Set Your Roleplay to Music

Looking for a way to make your roleplays more engaging and also help students explore communication tools more effectively? Try music. We all know the power of music to set a mood. Television shows and movies exploit this all the time. You probably know the famous theme from the film Jaws: Duh-duh…duh-duh…duh-duh,duh-duh,duh-duh-duh! It builds suspense even when nothing particularly frightening is happening on screen. The music alone tells you something bad is about to happen and evokes a mood that makes the appearance of a deadly shark even more terrifying! Soundtrack to Life Or think of a man and […]

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Get Students Writing and Talking!

As more and more teachers are turning to online teaching and distance learning for the forseeable future, and students may be considering self-study options, I’d like to introduce our free prompt generating tool, English Prompts, with three different kinds of prompts: creative writing, speaking, and role-plays. The first, Stories Without End, generates a random short story prompt that ends on a cliff-hanger. The genres vary from horror to comedy to sci-fi to realistic fiction, so there’s a broad range of topics. Don’t like the story? Click “New Story”! Here are some ideas to use it with students: Have students […]

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Kinesthetic Grammar Activities: Getting Grammar on the Move!

We’re thrilled to be publishing a book on Kinesthetic Grammar Activities from Alice Savage and Colin Ward. Kinesthetic grammar is a great way to practice language dynamically. The benefits are many:The benefits are many: Vary the pace of the classroom Help teach nonverbal language and gesture in communication Activate embodied mind and improve the memorability of target grammar Build classroom community! I’ve included an excerpt from Alice and Colin’s wonderful blog post. I highly recommend checking out the full post, which includes some example activities. Then come back here and check out the book, 60 Kinesthetic Activities, coming out […]

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Public Speaking in English is Scary. Drama Can Help

Poor Emilio! He seemed like such a confident student, but when he had to give a talk in front of the class, he ran to the bathroom and was sick. Emilio’s case might be extreme, but according to the psychologist, Michelle Lynsky, public speaking is one of the most terrifying experiences of modern life, and that’s for people performing in their first language. To feel confident, speakers need to feel the audience is on their side. For this to happen, they need believe that a) they have something interesting to say, b) that the audience will understand it, and […]

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Improvised Role Plays of Real-World Conversations

Improvisation allows students to prepare for real world situations, but often in regular role plays, the conversation runs more smoothly than in real life. In the real world, people find themselves challenged by awkward situations. In theater class, we address the pragmatics of minor conflicts through improvisation. First, we might read a scene in which a character is trying to send implicit messages in a socially acceptable way, such as a restaurant owner wants to politely get rid of a job applicant who is trapped by a flood in Rising Water. Students read the scene, discuss the intentions of the […]

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The Drama-Based Approach to Teach Communication

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. […]

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Play on Feelings: Using Intonation to Express Emotion

Intonation is notoriously difficult for English learners, yet it is important for sending emotional messages. When we are worried about a situation, we may express that as much with our tone as our words. The listener needs to pick up on that worry in order to fully communicate. When our students speak, they also need to convey their feelings to help others understand their needs. On the other hand, sometimes we speak ironically. If our students can’t understand a sarcastic tone of voice, they will take away the opposite message from that the speaker intended. And looking beyond communicating […]

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Pragmatics is Everywhere

I got this amazing feedback from an educator about one of our drama books a while back. I introduced the idea of using [Her Own Worst Enemy] in the classroom to my principal, and she loved the idea! I also did a tiny lesson on pragmatics with some of my ninth graders, and they seemed to enjoy it. A few weeks after the lesson, a special needs student was able to connect pragmatism to another lesson we were doing. There are powerful things for students to learn in this play! This is why we keep putting out books. It’s […]

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How to Put on a Play in Class

The benefits of drama in the English classroom are surprising. Students learn and practice a variety of acting skills, using their bodies and voices to make meaning. When they put on a play, what to say is given to them so they can focus on how to say it. Speaking with emotion and attitude are skills we don’t always find in our coursebooks. And when students act a role, it’s a sort of safe space where they can make mistakes. Plays are also usually written in natural language so they are a wealth of idioms and conversational expressions. They are […]

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Conversational Moves

So many speaking materials focus on micro-language: application of a grammatical form, pronunciation of a syllable, maybe memorization of a useful phrase. But students do not get much scaffolding for a macro-approach that integrates larger elements of language such as longer turns, or whole sections of a conversation with a particular purpose or theme. Richard Swales talked about analyzing written work in terms of rhetorical moves, or places where we start new sections with a new objective. We can apply the same analysis to conversations, showing students different ways we perform conversational moves such as, starting a conversation, engaging in […]

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