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!

IATEFL 2015 – Summarized inspirations

Dear ESL Drama Gamers, first of all I am so sorry for my absence these past two weeks. I nearly drowned in information from IATEFL, but I survived! I hope you like the post today!

Lots of artsy love,

ESL Drama Queen


IMG_0651.PNG

 

Immersed in the spring British mists, a tsunami of all things TESOL made its way into Manchester, where thousands of brave participants, determined to make it to shore a little more knowledgeable,  did their best to keep swimming through the vast waters they saw upon arrival: hundreds of talks, workshops and plenaries to choose from.

As yours truly had a clear objective, all events to do with arts, games and creativity were soon highlighted on the programme and there I went, swimming up the main stream.

Some talks and workshops on the use of art and theatre in the classroom were inspiring and innovative, others were targeted to newcomers in the art of using art and were therefore more basic. Both useful though, since there is an audience for each one of them.

Today I start a series of posts about my favourite talks and workshops throughout the four days of IATEFL 2015 Annual Conference and my personal comments about each of them.

Some of the quotes  were heard at events specifically about arts, some of them at talks that had completely different topics. Despite being heterogenous, all of them are relevant to one who is eager to include drama games in ELT in one way or another, for transdisciplinary approaches require transdisciplinary theoretical basis.

A few of them may seem obvious, however I believe that the strongest epiphany one can have is truly noticing for the first time what the eyes failed to see for so long.

I hope they can be as useful and inspiring to you as they were to me. And may you all sail through the rough yet fulfilling, known yet fairly unexplored waters of using art, theatre and creativity in ELT.


Frozen in thought? How we think and and what we do in ELT

Donald Freeman

 

Bio: Donald Freeman is a professor at the School of Education, University of Michigan. For 25 years, he was on the graduate faculty at the School for International Training, where he chaired the Department of Language Teacher Education, and founded and directed the Center for Teacher Education, Training and Research. He is author of several books on language teacher education. He is senior consulting editor on ELTeach and editor of the professional development series, TeacherSource. Freeman has been president of TESOL, and a member the International Advisory Council for Cambridge English.

 

 

“Rethink proficiency as plural proficiencies”

ESLDramaQueen: Once the teacher acknowledges proficiency as plural, the lesson plan can be prepared bearing in mind multiple goals for multiple proficiencies, one of them being body language. Here, the teacher can choose to attach a drama game to his/her plan to include a kinaesthetic element to the lesson.

“Strange things happen to language when it goes to school”

ESLDramaQueen: The gap between real-life language, whether written or spoken, and the language present in most classrooms is quite noticeable. Especially nowadays that students have access to all kinds of language via internet (social media, search engines, etc.). Drama games and Theatre in general can be a way to utilize the language students really feel genuine and relevant in the classroom while still covering the syllabus.

“Teachers should connect curriculum to what’s going on in the classroom”

ESLDramaQueen: It is crucial that teachers be cautious neither to follow the materials blindly without taking into consideration the real needs of the group nor to propose super fun activities that have absolutely nothing to do with the teaching point planned for that class. A balance between curriculum and relevance should be pursued and all games should have a clear purpose.

“Teaching is central, but we don’t have to think about it in the same way”

ESLDramaQueen: The role of the teacher as a fundamental part in the learning process may be the same in most contexts, however the methods and approaches this teacher chooses to use in order to facilitate learning is completely up to him/her. It depends on the teacher’s experience, knowledge, culture, personality and interests.


The artsy side of teaching

Radmila Popovic

Bio: Radmila Popovic is currently a Senior Education Specialist (TESOL) at World Learning in Washington DC. She was an assistant professor in ETL Methodology at the University of Belgrade and also is a past president of ELTA Serbia. She has worked for many years with teacher training and is now researching the intersections between art and science in ELT.

 

“It’s hard to define if teaching is more of an art or a science. Art derives from play, while science is methodology. There is no ONE way of doing anything.”

ESLDramaQueen: The discussion about the nature of teaching, if it should be more play-oriented or method-oriented, is a vast and unfinished one. My personal view on the matter is that when it comes to dichotomies, between the extremities there are tons of shades of grey to be explored, each one with a specific outcome and possibly beneficial to a certain audience.

“Leonardo Da Vinci = science plus art / Tesla = science with creativity”

ESLDramaQueen: It could be a good idea for both teacher training and ELT in general to introduce the work and mind frame of DaVinci and Tesla, to warm teachers and students to the idea of using art and science in the classroom (play and method). Maybe through the discussion and application of some of the concepts and praxis present in the body of work of these two artist-scientists, the idea of using art in the classroom can be taken more seriously, instead of being viewed as just extra fun activities for when teachers have time on their hands.

