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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Positive Psychology: More Than Just Fun and Games!

This was a nice post about from Patrice Palmer about 60 Positive Activities for Every Classroom, one of our books that promotes positive psychology in the classroom. As Patrice writes below, research suggests many benefits to building positive emotions in the classroom 60 Positive Activities for Every Classroom by Teresa X. Nguyen and Nathaniel Cayanan is a fun-filled resource with activities that can easily be used as fillers, enders or energizers. I wanted to review this book because I’m a huge fan and student of positive psychology.  Although the book does not explicitly mention the science of this fastest […]

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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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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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Ways to Make Me Laugh

Humor can be a powerful tool in the classroom. As I’ve written elsewhere before,  Humor plays a large role in my teaching. I use jokes to lighten the mood and make learning fun. I use self-deprecating humor so that students feel comfortable challenging me and so that they understand that mistakes aren’t the end of the world. I use humorous stories to establish rapport. And I make silly skits and demonstrations of words or grammar points so that students will remember them. But humor is also different from culture to culture and from person to person. And while they […]

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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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Jimmy Fortune, private investigator, from the Fortune series, a scripted drama that teaches communication skills.

Fortune: an Innovative Video Series for Language Learning

As you may have gathered from our site, Facebook page, or Twitter, we have a new project out: The Fortune Series, a coursebook with a focus on pragmatics and speaking built around an original 6-episode video series for language learning. The drama, which resembles NCIS or Law and Order or any of those popular TV dramas, students are already watching, was created by the award-winning production team, Chasing Time. Some highlights of this original and innovation video series for language learning include: Material targeted at two levels: Fortune Blue for High Elementary/Pre-Intermediate learners (CEFR level A2) and Fortune Gold […]

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Reader's Theater

How to Do Reader’s Theater

What is Reader’s Theater? In its simplest form, Reader’s Theater is an activity where students read a play aloud with the scripts in hand. They often do so without having memorized the script. They may not have props, act out the action of the play, or even move. There doesn’t need to be an audience besides the readers themselves. Reader’s Theater can be used with scripts or stories or even poems. Sometimes the teacher or students rewrite stories in play form for the purpose of doing Reader’s Theater. This can be a great way to get students writing creatively. […]

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