Tema 19 – Animation techniques and expression as a resource for learning foreign languages. The dramatization of situations of everyday life and the representation of stories, characters, jokes, etc. Group work for creative activities. Role of the teacher.

Tema 19 – Animation techniques and expression as a resource for learning foreign languages. The dramatization of situations of everyday life and the representation of stories, characters, jokes, etc. Group work for creative activities. Role of the teacher.

This topic deals with motivational and expressive techniques as a resource for FL teaching and learning, real-life situations role-playing, story-telling, team work in creative activities, and the role of the teacher.

One of the functions of language is to represent reality. This means that by using language, we can describe to others different situations, landscapes, feelings, etc, that they have not experienced directly. For example we can explain to a friend what we did during the weekend, so that our friend knows what we did although he/she was not present. Our friend has found out what we did because of the “representational function” of language.

This representational function of language applies not only to the L1 but also to the L2 or foreign language. Although, of course, students of a FL can only use the representational function of the FL in a limited way because they may lack vocabulary and structures necessary to express themselves.

But the basic difference between speaking in one’s native language and speaking in the foreign language IN A CLASSROOM SITUATION is that as speakers of our own language we communicate when we have a need to communicate with others. In a FL learning situation, this need to communicate has to be created. In other words, we often have to pretend (finjir, hacer como que…) that we are in a different situation, in a different place and even that we are different people and that in that situation we have something to say. A simple example to illustrate this point would be the following one: If a group of students of a FL are learning how to order food in a restaurant, they will have to IMAGINE that they are in a restaurant, and one of them will have to PRETEND (hacer como que…) that he/she is the waiter. When the time comes to pay the bill, no money will change hands but they may say “here you are”, “here’s you change”, and so on. In other words, they will imagine and pretend that they are involved in a communicative situation although the real situation is that they are sitting in an English class learning or acquiring English as a foreign language.

The reason why we have to imagine and pretend so much is that if we limit ourselves to real space and time, the type of communication would be terribly poor and limited.

Using flashcards and realia is useful to teach names of things that are not physically in the classroom, but in order to practice structures used in different communicative situations we need to use our imagination and create imaginary spaces in which communication can take place in a CONTEXTUALISED way.

All this imagining and pretending does not always come naturally to students. And that’s where the need for motivational and expressive techniques comes in.

We will talk about dramatisation, roles plays, story-telling, creative team work, and the teacher’s role in all of this.

(SIRVE PARA EL TEMA DE LITERATURA) I will start with Story-telling. When we tell students stories we transport them to imaginary worlds, with imaginary characters such as witches, fairies, monsters, animals that can speak, etc. In order to achieve this we need to create an adequate atmosphere that makes children receptive, and we have to modulate our voice to express different attitudes and feelings, such surprise, fear, happiness, loneliness, etc.

Story-telling is typically viewed as a LISTENING activity for children, but we can work with story-telling in a way that INTEGRATES THE FOUR SKILLS. I will very briefly outline an example with a class of students of 2nd cycle.

First, a warm-up in which we present the story using visual aids, realia, etc, and try to make students figure out (adivinar) the setting of the story. In the warm-up we provide the CONTEXT in which communication is going to take place.

Then instead of reading the story, we act it out using flashcards, mimicking voices, etc, in this way we get students engaged in the story and ready to participate. It is important for students to genuinely interact with the text, their classmates and the teacher, and not be mere recipients. We get them to interact by asking them questions like What’s going to happen now? Or What animal is this ? showing them a flashcard of one of the characters, and so on… By interacting, they practice SPEAKING.

What can storytelling offer? Children have an innate love of stories. Stories create magic and a sense of wonder at the world. Stories teach us about life, about ourselves and about others. Storytelling is a unique way for students to develop an understanding, respect and appreciation for other cultures, and can promote a positive attitude to people from different lands, races and religions.

There are many ways in which storytelling can enhance intercultural understanding and communication. Stories can…(choose some)

  • allow children to explore their own cultural roots
  • allow children to experience diverse cultures
  • enable children to empathise with unfamiliar people/places/situations
  • offer insights into different traditions and values
  • help children understand how wisdom is common to all peoples/all cultures
  • offer insights into universal life experiences
  • help children consider new ideas
  • reveal differences and commonalties of cultures around the world

Other benefits of using storytelling in the classroom. Stories…

  • Promote a feeling of well being and relaxation
  • Increase children’s willingness to communicate thoughts and feelings
  • Encourage active participation
  • Increase verbal proficiency
  • Encourage use of imagination and creativity
  • Encourage cooperation between students
  • Enhance listening skills

Telling a story can captivate an audience, and that is our aim as teachers of P. Education, to captivate our children’s interest, but we need the right performance techniques. Some examples of techniques:

For Remembering and retelling the plot: (choose some)

  • map the plot as a memory technique
  • use story skeletons to help you remember the key events
  • think of the plot as a film or a series of connected images
  • tell yourself the story in your own words
  • create your own version of the story (adapt and improvise)
  • retell it numerous times until it feels like a story

and among the techniques for Performance skills, I would mention… (choose some)

  • vary the volume, pitch and tempo of your voice (enunciate clearly and exaggerate expression)
  • use your face, body and gestures (let your body speak)
  • make your body and face respond to the tale
  • have a clear focus and maintain concentration
  • maintain engaging eye contact with the audience/ individual listeners
  • create a charismatic presence (make the audience believe in you)
  • use different, exaggerated character voices
  • use your space/ be dynamic
  • remember to pace yourself
  • always remember to regain your style as a narrator
  • use silence and pauses to add dramatic effect

We will now turn to (look at) the use of drama in the classroom

First, the question Why use drama in the language classroom?
Writers such as Maley, and Duff, (1978) and Wessels, (1987) have pointed to the values and uses of drama:

‘Drama can help the teacher to achieve ‘reality’ in several ways. It can overcome the students’ resistance to learning the new language:

    • by making the learning of the new language an enjoyable experience
    • by setting realistic targets for the students to aim for
    • by creative ‘slowing down’ of real experience
    • by linking the language-learning experience with the student’s own experience of life

And drama can create in students a need to learn the language:

    • by the use of ‘creative tension’ (situations requiring urgent solutions);
    • by putting more responsibility on the learner, as opposed to the teacher.’

