The characteristics of the language used in an act of communication in real life are different from the language produced in the English class.
The limited field of real experiences in the use of the language that is offered by the small context of the classroom obstructs to imprint on the language there produced the characteristics related to the natural and spontaneous use in real life.
All those activities developed by the teacher in order to reproduce aspects that characterise the real use of the language should be always positively valued. As regards this, one of the activities that helps best the student in the practice of these characteristics peculiar to the communicative language is dramatisation.
In the foreign language class, dramatisation has got the objective of getting the student to develop a creative production of the language.
We want that the language in the class would reproduce as accurately as is possible, the naturally and spontaneity that characterise any normal act of communication.
The dramatisation as a technique of awakening and expression can be carry out through any activity in that artificial or imaginary situations are created to encourage the student to act representing his/her own role or the one representing another person. The interaction established among the participants provokes a number of reactions not only of linguistic nature, but also emotional, close to the ones typical in an act of communication in real life.
Dramatisation in the sense dealt here is not far from the certain games of imitation so characteristic in childhood. In both cases we deal with activities that consist on assuming or simulating certain roles in imaginary situations. On the other hand, also the players, as they pursue the enjoyment and the individual entertainment unconsciously. Also propose to experiment the communicative efficacy of the language.
Besides, these two activities are not radically different from the drama as genre or literary art. In the three cases we deal with the expression of an inherent desire, to imitate behaviours that attract our attention by means of artificial reproduction or events in human life that have developed in those.
2.2 From the game to dramatisation.
What is the difference between games and dramatisation?
Firstly, the practice of language games is usually characterised by the desire of competition and overcoming the other players in the achievement of the objectives proposed for each game. This desire to compete nevertheless, is not an essential characteristic of dramatisation, where what it really matters is “to participate”. Secondly, the language used in this kind of games is normally very organised and controlled by the teacher. In dramatisation, on the contrary, the freedom of the student to choose the language to be used in each moment is nearly complete. Finally, we should say that the role performed by the students in the games is not always the living image of the behaviour of any individual in the different real life situations. In the dramatic activity, however, the players, although they have to deal with imaginary or artificial situations, represent roles that correspond to the ones from the real life. What is pursuing demonstrated is, precisely, the interpretative ability of the individual.
It is easy to turn a game of language into dramatisation. The only thing needed for this is to give the student a grater linguistic independence during the developing of the game itself, inviting him/her to exchange points of view with his/her classmates freely, so that he/she can gather the specific information to achieve the objectives of the game. This makes possible to stabilise an interaction between two or more students, in which each one as well as using the language he/she thinks most appropriated he/she also takes similar roles to those in human and social relationship. In this way, the students perform with the language many different functions such as identifying, asking, enquiring, agreeing, disagreeing etc., by means of that the game becomes an authentic communication act.
The communicative practice of a language will only be complete if we succeed in dealing with all the aspects, linguistic and non-linguistic, that defines the real use of the target language.It is drama itself that set up as one of the most effective activities to introduce the student to the communicative practice of a language.
2.3.1 Warming up activities
At the beginning of a foreign language lesson not all the students are motivated to the same extent, neither are they in the same mood. That is why it is necessary to create an atmosphere of Cupertino previously and estimulate in each the desire of working together.
There is a series of exercises whose main objective is to prepare the students psychologically, creating in them a favourable disposition to participate in the following language activities.
¨ The imaginary ball: In pairs. The students are asked to pretend to be throwing an imaginary ball at each other. It would be interesting that the teacher first tell the students what kind of ball they are going to throw: a tennis ball, a balloon, a football…
¨ Physical representation of words: Groups of five or six students. The task of each group consists on finding a word whose number of letters corresponds with the number of members forming the group. Once the word has been chosen, each of the members from the different groups make, either with the hands or with the fingers, one of the letters from the established word, the rest of the groups will try to guess the word.
