Sunday, February 05, 2006

How to Dramatize Your Foreign Language Teaching and Learning

In my previous article “How to Add Drama to an EFL Class or Start a Drama Group” some interesting ways in which you could initiate Drama into an EFL class or new drama group we suggested. If you’re a foreign language student, sooner or later you’ll start becoming “tired” or “bored” with the more conventionally used teaching approaches. This is especially true if you attend (or teach) a class that must follow a standard curriculum or course book series.
To crank out more speaking and develop more vocabulary and language use in context, try some of these additional drama-based activities to spice things up a bit.

Do Improvised Dialogues

Another popular technique is to “improvise” scenes based on specific character sets in different situations like a Mother - Daughter, Father - Son, Teacher - Student, Boss – Worker, Robber – Bank Teller, Waiter – Customer, or a multitude of other possible combinations of two, three or even more characters. Give each character set a scenario in which to work like a son with bad grades who wants to borrow Dad's car. A Mother who needs help around the house with a daughter giving excuses so she can talk on the phone with her friends. Have a student answer the phone and have a chat with the “wrong number” who wants to talk anyway.

Interview a famous person

Simulate an interview with a famous person or historic figure or even create a fictitious scene involving a famous person or historic figure. You can get an extensive list of famous people / historic figures the students are familiar with and use these as a basis for constructing scenes and dialogues. You can even have famous people "Talk" to each other who couldn't literally have done so. What would Jesus or Mohammed say to Adolph Hitler? What would George Washington say to Marilyn Monroe, Pamela Anderson or JFK? What might Chairman Moa and Idi Amin or Augustus Pinochet have talked about? How about a chat between Princess Diana and Cleopatra or Marie Antoinette? The possibilities are endless. Some wonderful ideas, dialogues, scenes and scripts could come out of a little swapping and brainstorming in this manner.

Schizophrenic Dialogues

These fun dialogues will erase any timidness the learners may have in speaking in front of others. Start with your most uninhibited learners at first until others from the group “get up their nerve” to do this activity. In this dramatic speaking practice activity the person “talks” to themselves taking on multiple roles in a dialogue, asking themselves a question and then answering themselves too. The schizophrenic person could also argue pros and cons of a decision or situation aloud. They are often hilarious and loads of fun once the students get the hang of it. A man can discus / argue the pros and cons of going out with woman A or woman B. Betty or Nicole? A woman learner can do the reverse. Tom or Jerry? Other sample themes are; Which friend to tell a secret? Which car to buy? Which vacation to take? The fun almost never ends.

To continue to get even more mileage from these activities and materials, record and use them for listening comprehension, error-correction exercises, pronunciation, language use or grammar practice activities in another class. Teachers and students, I hope some of these ideas help with starting material. I'll send you some more specific suggestions if you'll tell me specific areas you'd like more information on. Please let me know about your progress and experiences. Good luck.

Prof Larry M. Lynch is a certified English language teacher / trainer, bi-lingual copywriter, expert author and photographer specializing in business, travel, food and education-related writing in South America. His work has appeared in Transitions Abroad, South American Explorer, Escape From America, Mexico News and Brazil magazines. He teaches at a university in Cali, Colombia. To read more or get additional original, exclusive language education based articles and content for your newsletter, blog or website contact him at:

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