everyone has to become best friends, or even keep in touch outside the classroom.

What is key here is to promote rapport via respect of each other’s individuality – which can be fostered by simply having students not hearing, but truly listening to each other and civilly handling differences in the classroom.

Sounds complicated?

Do not fret though, my friends. The games are here for you.

Today’s post is a very special ice breaker that not only has a social aspect to it, but can also help you to check language level placement. Making your life easier by killing two birds with one stone: do you like the sound of that? Me too.


Drama Game: Word Cloud– Ice Breaker

Type: Ice breaker

Age: all

Language level: all

Aim: Create a social bond and check level placement

Interaction Pattern: individual / whole class

Material: Board, A4 paper

Timing: 10-15 min (depending on size of the group)


Procedure:

 

Draw a cloud almost as big as your whiteboard and write some words (names, places, occupations…) or numbers that reflect truths about you. However, don’t write sentences. Just leave all of those scattered pieces of information on the board for students to see once they enter the classroom.

 

lousa.001

 

Tip:

Have the word cloud drawn beforehand, so that you don’t waste class time and also when students arrive they can be curious about what’s on the board.

 

Greet students and welcome them to their new English course.

Tell them that before starting, you should get to know each other and this is the chance they have to meet you.

Point out that on the board there are some pieces of information about you. However, you are not going to tell them what they are. THEY should ask you questions and the answers should be the words they see. They cannot use the words on the board, though.

E.g.: “What do you do?” is a valid question and the answer is on the board (teacher). Whereas “Who are Tania and Roberto?” is not a valid question. They could ask “What are your parents’ names?”, for example.

 

Tip:

Write information on the board according to questions you expect students to know by now. Bear in mind their language level and age when thinking about what you will present them with. Also, make the range of information wide enough so that students have an idea of who you are and what you stand for.

Remember: you can only ask for what you have.

 

Students take turns asking questions while you answer ALL of them.

Cross out the words and numbers they ‘get it right’ from the board until they have guessed all of them.

After it is over, invite them to draw their own word clouds on an A4 sheet of paper. Give them a few minutes for that.

Depending on the size of the group, decide if you will ask every student to show their cloud and have the whole group play the game together or divide them in smaller groups. If you go for smaller groups, make sure you ask them to report information they found out about their colleagues with the rest of the class in the end.


This activity is multifaceted due to the fact that you are not only giving your students the opportunity to review vocabulary and structure they have previously learned, you are also creating a personal bond with them. All of this while you assess their use of language through question formation.

And it’s fun, of course!

Lesson Plan – Drama Games on TV

Whose line

 

Television: this magical light box that has so many times kept me company during those lonely only-child afternoons. We have been buddies for a long time now.

Numerous hours have I spent zapping channels in search of something fun and entertaining to watch.

And it was during those adolescent times that I discovered that those games I used to play at theatre class also existed in the magic box!

Shows like ‘Whose line is it anyway’ were part of my weekly schedule, never ever missing an episode.

Little did I know that not long after, all those goofy games would become part of my very own weaponry in the classroom.

Nowadays drama games are largely used on TV shows for pure entertainment. However, they come directly from very serious theatrical techniques and can surely be applied for educational purposes as well.

Below are some examples of classic and more recent shows displaying very famous drama games. I tried to adapt them into content-oriented lesson plans that can be applied in language learning.

I hope you can be inspired to adapt more games you see on your day-to-day lives for ELT.

As usual, enjoy it and have fun with the games!

 


 

Drama Game: Word Sneak – Vocabulary practice

 

 

Type:  Vocabulary Practice

Age: from teens up

Language level: all

Aim: Controlled practice of specific vocabulary

Interaction Pattern: pair work

Material: Sentences / words written on paper slips

Timing: 5-7 min


Procedure:

Tell your students that they will play a game to practice what they have just learned.

 

Tip:

Since the main goal here is for this game to be played as controlled practice, it would be a good idea to propose it right after vocabulary analysis.

 

Rearrange students in pairs and give each pair a stack of slips of paper with the language you want them to practice.

 

Tip:

Some ideas are:

Linkers (First, Then, Consequently, As a result, Nevertheless, ect…)

Expressions for agreeing and disagreeing (I see eye to eye with you, I see it differently, etc…)

Expressions for giving opinion (I think, I believe, I suppose, To my mind, etc…)

Vocabulary elevation (wealthy instead of rich, etc…) Words taken from a specifically difficult text students have just read

 

Tell students these words/sentences have to be used secretly in the middle of the conversation they will have with their partner.