¨ The talking blackboard: In pairs. A student is back to back with the other, and this draws with his/her finger the letters of any word. The student who represents the blackboard has to guess the word.
¨ Introducing oneself and being introduced to others: Circles of six or seven pupils. A student starts saying his/her name and an imaginary occupation. The student who is on his/her right repeats this information and, then, says his/her own name and the imaginary occupation, and so on until all the members of the group have taken part in the game.This practice is very useful when exercising the capacity of remembering.
3. THEDRAMATIZATIONOFDAILYLIFESITUATIONSANDTHEREPRESENTATIONOFTALES, JOKES. ETC.
With this we pretend to exploit the observation capacity of the student as a means to achieve the communicative use of the language.
3.1.1 Exploring the classroom
The teacher invites the students to pay attention, during a couple of minutes, to the things in the classroom. Once the time is up, the teacher asks the pupils to close the eyes and listen, without answering, to a series of questions about the wall, the door, the blackboard…Made the questions, the teacher asks the students to open the eyes and comment with the rest of the pupils the things that are able to remember. The most important thing about this exercise is the interest the student has to discover his/her nearest environment and this is transformed into a real production of language that is not always easy to reach in the classroom and it is also important to get the students used to observe the details.
3.1.2 Discovering objects hidden on the hand
Standing up and with the hands behind their backs, the students make circles of four or five. The teacher, covertly, places a small object on the hands of one pupil from each group, trying not to disclose it, not even to the student who receives it. This, using the sense of touch, can easily know the name of the object.
The activity of the rest of the members from the team involves guessing, by questioning him/her, which the object is. The only clues given are the questions made by the different members of the group.
This activity requires a great effort of concentration, in which intelligence and memory play an important role.
3.1.3 The invisible fruit
Groups of four or five students. Each group thinks about a fruit and decides which gestures are suitable to imitate the action of eating the fruit.
At a signal given by the teacher, the groups disperse and each pupil goes to a classmate from another group and interchanges the gestures agreed in their respective groups and makes some comments about their performances.
What it is sought with this activity is the opportunity to exercise certain functions of language such as praising or criticism other’s people performance.
These exercises are created to bring in operation the fantasy of the student as a means to carry him/her from the situation or immediate reality of the classroom to imaginary situations in the non-academic world.
Besides stimulating the creative and interpretative capacity of the students, we intend the pupils to achieve a suitable production in accordance with new situations created by their imagination.
In pairs. Each pair must find for certain object from the classroom a different use from the one it usually has. (A chair may be used as an umbrella). After this, each pair must reach an agreement about the way of imitating the action that may be performed with that object.
After a brief break, each pair shows the stabilised action before the other pairs or the whole class.
From this activity is easy to achieve a creative and spontaneous use of the language: “I think it is an umbrella”.
In order to carry out this activity, it is essential to have a set of photographs of different characters.The pupils are distributed into groups of three or four. Each group is given a photograph of a different character, along with a sheet containing the following questions: How old is this person? What does s/he do?, Do you like this person?, What is s/he doing now? …
With the photograph in front of them, the members of each group answer the different questions and try to agree in the most interesting interpretations.It is advisable that somebody from the group takes notes of the conclusions.Once the task is finished, the groups interchange the photographs and make comments about the new character.
What is expected with this activity is exploiting linguistically the first impression that instinctively has any human being when pays attention to somebody.
In pairs. Each pair decides to represent a joke in front of the rest of the English class. In this way we foster the creative use of the language by all the students because they use it in a personal manner so as to represent a comical situation in front of the other pupils.
By turns, all the pairs represent the jokes or funny situations previously chosen.The teacher undertakes the responsibility for the jokes not being repeated.This activity may be carried out with the characters of a tale known by all the students, although this kind of representation may require a previous rehearsal.
The teacher asks the students to bring into the classroom any object from their house that feel particularly keen on. At the same time, s/he will also indicate the necessity of wrapping the object so the rest of the pupils cannot see it until the activity starts.
