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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Adrift a video drama series for English Language Learners from Alphabet Publishing and Chasing Time English

Are You Teaching the Hidden Grammar of Conversation?

We’re excited to a brand-new series, Adrift, a four-episode video drama and accompanying coursebook for learners created by Chasing Time English for C1+/advanced language learners. The videos (available for free on the Chasing Time English site) provide engaging input for natural language as well as demonstrating how body language, gesture, facial expression, and voice are used to communicate non-verbally. And the story line will get students talking as if it were their new favorite TV show: A man wakes up in a mysterious room. An unknown agent interrogates him about his last job, a job that went wrong, unbeknownst […]

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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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Using Video to Teach Natural Conversation

Video is a powerful resource to teach natural conversation to students. Students can benefit from listening to conversations between fluent speakers. In particular, natural, fluent speech provides models of pronunciation and intonation, and how we use our voices to express emotion and emphasize important words. Rhetorical markers such as “uh” can be pronounced a variety of ways depending on whether we are pausing to think, indicating we disagree, interrupting someone else, or showing disapproval. So audio can do a lot of things a written script can’t. Nonverbal Communication in Natural Conversation However, videos of conversations provide all the benefits […]

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Theater as the Ideal Group Project

Thunder claps, lightning strikes, and rain begins to fall as Jane and Margaret approach the bus stop. They are two students: one a model child with good grades, the other a bit of a misfit who doesn’t clean her room or get her homework done on time. But as an ordinary autumn rain turns into a natural disaster, the issue what kind of people we’ll really need in the future is called into question in a new way. This is the setting for Rising Water, a play written by Alice Savage for the ESOL classroom that uses the story […]

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Intonation Sensation: Using Emphasis in Speaking

English speakers use intonation to express meaning. We can emphasize a word to show that it is important. This may not be true of the other languages your students speak. In some languages, intonation is only applied at the sentence level. In some languages tone is linked to the meaning of the word itself. Students need a chance to practice using emphasis in speaking to make their meaning clear. This quick and easy activity comes from Rising Water. Students can listen to the audio recording or get the podcast of the play to hear where those actors chose to put […]

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