A play in four stages

I’ve written many posts on this blog about the value of drama in second language development and particularly about how helping learners to create their own plays can be a rich learning experience. Here I’d like to look at a specific example of how a play was developed over a number of weeks out of one simple writing exercise with a group of Syrian children in Zaatari refugee camp, Jordan.

Stage one – an improvised story

In my regular weekly video conference link up with a group of 11 and 12 year old girls in Zaatari, I tried out the word by word story technique. This is something I learnt from the Macmillan Education ELT youtube channel The basic idea is that the teacher writes the beginning of a story on the board (in this case ‘Once upon a time there was a…’ ) and the students take it in turns to come up to the webcam and tell me just one more word at a time to add. Once we’d established a bit of context and some characters like this (see below) I asked them to try to complete the story for homework.

one word at a time

Stage two – sharing and choosing a story

In the following week’s session the students shared the different ways in which they had completed the story. Their endings were very creative and I quickly saw that they could make a play out of them, and that this was something that they would be motivated to do. I asked them to choose their favourite ending and to try to turn it into a play that they could perform to me the following week. They chose Jena’s version (see below)


Stage 3 – rehearsing and memorising lines

This stage was done between the online sessions and was coordinated entirely by their brilliant teacher in Zaatari – Ala’a. Ala’a assigned roles, helped them with the language and the pronunciation, organised props, costumes and masks and generally helped them to prepare for performance in front of an audience.

Stage 4 – performance

Because of a delay to a previous link up between Gaza and Finland which was supposed to have finished, I ended up inviting both the Gazan group and the Finnish group to see the performance in Zaatari. The girls in Zaatari rose to the challenge of having such a big audience very well and put on an amazing show. Well done to everyone!

Screen Shot 2017-12-13 at 22.28.01


2 thoughts on “A play in four stages

  1. It’s great to learn what you can do via webcam. I was lucky to see your play, thanks to my collague Mrs. Palmunen. Hands up for the great work!


  2. It’s great to learn what you can do via webcam. I was lucky to see your play, thanks to my collague Mrs. Palmunen. Hands up for the great work!


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