Q:: My intermediate learners are a strong group. Their coursebook seems well-suited for them; they manage most activities with ease. I'd like a suggestion or two for drama activities in which they could interact as they might in real life situations.

ANSWER:  Here is a suggestion "In This Situation, What Would You Say and Do?"--a guided group work writing and speaking activity, in which intermediate level learners have the opportunity to write exchanges and short dialogues--appropriate to specific social situations.  There is minimal preparation and the entire 'double' activity should take approximately 20 minutes.

PREPARATION OF MATERIALS:

1. Prepare three sets of cards:   

(a)  WHO cards  which describe the characters,

(e.g. a young girl, a teenage boy,

a friend's grandmother,

a famous rock star,

a basketball coach, and

an elderly gentleman),

(b) WHERE cards which suggest the place of the interaction,

(e.g. a high school gate,

a supermarket cue,

a crowded bus,

a fast food counter,

on mobile phones and

in a car),  and

(c)  WHAT cards  which describe a possible situation,

(e.g. one accidentally bumps into another on a street corner,

one notices that the other has dropped a slip of paper,

two strangers who smile and strike up a conversation,

one who offers to help another in some way,

one asks the other for a piece of information),

 

If you wish to prepare more cards for the 3 sets above, 

(a)  brainstorm brief descriptions of characters who speak in coursebook       dialogues,  e.g. representatives of various professions on the job,  family members and peers,

(b)  list places where people interact and

 (c) think of situations that bring people in contact with each other. 

2. Use different colors of paper or markers for each set in order to be able to sort them out more easily.  Prepare twice the number of WHO cards.  Before class, create combinations of four cards:  two WHO cards together with one WHERE card and one WHAT card.   Prepare one combination of four cards for each group of three learners.   

 

INSTRUCTIONS:

1.Learners work in groups of three.  Give each group the two WHO cards (the characters), the one WHERE card (the place) and the one WHAT card (the situation)  that you have prepared beforehand. For example, one group may receive the four cards below:

 

WHO

An elderly woman

 WHO

A young man dressed in black leather

WHERE

At  the entrance door of a supermarket

WHAT

Both arrive at the door and reach for the handle at the same time

 2. Learners, in their groups, brainstorm possible outcomes and exchanges.  They discuss and record all possible exchanges or dialogues.  For example, the learners may imagine that the young man and the elderly woman arrive at the entrance door, from different directions, at the same time.   The young man takes a step back and says to the elderly woman, "After you, ma'am."  Then the elderly woman smiles at him and says, "Thank you!"

Encourage them to write down at least two plausible versions. An example of another version could be that the young man steps ahead of the elderly woman and mumbles, "Sorry. I'm in a hurry."  The elderly woman might respond sarcastically, "Certainly!  You are the only one in a hurry!" 

Circulate among the groups offering advice and guidance as needed.   Your advice is essential at this point so that your learners keep in mind how to use the language they know appropriately.   Also, if they choose to have a character speak with a certain mood or attitude (in our second example "sarcastically"), you may need to coach them on correct intonation.

Set a four-minute time limit on this group work. 

3. First Report Back Phase:   One member of each group tells the rest of the class who, where and in what situation their characters are. The other two members read at least one of the exchanges aloud.  You can elicit discussion on appropriate language use from the class members who are listenin3.

4. Learners return to their groups of three, to prepare a "staging" of one of their exchanges.  Two of the learners play the roles of the characters and the third learner is the director.  For most stagings to appear realistic, learners will have to rehearse standing up.[1]Again,  circulate among the groups to help coach them on appropriate body language and other non-verbal elements of communication.

You may cast the characters and choose the director to expedite the activity.  Allow the learners three minutes to rehearse.

5. Second Report Back Phase: Once the time is up, the learners take turns performing  their exchanges in front of their classmates.  Set an observation task, during this report back; for example,  as classmates observe and listen to  each group’s performance, ask them to jot down any expression used or gesture made which appeared quite appropriate or inappropriate.

6. After each  performance, call on the listeners to read out what they jotted down.   The discussion which ensues may cover differences in body language between L1 and English and variations in speech used for particular occasions and persons addressed.


RATIONALE:

This group work activity is designed to generate opportunities for peer teaching and peer learning.  In Phase One, learners are asked to write dialogues, appropriate to specific social situations; hence, they must imagine a number of possibilities in specific situations and recall fitting colloquial English expressions. 

In Phase Two, learners simulate these situations by acting out and, perhaps, memorizing their own dialogues, thus, enjoying a guided speaking activity in which they practice fluency while integrating non-verbal elements of communication.

 

Suzanne and Lilika



[1] Note:  As some classroom furniture may need to be moved, the teacher is advised to exercise firm class management techniques to keep the noise level down to a minimum.