As soon as they use one word/sentence, they have to discard the paper and get another one from the stack. The student that uses the last paper ‘wins’.

Write on the board a topic for the whole class to start their conversation.

 

lousa10

 

Don’t forget to link this topic to the activities done before in class and also to the language you want them to practice.

 

Tip:

Remember that on the show, Jimmy Fallon is a comedian and his objective is to be as absurd as possible.

Your objective is different: it’s to get students using those words in semi-spontaneous spoken discourse. The game may result in laughs in the classroom, but that’s not the goal. Depending on the topic and the language you provide your students, the outcome can be very serious meaningful exchange of ideas.

 

Walk around the class as take notes as students perform the activity. Provide help if necessary, but in general let them do most of the talking.

Since this is controlled practice, take a few minutes in the end to promote correction with the whole class based on your notes in order to move on to your next activity more smoothly.


 

Drama Game: Heads up – Relative Clauses

 

 

Type:  Grammar Practice

Age: all

Language level: all

Aim: Controlled practice of relative clauses

Interaction Pattern: pair work or group work

Material: Flashcards with faces and names of famous people

Timing: 5-7 min


Procedure:

Tell your students that they will play a game to practice what they have just learned.

 

Tip:

Since the main goal here is for this game to be played as controlled practice, it would be a good idea to propose it right after grammar analysis.

 

Rearrange students in pairs or in 2 large groups and hand them over some flashcards with names and faces of famous people.

Place all flashcards face down so no one sees who are on them.

 

Tip:

If you choose pairwork, students will have more chance to practice individually, but it’s harder for you to monitor their production.If you choose 2 large groups against each other, students will have less individual talking time, however you can supervise more thoroughly.

Choose either one or the other depending on what is better for them at that moment: a bit freer practice (if they have already gotten the hang of relative clauses) or more controlled practice (if they are still struggling with using the structure properly).

 

Tell students one member of each group will have to get a flashcard without looking and placing it over their head.

Heads Up

 

Then, their partner/people from the other group should describe who that person is using relative clauses. (e.g. This is someone who….. He was in a movie which…. He came from a place where…. etc.)

 

 

Tip:

If you feel your students are not yet ready to produce such complex sentences by themselves, you can provide them with some models on the board.

lousa11

 

 

Walk around the class as take notes as students perform the activity. Provide help if necessary, but in general let them do most of the talking.

 

Since this is controlled practice, take a few minutes in the end to promote correction with the whole class based on your notes in order to move on to your next activity more smoothly.


Drama Game: Scenes from a hat – Functions practice

 

 

Type:  Functions Practice

Age: all

Language level: all

Aim: Freer practice of specific functions

Interaction Pattern: group work

Material: Slips of paper with situations

Timing: 5-7 min


Procedure:

Tell your students that they will play a game to practice the topic they have just learned.

 

Tip:

Since the main goal here is for this game to be played as freer practice, it would be a good idea to propose it at the very end of the class. This is a good way to wrap up all the content of the class in one single activity.

 

Rearrange students in 2 large groups to compete against each other and have them stand up.

Tell them you have a few cards with situations on them. All the situations have to do with what they learned and they are expected to use the language seen this class.

Groups take turns acting out the situations given. Students can decide spontaneously if they will act that situation by themselves or with in unison.

Present a situation in which the function you want them to practice is needed and ask students to respond to it.

Each group has the chance to act the situation once.

After each group has presented their scene using the functions, you ask collectively which scene they think used better language.

Repeat the procedure as many times as you have cards and time to do so.

Help students notice that they were able to use the language learned in a ‘more real’ way.

Lesson Plan – Wordganize – Grammar analysis

wordganize

How can we get students to notice and analyze new grammar structures?

Writing model sentences on the board, using colour coding, asking them to read an example from the textbook… We’ve all done that.

 

How about asking students to BE the words and try to organize themselves into a sentence?

That’s Wordganize, a fun and effective way to promote active analysis of a grammar structure while fostering group integration, the development of managing skills, real life argumentation and the increase of STT (student talking time) during new language exposition.

It can be used to analyze all sorts of grammar points, from A1 to C2. It is very versatile and gets students moving a little, which is a plus for days in which we have to provide too much input.

As usual, I hope you and your students can benefit from this different way to discover new structures.

Enjoy it and have fun with the games!


