Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Livening up a boring oral English book

Eve Ross - Beijing Institute of Machinery, China

A teacher is required to use a boring oral English book and asks what could be done to make the classes more interesting:

Two words: role play.

My students have enjoyed creating their own dialogs based on a dialog I give them. I prepare a short dialog based on the vocabulary and grammar in the chapter. I write the dialog on the board, go over vocab and pronunciation, then let the students practice it in pairs. Next, I improvise a humorous variation, based on the original, playing both roles in different voices (this is where the teacher's willingness to look silly comes in).

I give the pairs of students about 10 minutes to create and practice their own variation of the dialog, while I wander the classroom assisting where help is needed. Finally, I call on a few pairs to present their variation to the class. An example of how this can be funny: One dialog involved someone comforting someone else who was sad. One pair of male students, clearly born comedians, varied it to something like this:

"What's the matter?"
"No one will marry me." (laughter)
"Why not?"
"I'm too old." (laughter)
"How old are you?"
"Forty." (laughter)
"It seems to me you are about twenty years old." (laughter)
"Will you marry me?" (laughter)
"Of course not." (laughter)
"Do you see? No one will marry me!" (lots of laughter)

Another way to role-play, which the students love, is to turn the classroom into a mock city. For example, with the chapter on shopping, I assigned some students to be shopkeepers in various kinds of shops (their goods were slips of paper on which they could write the English word for the product). Other students were shoppers. I distributed play money equally among everyone. The contest among the shopkeepers was to earn the most money. The contest among the shoppers was to get the most products for the least money.

I used another variation of this game for the chapter on travel/tourism. This time I provided no props. Some students were travel agents, others airport gate attendants, others tour guides in English-speaking countries, still others were tourists. The students had to buy tickets from the travel agents on one side of the room, find the correct gate at the airport (the middle of the classroom), then see the sights in whichever country (on the other side of the classroom), then get back on the plane, go back to the travel agency and buy tickets for another country. I was pleasantly surprised that the students' level of imagination allowed this activity to succeed.


Michael P. said...

Great idea! Can't wait to try it.

Jenny (KL, Malaysia) said...

I tried these ideas and they are great. Thanks!

jerry zhou said...

i'm going to try this 'mock city' idea. i need something to liven up my classes. tx!