Unfocused, indisciplined, selfish, uninterested.
These are some of the most recurring words on my report cards every semester from kindergarten until high school.
I was that one student who asks too much, gets bored too easily, has short attention span and resides on the edge of weirdness. Thus, most of my teachers simply did not know how to handle me.
I was an artistic kid who broke out in song in the middle of class, doodled my whole notebook to the point there was little space for actual note-taking and was famous for impersonating colleagues and teachers. And did I mention the nonstop singing?
So how come I survived school and became a scholar wannabe myself? Through art.
It took me years and more that few visits to the educational psychologist to figure out that there was nothing wrong with me. I was just different. My head was different. Instead of dealing with one thing at a time, my head was a constant web browser with 15 tabs open! And I was using them all at once!
As soon as I figured that out, a revolution came about: instead of forcing myself to focus on one task for quite some time as my teachers instructed me to do, I started having 4 or 5 tasks in front of me at the same time. I would tackle them in parts, shifting from one to another while intercalating them with doodling, singing, dancing or fiction writing. It took me a little longer, but I started nailing all of my assignments and actually being able to do them all.
Highly creative people are wired that way because creativity is nothing but the connection of previously conceived ideas that were separated, and now are confronted. So my highly creative brain is way more interested in connecting ideas than focusing in acquiring new ones. And by giving it time and space to create between input sessions, it became easier and easier to focus during those periods.
From this very personal experience I have noticed that there are so many different learning styles and I, as a teacher, should try to embrace and celebrate these differences in the classroom. However, it is not unusual to hear teachers complaining about fidgety students in their classrooms. So how can we tackle that situation, then?
Ways to cater for these highly creative beings are: give them space to breathe and process all the information that they are coping with both external and internally; prepare activities that promote critical thinking or a connection between concepts; include art in your classroom, in the form of drawings, fiction writing, poetry writing, dancing/movement or drama games.
I’m sure that after a little Drama, the unfocused, indisciplined, selfish, uninterested humans in your class will give you no drama at all.
Dear ESL Drama Gamers, a promise is a promise!
Here is the second part of the summarized inspiratons IATEFL 2015 provided me.
Lots of artsy love,
ESL Drama Queen
Here is the second part of the 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.
Uncovering expertise in coursebook writing
Julie Norton & Heather Buchanan
Bio: University lectures at the University of Leeds and Nottingham and materials writers for Oxford University Press.
Practical constrains – word count, time and spread limit
Creativity constrains – using the right kind of language, linking deadlines with creativity
Following the brief – who are you writing for, coping with changes in briefs during the project
Managing the process”
ESL Drama Queen: When a teacher starts creating his/her own material some of these challenges don’t apply, though some do. For instance, planning the format – how much space on a page is going to be utilized and why – choosing the best language to get maximum effectiveness and managing the time taking to prepare and execute activities. This also applies to developing new games and inserting them in the lesson plan.
Write with someone
Be prepared to take criticism
Think about how other people would use the material
Be self-critical, meticulous, flexible Imagine what it will look like on the page
Manage your time within the day
Be aware of your own principles about teaching and learning and the principles of the project
Write answer key
Start at end point and work your way backwards
Get classroom experience
Be alert for new ideas”
ESL Drama Queen: All of these tips are also applicable when inserting drama games in a lesson plan. The best way to make the best out of a drama game is to sync it to the teaching point of the day and using the game as a means to achieve that goal. In order to do that, the process is very similar to that of writing brand new material: you have to look at the goal you want to achieve in the end of the class and think about each phase you are going to develop in order to get there. Then analyze the games you know and think about which one could help each phase you developed and how they could be included in the lesson. Bear in mind these tips above as well and the lesson will probably work out fine.
Emotional Engagement for adult sudents
Bio: Herbert Puchta holds a PhD in English – with a focus on ELT pedagogy, has been Professor of English at the Teacher Training University in Graz, and is a past President of IATEFL. He is also one of the most influencial authors in YL.