Drama provides cultural and language enrichment by revealing insights into the target culture and presenting language contexts that make items memorable by placing them in a realistic social and physical context.

Some learning activities that use drama / theatre are: Identifying the story, characters, plot, etc. and giving a personal / creative response by acting out the text.

Like story-telling, drama can enhance intercultural understanding and communication. It can…

  • allow children to explore their own cultural roots
  • allow children to experience diverse cultures
  • enable children to empathise with unfamiliar people/places/situations
  • offer insights into different traditions and values
  • help children understand how wisdom is common to all peoples/all cultures
  • offer insights into universal life experiences
  • help children consider new ideas
  • reveal differences and commonalties (or similarities) of cultures around the world

Other benefits of using drama / theatre in the classroom are that it (choose some)

  • Promotes a feeling of well being and relaxation
  • Increases children’s willingness to communicate thoughts and feelings
  • Encourages active participation
  • Increases verbal proficiency
  • Encourages use of imagination and creativity
  • Encourages cooperation between students
  • Enhances listening skills

And now some words on role-play. What is role play? It is any speaking activity when you either put yourself into somebody else’s shoes, or when you stay in your own shoes but put yourself into an imaginary situation. Incorporating role-play into the classroom adds variety, a change of pace and opportunities for a lot of language production and also a lot of fun.

Apart from being fun for students, role-play is a good learning tool because it allows children to practice structures and newly acquired vocabulary through controlled-languge activities (no dice lo que “quieran”, sine que siguen un “guion”).

So, Why use role-play? It is widely agreed that learning takes place when activities are engaging and memorable. Jeremy Harmer advocates the use of role-play for the following reasons:

  • It’s fun and motivating
  • Quieter students (Students who are shy) get the chance to express themselves in a more direct way
  • The world of the classroom is broadened to include the outside world – thus offering a much wider range of language opportunities

Realia and props can really bring a role-play to life. I will illustrate this with an example: If a group of learners is playing the roles of pizza chef and customer, a simple cone of white card with CHEF written on it, which takes a minute to make, can make the whole process more fun, engaging and memorable (= digno de ser recordado) for the class. As soon as the white card cone is placed on the student’s head, the student “becomes” the pizza chef and acts accordingly.
Rearranging the furniture can also help. If we imagine that we are in a restaurant and we arrange the tables so that students can sit in groups and order food from a menu, the activity will be much more realistic.

When students are practising a role-play sometimes they get stuck because they don’t know a word or a phrase that they need. In the practice (con “c” si es sustantivo, con “s” si es verbo) stage, the teacher has a chance to ‘feed-in’ the appropriate language. This may need the teacher to act as a sort of ‘walking dictionary’, monitoring the class and offering assistance as and when necessary. Feeding-in the language students need is fundamental. By doing so, they will learn new vocabulary and structure in a natural and fun environment. It is a chance to use real and natural language.

One advantage of role-play in Primary Education is that, since we are working with children, we can exploit their natural ability to “play”. Children are used to acting out when they play with friends. Me pregunto si esto sigue siendo verdad referido a los niños de hoy (?) … jugar a las casitas, a los medicos, etc.

My next point is Team work. Our new Education law, LOE, the same as LOGSE, stresses the importance of team work in Primary Education. Royal Decree 1513/2006 which contains the new basic Curriculum for Primary Education explicitly states the need to develop the ability to work, not only individually, but also in teams as one of the objectives of primary Education. It is in fact the second objective listed, or objective “b”.

b) Desarrollar hábitos de trabajo individual y de equipo, de esfuerzo y responsabilidad en el estudio asi como actitudes de confianza en si mismo, sentido crítico, iniciativa personal, curiosidad interés y creatividad en el aprendizaje.

In fact, team work is important, especially for the following two reasons:

  • In today’s world, teams are necessary for problem solving because the world has become too complex for one person to know it all. And the place to learn team work is, of course, the school.
  • The other reason is that teams tend to be more creative when members learn to work together and explore new ways of doing things.

Examples of activities that can be done in teams: Many different types of games such as Chinese whispers… (menciona dos o tres mas…)…. Teams are also very useful for some speaking activities because they students can interact with more than one partner. The number of members in the team will depend on the type of activity. In games, for example the class may be divided into two teams, whereas in Project work, the number of members is much smaller, four or five students.

The role of the teacher which is the last point of the topic has already been largely described throughout this essay when I talked about story-telling and role-play. We can summarise the teacher’s role as being a facilitator, a spectator and a participant, and sometimes, why not, as a “mere teacher” in the traditional sense of the word. I will briefly describe these “roles” the may take:

as Facilitator : students may need new language to be ‘fed’ in by the teacher. If rehearsal time is appropriate the feeding in of new language should take place at this stage.

As Spectator – The teacher watches the role-play and offers comments and advice at the end.

As Participant – It is sometimes appropriate to get involved and take part in the role-play ourselves.

Story-telling on the other had is more teacher-centered, so that case we are playing a more “traditional” role.

Conclusion: Coged las ideas principales del tema y expresadlas en la conclusión muy brevemente.

Bibliografía: ver temas de Magíster.