“Art is the difference between technically competent and excellent teachers”

ESLDramaQueen: Teachers that dare break away from the shackles of method from time to time in order to meet the expectations or cater for the needs of the students are the ones on the way to excellency, in my point of view. Improvisation, instinct, translation skills between what students express and what they really mean, ability to summarise, rephrase and symbolise language in order to convey a clearer message to students and also foster these abilities in students: all these can be developed and enhanced by being exposed to art.

“Teacher trainers should nurture not only technical development, but excellence as well”

ESLDramaQueen: Art can be a tool in teacher training to help trainees develop their skills. Instead of just flooding them with information about methodology and asking them to prepare and observe lessons, trainings could also include personal and emotional development through drama games or art projects in general.

“How can art be transplanted into teacher training?

Ask your trainees: If you were an artist/scientist, what kind would you be? Why? Which of these characteristics can be applied to the kind of teacher you want to be?

Tap associative, intuitive and unconscious sources

Give prompts: the more specific the better to generate content

Propose to your trainees: Imagine the opposite of your favourite teaching activity. Describe it and justify why it is bad teaching practice.

Propose the ‘Bad-teaching machine project’:Imagine a machine that signals every time bad teaching is practiced. Which are the signals the machine would read in the classroom in order to identify bad teaching? What kind of signal and to whom would the machine emit?

Play the ‘weather+definitions=metaphor’game: Trainer / Teacher provides some specific vocabulary to be worked on. Trainees / Students have to use weather terms to create a metaphor for the definition of that piece of vocabulary. (E.g. Term: On the spot correction; Metaphor: On the spot correction has to be monitored in order not to become a hailstorm of mistakes crashing on students’ heads.)”

Suggestions:

Book: Teaching artist handbook (2013, Jaffe, Cox and Barniskis)

Article: Creativity in the Classroom (2005, Cameron)

 


 

Well, these were the two first IATEFL 2015 events to be reported here on ESL Drama Queen.

Stay tuned for more to come the next few days.

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Periscope!

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

Lesson Plan – Paper Balls – 4 variations

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

 

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

lousa1

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

lousa2

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:

lousa3

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!

Book review – Dramapädagogik im Sprachunterricht (Drama Pedagogy in the language classroom)

„Dramapädagogik ist ein Ansatz, der die Mittel des Theaters zu pädagogischen Zwecken einsetzt. Im Vordergrund steht dabei nicht primär das Ergebnis, nämlich die Produktion eines Theaterstücks, sondern der Lernprozess in allen seinen Dimensionen: physisch, ästhetisch (sinnlich), emotional und kognitiv. «Drama» kommt aus dem Griechischen und heisst «Handlung». Dramapädagogik ist dementsprechend eine Pädagogik, die handlungsbezogenes ganzheitliches Lernen herbeiführt.“

Elektra Tselikas-Portmann

“Drama Pedagogy is an approach that utilizes Theatre for educational purposes. “Drama” comes from the Greek “action”. Result – or presentation – is not the primary goal, but the learning process in all its dimensions: physical, aesthetic (sensual), emotional and cognitive. Drama Pedagogy is therefore a pedagogy that allows acquisition to be practical and empirical”

(our translation)

 

 

 

 

Dramapädagoggik im SprachunterrichtA promisse of insights. That is the feeling one gets when embarking on the journey that is Dramapädagogik im Sprachunterricht. I have just begun to read it, however I could not wait to share it here with you guys.

The book is in German and, as far as I know, there are no English versions. So I have humbly set myself the task of reading it and summarizing the most interesting parts the author brilliantly exposes.

Elektra Tselikas-Portmann has extensive work as a drama therapist, psychotherapist, drama teacher and supervisor. In Dramapädagogik im Sprachunterricht, she depicts the idea of using Drama Pedagogy in the language classroom by giving the reader reasons why this approach is beneficial, manners to start practicing it, ways to achieve diverse goals with it in the classroom, a few practical exercises and theoretical basis for her thesis.

As mentioned before, I have just started reading it and here I will try to disclosure my impressions of the very first part of the book – which honestly seems very promising.

The author begins with a brief commentary of what Drama Pedagogy – Theaterpädagogik – is: an approach that utilizes theatre as a means to achieve pedagogical goals. This practice does not base itself in presenting a theatrical play, but enabling the dramatic process which students go through via drama games and, therefore, fostering a diverse kind of learning. In this sense, Drama Pedagogy allows participants to acquire knowledge in a more natural way via dramatic practice.

Tselikas also affirms that Drama Pedagogy is a means to include new ideas and creativity in the communication-oriented lesson plan: it provides the classroom activities with lifelike situations and places that the students are studying and allows them to practice and experience those scenarios in a safe and controlled environment before using the language in the ‘real world’.

After this introduction, the reader is presented with a table of contents which includes information about the inborn human susceptibility towards playing and acting – abilities explored by the Drama Pedagogy.