Drama Game: Wordganize – Grammar analysis

 

Type: Grammar analysis

Age: all

Language level: all

Aim: Notice and analyze new structures

Interaction Pattern: group work

Material: Words written on paper slips

Timing: 5-7 min


Procedure:

Since I am not familiar with the kind of method every reader of this post follows in class, this post was designed to follow the most common formats of language input that can be found in world renowned textbooks, in which language analysis comes after a brief discussion on the topic and sometimes a passive input of the language to be analyzed in the form of a written or spoken text.

After providing students with some passive input of the topic in the form of a reading or listening activity, tell students they will try to remember a few sentences from the text.

The idea here is to prepare in advance sentences students have just been exposed to during the reading/listening activity, cut the sentence into words or chunks and give each student a piece.

Ask them to close their books and stand up in a line.

Hand out words to each student.  They have to either hold the word, clip it to their clothes or stick it to their foreheads – depends on how outgoing your students are.

While they get their words, write on the board some model sentences to help them get through the next phase of the game – since this is not the aim of the activity and they shouldn’t focus on THIS language, but the one on the sentence they have to build.

lousa9

Tell students they ARE these words now.

They have to organize themselves into a sentence and you CANNOT help.

They can use the language on the board to help organize themselves.

When they think the sentence is correct, they can call you to check it.

Tip:

If you teach in a small classroom or you have a group that is not really into getting up and moving around, you can ask them to switch places, sitting in the ‘right order’. Another variation is for them to move the pieces of paper around, and hold them up for everyone to see.

Also, if you have few students in class, you can give them either two words per student, or cut the sentence in chucks rather than individual words.

Students start organizing themselves as a group.

At this point, usually students with leadership-inclined personalities will probably take the role of managers.

Observe and interfere as little as possible.

At the end, ask CCQs (Concept Check Questions) to the whole group to raise awareness of the structure you want them to focus on.

(If you are not familiar with CCQs, click here for more information)

Tip:

Make sure you prepare your CCQs in advance. It is quite challenging to attempt to formulate effective ones on the spot, at least I think so.

You can repeat this game two or three times, asking students to Wordganize themselves into different sentences demonstrating the same grammar topic to provide more practice and cater for students that might not get the idea the first time around.

At the end of this game followed by well-designed CCQs, students should be prepared for controlled and freer practice.


Wordganize is a way to learn a structure through concrete and active means and enables students to get a hold of their own acquisition. All followed by the guidance of the teacher in the form of pre-designed CCQs.

It’s quite effective and fun.

Review and Lesson Plan – Social activism at school

What should we teach our students?

Textbook content? Structure? Pronunciation? Or could we take more risks and include topics related to critical thinking, such as social activism?

To the Master in Education Nasy Inthisone Pfanner, “our job is not only to teach grammar, vocabulary and literature but also to prepare pupils for the real world”. The Austria-based teacher depicted this idea in an article published this month on Voices magazine – the bi-monthly newsletter of IATEFL – entitled ‘Social activism at school’.

In the article, she exposes how she went about implementing a social activism activity with her students, aged between 12 and 13. The teacher encouraged students to think about rules and social behavior that they considered unjust or needed to be changed in order for the world to be a better place. After leaving her students intrigued, she assigned the task as follows:

“For individual homework, they had to make a poster about an issue they were interested in, get signatures from at least ten people (but not someone from our class) in support of the cause, and give a brief presentation in class. (…) As a class, we then discussed what they could do to make the world a better place.”

Nasy Inthisone Pfanner

 

She also suggests a few vocabulary items to be taught before assigning the task, such as ‘injustice’, ‘resistance’, ‘politics’, ‘profit’, ‘public opinion’, ‘strike’, ‘change’, ‘activist’, ‘corruption’ and ‘commonsense’. These could be presented before the whole debate begins, as a means to trigger students’ curiosity and also engage them..

The tasks elaborated by her promoted improvement not only in the use of the language – focusing on structure, vocabulary, writing, speaking and listening – but also involved students in their community, facilitating a more natural use of the language as a tool to communicate thoughts and ideas, instead of mere second language classroom practice.

