I’ve produced a short look into the Adrift book, and the way it uses the drama-based approach to teach communication skills. If you’re not a video person, you can also read my summary. But I do recommend checking out the video, to see inside the actual book.
One of my favorite activities to make students aware of how much communicating we do with intonation, body language, and facial expressions is to have them read a short script of a scene. Then we watch the scene. Looking at the words on the page, devoid of delivery, is a very different experience. Sometimes it can be misleading. There’s a demonstration of this in the video above. I use a short scene from the Fortune series by Chasing Time English to show how lack of eye contact and an annoyed tone of voice change the entire effect of one character’s lines. If you do nothing else with the video, watch that scene now.
Confidence in Communication: The Drama-Based Approach in Action
Watch the rest of the video for a deep dive into the Confidence in Communication Section of each unit of Adrift. This innovative series with a unique focus on oracy skills has a lot of wonderful features but the way each unit has a series of activities devoted to the Drama-Based Approach is unique for an English-language coursebook.
Each unit of Adrift has a section called Confidence in Communication that gives practice in oracy skills. There are 6 activities that lead students from thinking about the emotions and relationships of a scene to practicing communication skills in a real-life scenario.
Catalog the Emotions
By the time they get to this point, the students will have watched the video several times. They will have done vocabulary, grammar, and comprehension work. So they’ll know it quite well. Now it’s time to focus on emotions. In the first activity, students are asked to think about how the characters feel. Do their emotions change? What’s the relationship and the context?
Adrift is well-suited to thinking about pragmatics and expressions of emotions. While there are some visual flashbacks, the entire dialogue of the video series is an interrogation between Will, an underground fixer of some kind, and a mysterious agent. Both Will and the agent are simultaneously trying to figure out what the other person wants, while giving away as little information about themselves as they can. So there’s a lot of communication happening beyond the literal and direct meaning of the words. Body language, unsaid implications, and prosody (intonation, volume, and rhythm in speaking) play huge roles in conveying the speakers’ meanings.
Analyze the portrayal
In the second activity, students watch the scene and pay attention to how the actors express those emotions. Do they show what they are thinking? Or keep some of their thoughts hidden? Do they pretend to feel one way, but actually feel another? What cues do the actors use to express or conceal their feelings and thoughts?
Analyze the script
When students read in English class, they often read for vocabulary, grammar, and comprehension. But we rarely ask students to look at dialogues as a form of communication. Scripts are full of pragmatics, rhetorical choices that actors make in order to achieve particular effects. In the scene from Adrift in the video above, Will stalls and never answers the agent’s question. This is an important strategy when feeling another person out or avoiding a difficult topic.
Note the verbal and nonverbal cues
Finally, students are ready to make it all concrete. Having watched the scene and analyzed the script, they are ready to note down the techniques the actors use to convey their emotions. It’s a lot of fun to watch and rewatch the scene cataloging all the gestures, expressions, changes in tone, and the rhetorical moves. These are the kinds of things actors and scriptwriters are very good at, so video (or a play) is a natural resource for this. Students can practice these cues in isolation and discuss the impact of each one.
Practice in a safe environment
I like how Adrift asks students to recreate the scene they just watched. This is a great way to take advantage of the drama-based approach to communication. Students already know the script. They have a clear model to follow. Practicing these skills in a familiar scene or context makes it easier and less stressful to learn. That’s not to say students have to copy the actors. They may chose to adapt the actors’ performance, or even come up with their own ideas.
You can even give students emotional cues to follow: What would this scene look like if the agent was losing her temper and Will was getting more and more amused by this?
Practice in a free environment
The last activity in the Confidence in Communication section asks students to create a new scene in the world of Adrift. The prompt is not in the film, so it’s solely their creation from the script to the performances. But they are applying the communication skills they learned to a new scene, one with a similar context to the original scene. From here, students can go on to think of more realistic situations from their own lives that nevertheless share characteristics with the scene they’ve watched.
So that’s the drama-based approach. Learn more about Adrift. and all our video-based course books at https://www.alphabetpublishingbooks.com/videos-for-learners. We hope your students enjoy it as much as ours do.