Dramapädagoggik im Sprachunterricht quote

She explains, though, that these processes – although inherent in every human being – are blocked as time passes by rationality and moral values learned in social life. One of the goals of Drama Pedagogy is also to restore these abilities and bring them to the surface once again and through them, enable a free and creative environment in the classroom.

Neither the teacher nor the students should be professional actors in order to benefit from Drama Pedagogy, according to the author: the objective is merely achieving educational goals, and not contributing to training new actors. And to achieve these educational goals, one must build a challenging representation of real life through drama in order to promote the development of the students’ language skills through metaphors, symbols, roles and emotion.

 

Honestly, isn’t that mouth-watering?

I will keep posting summaries of this book to you guys, so stay tuned!

As usual, have fun and enjoy 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!

Article Review: Using theater games to enhance language arts learning

ESLDramaQueen_Blog06

I recently came across this article by Sharon Fennessey where she disclosures a few drama games to be used in the classroom and I though it was quite interesting.

The text below is my take on it and a few addaptations of the excercises she proposes to be used in the ESL/EFL classroom.

Have fun and enjoy the games!


Language acquisition through arts is Sharon Fennessey’s academic field of expertise. Thus, her article Using theater games to enhance language arts learning attempts to convey to readers not only the importance but also the use of theater games in the classroom as a tool to enable students to better master English as a second language.

 

In order to achieve her goal, the author leads the subject in by sharing personal experience with her fifth grade class and the learners’ reaction – which according to her testimony is exquisite. Furthermore, Fennessey points out that drama is taken seriously by all of those involved, teacher and students, and it is also recognized as an equally valued subject when compared to math, reading and writing, for instance.

 

That being said, a number of reasons why these games ought to be integrated in the lesson plan are mentioned, together with authors that support these beliefs:

 

  • Improvement of social skills: concentration, confidence, and cooperation (Fennessey, 2000).
  • Development of fluency in language and non-verbal communication skills (Cornett, 1999).
  • Improvement in fluency and pronunciation, especially for ESL learners who are not able to practice much for lack of speaking opportunities outside the classroom (Burke & O’Sullivan, 2002).
  • Development of language and language-related abilities through drama, based on the widespread view of linguists “that language is primarily a spoken art”. (Stewig & Buege, 1994).

 

Since the article is clearly not aimed at teachers who have previously had any sort of theater training, it unfolds by soothing inexperienced professionals and reassuring that “the classroom teacher does not need to be a creative drama specialist to successfully lead a drama activity”.

 

Moreover, the aims of drama games are exposed through the theory of one of the most renowned authors on the subject: Viola Spolin. The aspects of Spolin’s work (Spolin, 1986) which were brought up are:

 

  • Drama games are meant to facilitate actors’ awareness of their work instruments: body, voice and intellect.
  • Drama games are designed to help actors better focus on characters’ tasks, solve problems, interact with the cast, be alert, among other aims.

 

The purposes above-mentioned may also be applied in the classroom for the sake of verbal and non-verbal communication development. This framework of attributes is by no means unimportant or irrelevant to the ESL teacher and learner. It is well known that learners who are focused, have a sense of belonging in the group, feel at ease in the classroom and are alert have a much better outcome in terms of actual learning.

 

Though Fennessey presents only a few points on Spolin’s work, even the most unfocused of readers could grasp the link between acting techniques and abilities that are vital to the success of a language class. In fact, since this link has been disclosed, now there would be a golden opportunity for exposing practical ways in which these two universes could be put together. And that is precisely what the author does.

 

Much similarly to the outline on Spolin’s well-known book Theater games for the classroom, Fennessey chooses to first set the scene to readers and introduce the topic theoretically. Only after that, games and practical tips are given in the form of several short paragraphs leading readers through the steps of the games.

 

Until this point, theory, reasons and relevance have been presented. From this moment on, a series of descriptions of drama games which the author has successfully used in the language arts classroom are exposed and a summary of their aims and possible applications (my own theories) is as follows:

 

  • One-line improvisations:
    • Aim: coordinate body and voice creatively
    • Possible application: vocabulary practice – sports, professions, food, among others.
      • The teacher can narrow down the possible ‘transformations’ of the given object to the pieces of vocabulary learned during class.
    • Identify the object:
      • Aim: enhance concentration and develop “the use of sensory detail in descriptive language”[4]
      • Possible application: grammar/vocabulary practice – modals and verbs to express uncertainty.
        • The teacher can use this game as a less-controlled or freer practice of the language to express uncertainty.
      • Minefield:
        • Aim: developing trust amongst students
        • Possible application: grammar/vocabulary practice – directions and locations.
          • This can easily be incorporated to a class in which the main goal is to enable students to give and ask for directions and locations.
        • Role-playing book characters and Improvising a scene from literature:
          • Aim: promote understanding of traits and developing a character
          • Possible application: post-reading activity.
            • Schools that include readers in their syllabus can surely benefit from this kind of activities. Instead of just demanding students to express themselves in writing, teachers could add these games as wrap up activities or moments to assess them on reading comprehension skills.