Pfanner does not mention drama games in her article, however I thought it would be a perfect match if some games were incorporated as the different phases of the activity unveil. Below is how I would go about the whole thing with either teenagers or adults. (I wouldn’t recommend this project for young learners since the concepts dealt with are far too abstract for them. Perhaps I can think of a young learners adaptation for this activity and post it later)

 


Drama Project: Social Activism

 

Type: Project

Age: Teenagers and Adults

Language level: A2 on

Aim: Promote real-life language production through social activism and enable students to think critically about their environment

Interaction Pattern: group work

Material: Video, Paper, Candy (Red, blue and yellow)

Timing: 15-20 min for each phase / 5 weeks in total


Procedure:

This project is designed to last 5 weeks and is going to be divided as such in this lesson plan.

 

Week 1

Tell students you are going to work on a long-term project.

Today they will watch a video and learn new words and expressions about what is it is.

Ask students to take notes of what they see – people, places, actions – as they watch the video.

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Show students the following video about modern social activism.

 

Tip:

It is possible to turn English subtitles on for this video on Youtube. Maybe it would be a good idea, especially for lower levels, since the objective is not to explore deeply the language in the video, but engage students in the topic.

After the video is over, have students compare with other students the words they have.

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Ask students to report their findings to you and write on the board all the words they came up with.

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Tell students they will play a game in groups. Either you assign them, or they arrange themselves in groups.

Also, write in bulk letters ‘Social Activism reminds me of____’.

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In the groups, students should take turns saying ‘Social Activism reminds me of____’ and add a word. They can use the words on the board (elicited from the video) to help. The first student should say Social Activism reminds me of + his word. The second student should say Social Activism reminds me of + first student’s word + new word. Third student should say Social Activism reminds me of + first student’s word + second student’s word + new word. And so on.

The objective is for students to drill the words in a lively way through a memory chain game.

Have students play for around 3 minutes, then stop them.

Elicit some of the ideas that arose that are different from the ones on the board.

Tell student the project is going to be about social activism.

Set the task for the next week: students should write a paragraph explaining what social activism is in their opinion.

They will have to present it in class, so they have to make their presentation interesting by either using audiovisual or props.

Tip:

If you have large groups, presentations could be in pairs, to take less time.

 

Week 2

As a warm up and vocabulary review for the activity, play paper balls with the words and expressions students came up with the previous week.

(If you don’t know how to play paper balls, click here for a full lesson plan)

Divide students in groups.

Tip:

Try mixing your students and not letting them always group up with the same people. This way, your group should be more integrated and students will have the opportunity to be in contact with different opinions and values in the classroom, as they will in the real world.

Tell students that during the presentations, each group will have to come up with a question to each presenter. Groups write the questions during the presentations and ask them right after the presenter is over.

Tip:

This practice keeps students alert and focused on the presentations. Also, Viola Spolin always affirmed that when everyone – presenters and audience – have a clear task to perform, it is easier to keep focus and enhance productivity in drama. For more on Viola Spolin, click here.

One by one, students present their ideas of social activism,

The groups decide whose question is the best to be asked.

The presenter is asked one question per group and a brief loose debate is held after each of them.

Tip:

In order not to interfere with fluency and engagement, do not correct them at this point. Take notes and save them for later correction with the whole group.

After all of the students have presented and all discussions were held, have a brief correction moment with them.

Ask students to give you examples of causes in their community that could be benefited from social activism.

Elicit from the whole class.

Tell students this is their task for next week: think about something that is unfair or has to be changed in their community. Write a paragraph explaining what the cause is and why it is important to act on it.

 

Week 3

As a warm up and review, play Candy Colours using the following sentences for each colour

(If you are not familiar with this game, click here for a description):

  • Red – What is Social Activism in your opinion?
  • Blue – How can people fight for a cause?
  • Yellow – What can people fight for? What are the most popular causes in your opinion?

Arrange students in groups.

Have them get as much candy as they want.

Assign 3 minutes for the discussion.

Tip:

In order not to interfere with fluency and engagement, do not correct them at this point. Take notes and save them for later correction with the whole group.

After the time is up, have a brief correction moment with students.

Tell students this is the moment they will present their paragraphs about what is unfair or needs to be changed in their community.

Have the students show you briefly their paragraphs individually while the others rehearse their presentation. When they show it to you, correct it on the spot.

Tip:

The correction of the paragraph in this case is to avoid students to fossilize mistakes in the next activity, in which they will have to repeat themselves a lot.

Ask students to sit or stand in a circle. They will play Gossip.

(If you don’t know how to play this game, click here for a full lesson plan)

Students will ask partner 1 ‘What is unfair or has to be changed in your community?’, ‘Why does this situation needs to change in your opinion?’.

