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.

 

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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.

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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.

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!

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!