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Using Drama as a Resource for Giving Language More Meaning
by Sam Smith

- lesson plan 1

Preliminary Information

Level: Upper Intermediate

Time: 1 hr

Timetable fit:
This lesson comes about 7 months into a general English extensive course. The group meets twice a week for one and a half hours, so we have been together for about 90 hours. The course book we are using is Cutting Edge Upper Intermediate and we are now in unit 10. This lesson is aimed at revising, or providing an opportunity to use some of the language we have been looking at in unit 9, a review of modal verbs and especially their uses in the past for many purposes. In this lesson, I hope to provide practice of modals for criticism and deduction.
The lesson comes about 2 weeks after looking at these modals and therefore should help students remember something they have learnt before and therefore aid acquisition.
It will be followed by a written homework of 'what we did in the lesson' for a student who is not present, and this should help students remember the main theme of the lesson and also the value of linking linguistic and paralinguistic features.

Over the last 7 months with this group we have worked on specific skills of listening, speaking, reading and writing and looked at many linguistic points. However, most of what we have done has involved the students in only a passive way with the real world. We have had a lot of input from real and stimulating sources, such as authentic listenings (self - made or taken from video) and readings taken from the internet or other sources, but the students' productive energies have been spent mainly in the form of comparing related opinions or recounting related stories. While this is perfectly valid practice in itself and does also carry over into real world use, it is only a part of how these students will have to communicate in the real world, this group having stated at the beginning of the course that interacting with native speakers or foreign speakers in an English speaking environment is what they are studying for.
The classroom does provide an opportunity for communication and we have made full use of this, but the purpose of this lesson is to try and open up the walls of the classroom and try and provoke some more real world use of language related to something other than the here and now.
An example of this is how we recently looked at 'complaining', using very valid spoken input and the students learned from this, but sadly, the production was lacking in reality, with one student playing the part of a sales assistant, another a customer, and while language was used well, I feel its relationship to the real world was somehow missing.
By using pictures, mime and acting, I hope to redress this balance as far as is possible in a classroom situation.
Through drama I also hope to help make clearer the relation ship between linguistic and paralinguistic elements, using mime to make meaning clear. I also hope that by putting words to another group's mime there will still be a large enough context gap to make the language used itself carry enough meaning for the students to be aware of its value. If the mime alone were enough, the language would become superfluous and could make students not see the need for using it to carry the intricacies of meaning.
Another important element is that the language work will be done before any verbal communication takes place, so it students should see a need for it at the right time.
Finally, as the dialogue will have to be altered to fit in with the messages coming from a partner in real time, a chance to adapt language already thought about should provide some spontaneous communication practice thus leading towards proceduralisation.
Looking at the stages of the lesson, the first 2 activities are aimed at providing spoken and listening practice while activating students' schemata on the topic and feelings involved in the lesson.
The next quick 'role-play' is designed to set the scene before moving on to consider the likely content and related gestures and movement of the scene while planning the mime.
The mime itself allows students to try and guess the content of another group's ideas as well as serving to decide on the 'best' mime to use.
In the next stage, as the students are planning part of the dialogue, I hope we will be reactivating recently focused on language and also providing a chance for the students to ask questions and investigate vocabulary while the teacher provides needed input and direction for those who need it.
As the 'performance' will be done without one partner knowing the other's dialogue, this is where the spontaneity and adaptation comes in, hopefully making students use the structures they have been remembering in a 'new' phrase.
Finally we will see the original group's version to compare the verbal content with a different or similar interpretation of their intended meaning, before going on to discuss the language used, its success, the success of interpreting meaning from actions and gestures and the relevance of these in communication.

Main Aims:
To revise and provide spoken and written practice of modal verbs in the past for criticism.
To raise awareness of the importance of the connection between linguistic and paralinguistic aspects of language.

Subsidiary Aims:
To practice listening skills, listening to the fast speech of a native speaker.
To practice speaking in the forms of discussion and organisation.
To facilitate proceduralisation of target structures by responding and adapting in real time to a partner's message.

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