Students gossip to partner 2 the information received from partner one.

Walk around and help them express their ideas if needed.

In the end of the activity, elicit from the whole class the causes each one is going to fight for and take notes for your own further analysis.

Write on the board and tell students that for next week they should think about an action that they can take in order to change the situation.

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Elicit from them ways activists try to change things. (Ideas are: collecting signatures for a petition, organizing a demonstration, using social media, going on a hunger strike, etc…)

For next class, students should write a paragraph saying what is the best course of action to try to change the unfair situation in their community and why.

 

Week 4

As a warm up and vocabulary review, arrange students in pairs and play Word Sneak.

(If you are not familiar with this game, click here for a description)

Tip:

Provide students with words, expressions and structures they have struggled with or that they haven’t used much during the first three phases of the project.

Ask students to look back at the three paragraphs they have written so far – explaining what social activism is in their opinion, saying what their chosen cause is and why it is important to act on it and saying what is the best course of action to try to change the unfair situation and why.

Tell them they will be given 3 minutes to assemble all of them together. Later they will present the whole project.

Assist students if they have vocabulary or presentation doubts.

Ask students to imagine they are representatives in the United Nations. Everyone in class represents a community and is responsible for listening to all presentations and deciding which causes are easily applicable.

Students have to choose half the causes in class as ‘applicable’ – if you have 10 students, 5 will be chosen; if you have large groups and 10 groups are presenting, 5 groups will be chosen.

One by one, students present and other students take notes.

Tip:

In order not to interfere with fluency and engagement, do not correct them at this point. Take notes and save them for later. Instead of correcting with the whole class, you could prepare a feedback for each student based on their production during the whole project and give it to them the next class. This could also count as their final evaluation for the project. This way, you’ll be evaluating the process, and not only the result.

At the end of all the presentations, hold a very brief vote of the easily applicable causes.

The winners get to choose other students that did not win to work with them in pairs or groups. These groups will put the proposal to practice.

Tell students they should try to follow their own courses of action and present the outcome the next class. They will have to present it in class, so they have to make their presentation interesting by either using audiovisual or props.

 

Week 5

As a warm up, play the same chain game from the first week.

Write in bulk letters ‘Social Activism reminds me of____’.

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With the whole class, students should take turns saying ‘Social Activism reminds me of____’ and add a word. The first student should say Social Activism reminds me of + his word. The second student should say Social Activism reminds me of + first student’s word + new word. Third student should say Social Activism reminds me of + first student’s word + second student’s word + new word. And so on.

Have students play for around 3 minutes, then stop them.

Tell students they will present their results now and at the end of every presentation, they should ask questions to the presenters.

Assign the presentation order.

Groups present one by one.

At the end of the presentations, conduct a brief debate.

When all the groups have already presented, hand out to each student their individual feedback.

Tip:

The feedbacks should contain three parts: praise of what was positive, correction of most common mistakes and tips on how to improve certain uses of language.

Thank students for their cooperation and praise them on the outcomes.


Well I hope you enjoyed it!

See you next time, and have fun with the games!

Lesson Plan – Paper Balls – 4 variations

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This is the full lesson plan of the game Paper Balls which was part of the great content exposed by Mary Patricia Schnueriger during the workshop Learner-tainment in Geneva. If you want more information about the workshop, click here.

Paper balls is a very lively game that can be used and adapted to cater to a plethora of teaching goals. On this post I will depict some of the uses I came up with after analyzing the original idea from the workshop.

I developed lesson plans with 4 different goals in mind: ice breaker, vocabulary review, grammar practice and fluency practice.

However, if you have found other interesting uses for this game feel free to comment below!


Drama Game: Paper Balls – Vocabulary Review/Practice

 

Type: Vocabulary Review/Practice

Age: all

Language level: all

Aim: Revisit and personalize previously taught vocabulary to facilitate retention

Interaction Pattern: individual + whole group

Material: Paper to make notes

Timing: 7-10 min


Procedure:

Each student gets a piece of paper large enough to be molded into a ball (1/5 of an A4 should suffice)

Students write words or expressions they learned the previous class or previously during that very class on a piece of paper

Tip

You can direct students here to write what you want them to practice. Let’s say you have an A1 class and you’d like them to practice vocabulary regarding worklife, you can write on the board

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On the other hand, if you have a B2 group, you could write on the board ‘verbs followed by infinitive, gerund or both.

