“To be, or not to be, that is the question”. This must be the most quoted play and the most recognized one. That is what comes to our teenagers’ minds when they hear the word drama. However, this is not what we, teachers, mean when speaking about it. What we mean is a bunch of communicative activities performed in various contexts and for various purposes. Let’s see today how and why drama is worth using with teens.
- creates positive emotions.
- makes your students more open to new experience.
- creates closer bonds between students.
- fosters students’ autonomy: they monitor and correct each other, decide on what they will present and how they will do it.
- can be used with teens of all levels.
- can be used to diagnose any conflicts between students (here you have to pay attention to how they communicate with each other during the activities).
Let’s start with the idea that many teachers are already using drama without even noticing it. Do you use drills with your students? Do you drill pronunciation with changing mood or pitch of your voice? Do you use role plays in your lessons?
Congratulations, you are already in. However, there are still more ideas and ways to exploit such thing as drama.
First of all, when using drama, we have to remember some rules. If not followed, your lesson might be completely destroyed.
- Have clear lesson aims. Plan all the activities thoroughly and only add drama where it can naturally flow. Do not try to use it just for fun.
- Have a clear context. It should be meaningful and relevant for teens. Use situations which are close to them.
- Exploit all the opportunities drama presents. Use it not only to warm your students up but do on to unfold it from various sides.
Let’s now look at the parts of the lesson where drama can be naturally fitted into.
This is not pure drama, of course, but it makes students involved in the process. It energises them and creates a positive atmosphere in the classroom.
- Drill the pronunciation of new words, phrases and constructions as if you are happy/sad/tired/ill.
- Work on vowel sounds (especially on long sounds) singing them chorally.
Pretend to be a conductor managing an orchestra, so that your students see that you are already “acting” and feel more relaxed to tune in.
4. Choose a dialogue with the functional language you want to concentrate on. Ask your students to act it out expressing various mood and intonation:
Students should be quite confident in using the target language. However, it is not always like that. There are some options available even for a semi-controlled practice stage.
1. Phone dialogues. Each student has four cards (or more if you have a small group, or want more practice). Two cards are for writing places (one place on each card), two cards are for verbs (they should be only actions for lower levels and can include state verbs for higher ones). You can also prepare the cards for yourself. Get two bowls or boxes. Put the places cards in one box and the role cards in the other. Two students come to the front, get a card from each box and role play a dialogue between two friends talking on the phone. This one is suitable for working on Present Continuous.
E.g. Students A and B come to the front and take a card from each box. Let’s say Student A has “hotel” and “swim”, Student B has “shop” and “climb”. They pretend not to be calling each other and asking:
A: -- Hi, Bob. Where are you now?
B: -- Hi, Rose. I’m at the shop.
A: -- What are you doing there?
B: -- I’m climbing. And you? Where are you?
A: -- I’m at the hotel.
B: -- What are you doing there?
A: -- I’m swimming.
These dialogues can turn out to absurd, though providing more fun and enjoyment.
2. Sculptors. Divide your students into pairs or small groups. Ask them to choose a sculptor. Give a sculptor a picture (it depends on the size of a group and should have an object or a group of people of the same size). A sculptor looks at the picture and tells the others how they need to change their postures and what shapes they should create. In the end, you can take pictures and vote for the best and closest to the original sculpture. This can be used for Imperatives and also for Present Continuous if you decide to exploit it further: ask the students from other pairs or teams to come to each participant of a sculpture and touch them one by one. The person touched should say what they are doing in this sculpture.Phone dialogues. Each student has four cards (or more if you have a small group, or want more practice). Two cards are for writing places (one place on each card), two cards are for verbs (they should be only actions for lower levels and can include state verbs for higher ones). You can also prepare the cards for yourself. Get two bowls or boxes. Put the places cards in one box and the role cards in the other. Two students come to the front, get a card from each box and role play a dialogue between two friends talking on the phone. This one is suitable for working on Present Continuous.
Imagine you have just finished a bland topic of crime. Ask your students to prepare a scene to illustrate an accident at the bank. Give them some time, but also warn about the time limit (5-10). Ask them to decide for themselves what roles they are going to play. These questions on the board might come in handy:
- What is your character’s name?
- How old are you?
- Why are you at the bank?
- Do you know the people at the bank?
- What did you do before you arrived?
- What will you do after?
Students discuss what accident they are going to illustrate. Their final task is to show a frozen scene and then to act what happened just before this scene.
- Actually, all of these activities trigger speaking of one kind or another. While working on the scene creation students speak to each other (here you can confront and shout out about their usage of L1; I have to agree that this is possible, but you are there to control and manage the situation; we will touch upon this question a bit later).
- As a final product, they create short dialogues.
- You can go on and exploit this any of these further by discussing what they liked to do.
- They can describe what others are doing, have done or they think are going to do.
- Roleplaying a poem. Having attended a workshop by Jeremy Harmer and participated in such a roleplay myself, I can assure you, the process is engaging and creative. I’d like to share the Procedure with you:
- We were divided into groups of 6 (our class was quite big).
- Running dictation. We were told to run to the laptop, remember two lines with exact spelling, punctuation and spacing between the lines. It turned out to be harder than it seemed.
- When we got the whole poem, we had about 10-15 minutes to decide how we were going to act it out.
- We presented our poems. We had four groups and all four variants were absolutely different.
- Here is what we got in the end.
Here you can also ask your students to make up a story about the scene presented. Ask them to imagine they went to this bank and experienced what they’ve just seen illustrated by some students. Use the drama scene as a basis for an essay to speak about art or whatever the topic of your drama lesson was. Other options could include a blog entry, a police report, a personal email and other pieces of writing.
Whatever way you choose to use drama, you are likely to get so involved in it together with your students, that they will ask you to do that again from time to time. Share your experience and ideas of using drama with your teens in the comments below.