Students learning a second language in our bilingual classrooms are faced with the challenge of mastering the new language as well as understanding the culture which surrounds them. At the same time, they must compete with their English-speaking classmates, and keep up with the subject area work. The faster the second language is acquired, the better are the chances that the student will successfully complete his four years of high school.
In this race against time, the teacher must use all of his abilities and resources to keep the class interesting and challenging. The constant recitation, memorization, and pronunciation drills that students are subjected to during the average foreign language class quickly become ineffective In this constant search for fresh material, untried methods, and new approaches to old ideas, I propose dramatics for the English as a Second Language student (E.S.L.) as a classroom activity to enhance and speed up the learning process.
Teachers have been using dialogues and skits for many years. But simple recitation and memorization of material students neither understand nor relate to does not encourage learning and appreciation of the new language and the culture it represents. Because of the increased opportunity for individual creative satisfaction, acting and playwriting may succeed in reaching and keeping these students. If we were to take their experiences, traditions, and background and use them as a source for material in a play, we would reach the students at their own level, drawing on the familiar themes they are all acquainted with. For example, the difficulties faced by the students, and their families, in their attempts to assimilate with the new environment can be used as a springboard to create dialogues and situations based on the reality of the student’s life. In this area of culture and language differences the educational television series
Que Pasa. U.S.A.?
have drawn upon the cultural heritage of the Puerto Rican and Cuban communities in the United States. Their aim has been a dual one. First, they instruct children and parents in the ways of America, with topics such as employment, social services, school life, and family customs. Secondly, these series also offer the English speaking audience a glimpse of life in the other culture, and the basic similarities that make us all human. I plan to build on this idea, and have my students work on their own dialogue and scripts, drawing from their life experience.
For a period of eight weeks, I plan to teach bilingual students in levels advanced and transitional of E.S.L. classes to develop a script, based on a basic story line I will provide, and to lead them through all the steps up to the actual production of the play that will result. I hope to get the students interested not only in bringing their ideas and themes into the further development of the story line, but in the discussing and acting of the material created. I will allow them to experiment with different situations, in order to bring the play to life. As a result of this experience, I expect to find students more confident and open in front of an audience (first in class with me, then possibly in front of the whole school). All the while their listening, speaking, writing, and reading skills in English will develop and mature.
The unit contains lesson plans that deal with the development of the play, from ideas discussed in a group situation to the actual performance, including some follow-up activities. Since all this material will be part of the student’s regular work in the E.S.L. classroom, it will be carefully tailored to integrate and supplement the rest of the curricula.
I have divided this unit into eight components, or steps, some of which may take longer than a day to complete. The pace will depend on the student’s abilities,and subject to change. However, all steps must be covered.
In each of the components that follow I have explained the goal of the session, presented activities to reach that goal, suggested homework assignments, and listed the skills the students would have acquired at the end of the step. I hope teachers will come up with their own exercises and homework assignments, tailored after the examples I have included.
For purposes of planning your year, I have discussed possible performance dates and project duration in component VI (Performance).