The teacher asks the students to distribute themselves into groups of four. Then, they are informed they have a few minutes to, before opening their respective parcels in front of the classmates, guess the content.
Once the objects are exposed, each student explains to his/her group some details about the object (who gave it to him/her, when, etc.).Meantime, the rest of the pupils can ask about any detail about the object.
They are very interested in the objects they bring into the classroom, so all the activities about them will be accomplished with equal interest.
Advantages of working in groups:
¨ The students who work in-groups apparently experience less “fear” in class. As a result, they would rarely confine into themselves and maintain a more receptive attitude towards study. Besides, the co-operation in-group activities produces a sense of success that the student does not normally experience when working alone.
¨ The students get used to learning applying the knowledge instead of memorising it. The skills acquired in this way become easily part of the permanent linguistic competence.
¨ The students learn sharing and joining their efforts, checking their work reciprocally and helping one another in natural, dynamic and communicative situations.
¨ The fact of joining their efforts, perceptions and knowledge helps the student to make up for the individual deficiencies.
¨ Working in-groups multiplies the opportunities for oral communication in the classroom.
When the teacher has succeed in having each group of students working as a team, s/he also achieves they pay more attention to the task undertaken.
It is necessary to emphasise that the responsibility of the teacher for dividing the class into groups changes, and, at the same time the traditional relation teacher/student is transformed into a responsibility shared with the students and developed in different modalities.
Keeping a lively rate in the activities usually helps to diminish the discipline problems, as it is unlikely that students get bored.
Besides, the mischievous student cannot disrupt the class so often if everybody is busy.The traditional opposition teacher/student is reduced when the students, instead of establishing an exclusive relation with the teacher, relate to their classmates.
Several criteria are useful when classifying group activities:
¨ The degree of the students`s familiarity with the task. The tasks accomplished in previous lessons are carried out without difficulties due to the knowledge of their structure.
¨ The complexity of the task. Generally the more steps it has, the more capacity to follow the instructions and co-ordinating the interaction is requested from the students.
¨ The degree of creativity required. The tasks based mainly in the manipulation of linguistic elements are apparently easier than the ones that require the use of the language in a creative way.
Analysing an activity taking in consideration these three criteria helps to foresee the reaction of the group. Provided that each activity normally requires more than a skill, the classification by skills (oral, written, comprehension,etc.) indicates its main approach.
The activities must be selected depending on the objectives of the class, the level of knowledge in the target language, the students and their interest. It is obvious the flexibility offered by working in-groups and the utility within the language class.
Perhaps, the role of the teacher is deciding when work group can improve the learning of a language by means of creative activities.
While the work group takes place, the teacher performs several roles:
¨ Organiser: decides the size of the group and the way to select its members. Defines the activity and its result.
¨ Manager: observes the dynamic of the group and suggests improvements. Co-ordinates the different groups to avoid unnecessary repetitions. Checks that the tasks are carried out according to the given specifications.
¨ Resource: gives information or materials when asked. Proposes several and variable alternatives.
¨ Assessor: gives explanations depending on the necessities of each group. Clarifies grammatical difficulties, organises sessions to practice pronunciation. Provides positive feedback about the development of the activity.
¨ Evaluator: evaluates the work or performance of the group; propose criteria so the groups can evaluate themselves.
¨ Problem detector: observes the difficulties appeared in the performance of the group, clarifies the problems and suggests solutions.While the group is working, the teacher can perceive a wide variety of problems.
During any session of group work, the teacher will have to move from a role to other, applying the techniques required in each situation, and will adopt the role of pronunciation connector in a group, source of resources or manager in others. In each case the teacher individualises his/her help depending on the group, offering his/her presence in a diplomatic manner, and not imposing it to the group. Thanks to these roles, the teacher is able to monitor the progression of the students, to follow closely the difficulties they encounter, the personal relations and the dynamic of the group which help him to select successfully the activities in the future.