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After writing their chosen piece of vocabulary, students make a paper ball with it.

Tell students they are to throw the balls around, so it’s gonna get kinda messy.

Tip

Depending on your group profile, you can either ask your students to stand up in a circle and throw the balls at someone across from them (more proactive, outgoing group profiles), or remain seated and throw the balls at anyone they’d like (more introverted, self-conscious group profiles), or even have a ball fight for 10 seconds and when time is over, students read the paper they ended up with (kids, teenagers and very open-minded adults).

Whoever has the paper ball reads it and executes a task. This task can be previously designed by the teacher to enhance language production of the topic to be reviewed/practiced.

For example, the A1 group practicing work-related words can be asked to come up with a TRUE sentence using the word they have (the truth in the sentence enables students to make the idea more memorable). As for the B2 group, they could perhaps come up with a question on the spot using the verb they have as a way to generate discussion and provide students with fast response practice (an ability B level students sometimes lack).

When the teacher sets previous specific goals for this game, it is a great tool to revise and practice vocabulary. However, if the students have no guidelines when they are either writing the words and phrases or elaborating sentences for them later, the chance you get words that are totally unrelated to your teaching point or useless sentences spoken just for the sake of completing the asked task is pretty big. So use it cautiously and runthrough your instructions carefully before applying the game.

 


Drama Game: Paper Balls – Ice breaker

 

Type: Ice Breaker

Age: all

Language level: all

Aim: Promote group integration and notice students’ previous knowledge

Interaction Pattern: whole group

Material: Paper to make notes

Timing: 5-7 min


Procedure:

This is a good alternative for an activity on the very first day of class, so that the group can get to know each other in a lively way and you can also observe their production while the game is going on so that you can figure out what you will be dealing with during the course.

Tip

In order for both of these goals to be achieved, this is a no-correction version of the game. I wouldn’t correct a student on the very first moment of the very first class. It could feel rather intimidating, to my mind, and the idea here is to lower everyone’s anxiety and promote bonding amongst everyone in class.

Tell students you will play a game to get to know each other. In this game, everyone will receive a paper ball that they CANNOT open.

Hand out one paper ball with previously written questions to each student.

Tip

Write the questions beforehand to save time, incite curiosity and promote a more realistic response from students since they don’t know what the questions will be about.

Also, grade the questions in relation to what you want to observe in terms of production from your students. It could be just personal questions, but it could also be discussion starters to higher levels.

Ask students to stand in a circle and make sure everyone can see each other.

Tell students they will throw the balls at each other once. They can throw at whomever they want (usually they throw to someone directly opposite to them, but if anyone ends up now being thrown at, there’s always going to be a ball left from them. Ask them to go and get it.)

They will then have 30 seconds to talk to someone about the question they got.

After the 30 seconds are over, they throw the balls again and choose a different person to discuss the new question with.

Even is they get a question two or three times, the person they are talking to is never the same, so there is always room for authentic discussion.

Walk around and listen to what they are saying. This is the moment you assess their previous knowledge privately.

Repeat 3 or 4 times and then bring the group back to their original places.

Tip

It could be nice to have e brief feedback moment after the game, asking how the students felt, what is hard or easy during this kind of exercise. For higher levels, elicit from stidents the connection between this game and real life. Ask them situations in which they are ‘bombarded’ with questions and have to answer quickly and elicit strategies to perform better under pressure.

By the end of this activity the group should be a lot more integrated and aware of the importance of not only studying the book , but also drawing parallels to real life use of the language they are learning.

 


Drama Game: Paper Balls – Fluency practice

 

Type: Fluency practice

Age: all

Language level: from A2 on

Aim: Promote freer practice

Interaction Pattern: individual + whole group (small groups) / group work (large groups)

Material: Paper to make notes

Timing: 7-10 min


Procedure:

This is a variation of the Ice breaker in order to be used at the end of classes to promote freer practice of the language learned that day.

Tip

Since this the goal here is practicing, make sure you allocate some time after the game to promote public correction on things you heard during the game. Don’t forget to make notes as the students play the game.

Tell students you will play a game to practice what you have learned today. In this game, one by one, students will stand up and all the other students will throw them paper balls – either one by one or all at once, depending on your group profile.

Each student gets a piece of paper large enough to be molded into a ball (1/5 of an A4 should suffice)

Students write questions about what they learned previously during that very class on it

Tip: Walk around and try to correct the questions before students throw the balls.