Personalize the content
Tackle emotional inteligence
Allow teacher’s personality to be shown
Make sure the classroom is a safe place
Make activities relevant
Provide the element of surprise
Use music and movement
Make sure students feel included
Provide and ask for meaningful feedback
Allow some thinking time”
“Emotion is part of the process, and not its conterpart; emotions and intelligence go hand in hand (Lazarus and Lazarus)”
“Neuronal connexions grow as the chid gets older: that’s PHYSICAL learning. The brain physically grows when we learn. This growth is more extensive and powerful when emoton is envolved. Emotion here is also physical, it’s adrenaline, dopamine and serotonine, who influence sinapsis. Therefore emotions are like fertilizers for learning. That’s why emotional engagement is key for the learning process. Learning is also a physical process. the brain is an organ of emotion”
“Focused attention (Egbert): it is easier to focus on something that we consider to be relevant”
ESL Drama Queen: All of the above can be successfuly achieved by proposing games in the classroom that connect the teaching point of the day with emotional skills development. In order to allow both language learning and emotional engagement to coexist, I’d reccomend choosing a drama game that targets actors’ emotional development and adapt it in order to include your teaching point during the playing process. This way, the production of that specific piece of language will coexist with the emotional development of the group.
“Emotional engagement is a step further from integration”
ESL Drama Queen: Integration as I see it is external to the participants: I can be part of a group because I feel safe and comfortable with the people in it, but that does not mean I am actively emotionaly engaged to everyone in it or the topics we talk about. Engagement to my mind can only be achieved when I am aware of my own self and I personally make the choice to do, say and feel things in the group.
Authors: Doff, Lazarus and Lazarus, Thaine, Purpura, Zull
Well, this was part 2 of the IATEFL 2015 events to be reported here on ESL Drama Queen.
Stay tuned for more to come the next few days.
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And, as usual, have fun with the games!!!!
It was my Drama teacher at the language school I studied at: also quite young, energetic and somehow adventurous. He was the one that, after two years of helping me with my English, suggested I helped him manage the theatre groups he was responsible for.
At first I thought he was kidding, but then I realized maybe I did have an interest bigger than just learning a language twice a week and rehearsing a theatrical play once a week – maybe I genuinely felt curious and excited about the idea of helping others. And I guess he saw that in me and gave me a chance.
Rehearsals began in March and we were looking after around 30 students ageing from 9 to 15 every week for three hours. My Fridays were never as fun as those. I looked forward to Fridays like those kids did to Christmas!
I learned so much from those two years I spent assisting my former teacher: work ethics, dealing with students, dealing with parents, planning classes, time management, classroom management and – what would become my professional life’s obsession – drama games.
I first came into contact with drama games as they were traditionally meant to be used: as a means for the actors to prepare themselves for rehearsal and presentation. And for a long time I lacked to see the connection between those activities that helped us rehearsal and the language class I had twice a week.
It took one book and a very special person to open my mind to that possibility. The book was Theater Games for Classroom – A Teacher’s Handbook and the very special person is a dear friend that unfortunately is no longer with us. He also had started as a student and then decided to become a teacher – a path I myself would choose later on – and he had figured out the connection between drama games and the classroom. Not only figured out, he perfected it bearing in mind the syllabus, demands and requirements of the school he taught at.
He got so good at it and he was such an inspiration to so many around him, that in a few years he became a teacher trainer. And guess who had figured out she wanted to be a teacher and was his pupil by then? Yes, yours truly. And that was when I got a crash course in drama games in the classroom for the first time.
He gave me the book; he ministered the training course; he gave me a path and a passion. And every time I think about him not being here anymore it saddens me that the world can no longer benefit from his great ideas. Though his legacy endures.
Lots of us lucky enough to have been taken under his wing at the time still work with drama games in the classroom and believe in its effectiveness as a tool to facilitate language learning.
If it hadn’t been for these two very important teachers/colleagues/friends that life was kind enough to have put in my path, who knows if I would be where I am today.
Teachers matter. What we say and do have meaning and can affect our students deeply. So if we affect them, let us affect them affectionately. And as I learned from these two very affectionate teachers: drama games can help us do that.
So once again, see you guys next time and have fun with the games.
(ESL Drama Queen)