Lights, camera, action!
What’s your favourite storyline from a coursebook? Can you think of one easily, or is it hard to find a story which has really engaged you (and your students)? The fact is that stories are often thrown into teens’ coursebooks to provide students with some “natural” English: all those key phrases which native-speaker teens use all the time (!?), and some real-life situations which teens can really empathise with (!?). And so we often either skip the story or whizz through it as quickly as possible, checking the vocabulary and ocassionally apologising to the students for making them listen to it.I will admit that in the past I didn’t make as much of the stories as I could have, and was the type of teacher who would go through it once, do the comprehension questions and then move on to the next activity.
Although our students often don’t like the stories presented to them in coursebooks, they enjoy acting and drama, especially when given the chance to produce something themselves, with the freedom to express their ideas as they choose. So, use the stories in the coursebook and get students to create roleplays and dialogues based around them, either by doing a “What’s happened?” or “What’s going to happen next?”
A few tips:
- If you want students to create something dramatic, introduce it to them in a dramatic way. Simply saying, “Write a dialogue about what happens next.” will not inspire them to be creative
- Get some ideas in the air before they start by eliciting them from the students. Once they’ve started working, if you see pairs who are still staring into space, give them a push in the right direction by going over and giving them the basics
- Encourage students to be inventive and give them some freedom to write what they choose, within your personal comfort zone. Students see sex and violence on the TV everyday and hear and use a wide variety of swearwords but that doesn’t mean they should bring it into the classroom – make it clear to them what you would like their limits to be
- Encourage students to come to the front, but if there are some who crumble at the thought of standing up in front of the class, let them speak from their desks and try again next time
- Give copious amounts of praise to everyone who produces something, even if it isn’t exactly what you wanted. Give words of encouragement to those who produced something too short or didn’t fully understand the task
- Remember that this is a great opportunity to get students speaking and always make that the focus, rather than the ideas or language used