Ask students to throw the questions at the student who is stading.

This targeted student has 1 minute to answer as many questions as possible. Then he/she sits down and it’s someone else’s turn.

Tip

If you have large groups, instead of conducting the activity with the whole class, allocate students into smaller groups and have them play the game.

 


Drama Game: Paper Balls – Grammar Practice – Sentence structure

 

Type: Grammar practice

Age: all

Language level: all

Aim: Facilitate sentence structure analysis through concrete practice

Interaction Pattern: group work + whole group

Material: Paper to make notes

Timing: 5-7 min


Procedure:

This is a good activity to raise awareness to sentence structure and word order. Students should be able to ‘see’ the structure and actively think about it, instead of just passively receiving input from either the teacher or the textbook.

Also, the collaborative analysis of language has proven to foster the information to be more memorable, enhancing learning.

Tip

Since students will have to discuss a few things during the game, it would be nice for A1 students to be provided with model sentences to express their opinion. Otherwise, the activity will be either too challenging for them, or the main focus will shift from focusing on structure to struggling with expressing opinion. You could write on the board:

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Tell students you will play a game to practice the grammar they just learned. In this game, everyone will receive a paper ball that they CANNOT open.

Hand out one paper ball with previously written words to each student. The idea is that the paper balls contain words that can be arranged in sentences – or you can also use it for adjective order.

Tip

Write the words beforehand to save time, incite curiosity and promote a more realistic response from students since they don’t know which sentences they will have to form. Don’t make it too hard, though. Keep them short and simple. Remember, the objective is not for the game to be a challenge, but for student to experience the concrete formation of sentences in English.

Also, grade the questions in relation to what you want to observe in terms of production from your students. It could be question formation for A2 students or inversions to C2 ones.

Ask students to have a paper ball fight for 5 seconds (to mix the words up)

Divide students in small groups and assign them 2 or 3 minutes to try to build a sentence from the paper balls that must be all around by now.

Walk around and listen to what they are saying. This is the moment you help them, make sure they don’t use (much) L1 resorting to the models on the board and foster further analysis of the language.

Tip

It could be nice to have e brief feedback moment after the game, asking how the students felt, what is hard or easy during this kind of exercise.

By the end of this activity the group should be more aware of that class’ teaching point and ready for controlled and freer practice.


Well, I hope you enjoyed the ideas.

And as usual, have fun with the games!

Workshop review – Learner-tainment

Last Saturday the 21st of February I had the privilege of attending the workshop ‘Learner-tainment’ in Geneva, Switzerland that was organized by E-Tas (English Teachers Association of Switzerland).

The workshop was brilliantly conducted by Mary Patricia Schnueriger – an ESL/EFL teacher and ELT consultant at Pearson Switzerland – who was kind enough to give me her blessing to report here at ESL Drama Queen the content of what was discussed.

Here is an overview of the event and my personal take on it.


Workshop

Learner-tainment

21.02.15 – Bell School Geneve – E-TAS

Speaker

Mary Patricia Schnueriger – Pearson Switzerland

Subject and scope

Suggest and facilitate the elaboration of games to be used in ELT

Intended audience

EFL/ESL Teachers with students of all ages and levels


Schnueriger was throughout the workshop the very definition of a facilitator for a hands-on workshop: she proposed many activities and promoted several discussions to attendees and kept the focus on the subjects discussed rather than her personal views on the ideas. The overall feel of the event was that the participants themselves were active in the delivery of the talk – which I personally think is great.

She started with a quote that set the tone for the whole afternoon: “There is no right or wrong, only ideas’. Since it was a very heterogeneous group of people from different parts of the world with diverse views on what the ELT classroom should be like and also with eclectic goals, this first moment was quite important to make sure everyone felt welcome and all ideas would be heard and respected. As one might say, everything is try and error – many activities may work for one group and not for another, and vice versa.

During what I can surely refer to as a very pleasant afternoon, many games and activities for the ESL/EFL classroom were mentioned by both Schnueriger and the participants.

Although no one mentioned the word Drama during the workshop, there were lots of ideas that emerged and were clearly connected to the idea of Drama Games. That makes me both happy and worried: happy because there are lots of teachers out there willing to use this amazing technique to teach their students a foreign language; and worried because I guess this approach is still fairly unexplored academically and very poorly advertised.

Next is a brief description of the ones I personally felt more inclined to trying out due to its proximity to Drama Games. For full lesson plans of the games below, stay tuned for the next posts.

