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.
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!