 

Last but not least, the author enlightens the readers on the subject of balance. Surely a class which is enriched by having drama games added to the lesson would be enjoyable and effective as opposed to one that is not. However, it is wise to bear in mind the idiom ‘moderation in all things’.

 

Seatwork should also be included, especially since paper and pencil are still most valued by school systems. Actually a balance must be the aim, and the effort should be to combine stirring and settling activities alternately.

 

Overall, the article meets its purpose of introducing the topic of theater games in the language classroom. Nevertheless, had the author indicated more theories or stuck to one with more depth, I suppose the reader could have benefited more.

 

Bibliography

FENNESSEY, Sharon M., “Using Theater Games to Enhance Language Arts Learning” (2006). Faculty Publications. Paper 68. Page 689. http://digitalcommons.ric.edu/facultypublications/6

Spolin, Viola. (1986). Theater games for the classroom. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.

Book Review: Theater Games for Classroom – A Teacher’s Handbook

Theater Games for Classroom – A Teacher’s Handbook

Viola Spolin is an institution. Writing about her feels both like talking about an old    well-known friend and reviewing the works of a genius. It is gratifying and terrifying at the same time. But I will try to do my best.

The woman did it all: research, development and advertisement. Had she not decided to look further into the academic side of Theater and Pedagogy and make her ideas available to the world, many would have never come into contact with Drama Games and their use in the classroom (yours truly included).

 

My first experience with Viola Spolin’s work was through a book that a former teacher and coworker gave me for teachers’ day: Theater Games for Classroom – A Teacher’s Handbook. It was one of the best gifts I have ever received. Really.

The book changed my perspective in such a way that I immediately got caught in the fantastically inebriating Drama spider web. The book is edited in such a way that she is able to convince you little by little that you will no longer be able to teach a class without drama anymore. It worked on me.

The book is divided in 20 parts, however I can see three big blocks grouping them together:

  1. Why one should use these games in the classroom
  2. Categorized drama games
  3. Preparing a theatrical presentation

The first part can be either a trigger for a teacher that has already been curious about the theme or the basis of a convincing argumentation for the skeptical teacher. It is successful in explaining when, where and how these games can be used and how helpful they can be in the classroom environment.

Part number two is the bulk of the book, where Spolin depicts a plethora of games for several objectives: movement, voice, observation, character building, communication, etc…

It is a guide, almost like a lesson plan, where all the games are there, ready to be used. It is one of the most mouthwatering ready-to-use game menus out there!

The last part is a compilation of tips and activities for the teacher to develop and manage all the phases of a theatrical presentation with the students.

In utter shock with that new world of never-ending options, I wondered: how could I apply those amazing ideas to my day-to-day classroom routine without interfering with the syllabus I was supposed to follow? And there it was, my first bump on the dramatic road.

Everything that was written on that magical book was fantastic – on paper. My reality was a much different scenario: I did not have the freedom to choose my own syllabus or the pace of the course where I worked at the time. Everything was already formatted and handed out to me, and my coordinators expected me to teach that exact content at that exact pace. There was little room for my own spice in the recipe.

Right then and there I knew that using Theater would be virtually impossible with my students. There simply was not enough time for that. Also, I have always enjoyed classroom activities that are intrinsically connected to the topic of the day’s class. So how could I connect the entire syllabus of the semester to a play? I would have to do that in order to make the content of the theatrical experience be meaningful to both the students and my coordinator. But it was just too much work with little chance of actually happening.

And that’s when the light bulb went on in my head: maybe I do not have to provide my students with the complete theatrical experience. Maybe they could benefit just from the drama games from the second part of the book, without even noticing that those activities have anything to do with theater whatsoever. Bingo.

As soon as I realized that, me, my coordinator and my students starting benefitting from the works of the marvelous Viola Spolin. Of course every game had to be adapted to the class, syllabus and classroom that I was teaching, but it was worth it!

Each activity would take me a maximum of 15 minutes, the students were more communicative, engaged, alert and also getting along better. I too noticed that fluency, intonation, pronunciation and overall awareness of the language was improved considerably in all groups that were exposed to Spolin’s material.

I highly recommend the book as reference and inspiration for ESL/EFL teachers. But bear in mind that the author did not think about Language Learning specifically when she wrote the book, so some activities have to be modified or adapted to one’s reality.

I hope I could do Viola Spolin justice and that you can benefit from the words I wrote.

If you want to purchase this book and also contribute to this website click on either this affiliate link or the one in the beginning of the text to go to amazon.com.

See you next time and have fun with the games!

Michelle Schirpa