 

Game

Paper Balls

Overview

Students write questions on a piece of paper

Make a paper ball with it

Throw it at someone (teacher or other colleague)

Whoever has the paper ball reads it and answers the question

Game

Elfti with Art

Overview

Present students with a painting (connect the theme of the painting to the topic you are covering in class)

Elicit from students single words that the painting evokes from them Show students the structure of an Elfti: an 11-word poem

 

Elfti

Ask students to come up with an Elfti based on their feelings towards the painting and the topic of the class

Game

Candy Topics

Overview

Offer colourfully-wrapped candy to your students

Each student can get as much candy as they like

Show them the colour code

Candy topics

 

Arrange students in groups

Each student should talk about the topics they have (depending on the colour candy they picked)

Game

‘TABU’ variations

Overview

  1. Writing the description without using the tabu words instead of speaking (can be used in unison with Paper Balls)
  2. Vocabulary Box: at the end of every class students come up with a word they learned that day and 3 tabu words; they write it down and place it in the vocabulary box; the next class starts with a TABU game with the vocabulary they came up with.
  3. Tabu poster: teacher writes a few words per class on a poster and students are not allowed to say them (can be used for advanced classes to use more elevated vocabulary instead of simple words)
Game

Word sneak

Overview

Arrange students in groups or pairs

Give each students a set of words or phrases

Students should engage in natural conversation, trying to sneak in the words or phrases without the other students noticing

(Jimmy Fallon, an American comedian, plays this game on his TV show. For the Youtube video, click here)

 

I hope this post could be as helpful and enlightening to you all as the workshop was to me and I’ll just leave you with a last quote from Mary Patricia Schnueriger: “Any games you see can be adapted into language learning”.

As usual, see you next time and have fun with the games!

Lesson Plan: Grammar (Reported Speech/3rd Person Singular) – Gossip

gossip

Finding activities to have your students practice Reported Speech or 3rd Person Singular is not hard. There are lots of great approaches out there.

However, I have often heard from teachers that sometimes the practice of these grammar topics in particular can be a challenge because, depending on how it is conducted, it can be a little artificial and mechanic.

Bearing that in mind, I decided to test several Drama Games in order to promote a more natural and fluent practice moment in the classroom.

One of the games that worked the best with several age and language levels was “Gossip”.

I like it especially because it can be adapted for either outgoing or introverted groups of people, eliminating the dreaded feeling of being on the spot as one has to report something to the whole class.

Caution though! During this activity students will be doing a lot of talking and it will be up to you, teacher, to monitor their performance. It is important to have a correction moment afterwards, but not during the game, since it can impair fluency and foster anxious behavior from students.

Well, that being said, I hope you and your students have lots of fun gossiping in your classroom!


Drama Game: Gossip

 

Type: Grammar practice

Age: all

Language level: all

Aim: Acquire and report information

Interaction Pattern: Pair work

Material: Set of pre-written questions, paper to make notes

Timing: 7-10 min


Procedure:

Have students either sit or stand in a circle, depending on how outgoing or introverted they are.

Graphic1

Assign partners for pairwork. Partners should be sitting next to each other. This is “Pair 1”.

Ask students to look at their partner “1” in the eye and say “Hello, partner ‘1’”.

Partner1

 

Ask students to look at the person sitting on their other side. That’s “Pair 2”.

Ask students to look at their partner “2” in the eye and say “Hello, partner ‘2’”.

(This brief activity of looking people in the eye and verbally expressing who they are enables students to better comprehend the logistics of the game, and it tends to loosen them up too)

Partner2

At your command, students look at their partners, either “1” or “2”. Say: “1”. “2”. “2”. “1”. “1”.

(This is a warm up to keep them alert and responsive.)

Partner1and2

Tell them now it’s for real.

Tell students that they will interview their partner in “Pair 1” and they can take notes of their partners answers.

Tell students that they will gossip about their “partner 1” to their “partner 2”.

You will say the number of the partner and they have to either interview or gossip about their partners.

Model with some students. Check if everybody understood the intructions.

Have students do the activity as you give them the command “Talk to partner ‘1’” or “Talk to partner ‘2’”.

PS: Don’t forget to walk around and take notes of positive and negative production. At the end of the activity, you can conduct correction and praising with the whole group.

PS2: As for the content of the pre-written questions, you can grade and adapt them according to your groups’ needs and level.