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
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.
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
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)
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).