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Drama in esl classroom

Needs Analysis
The purpose of conducting this needs analysis is to find out what students already
know, what they need to know, and what their preferences are. These needs
assessments seek information related to language skills needed and known,
preferences in learning, prior experiences, and common problems. The intended
audience of these materials is teachers of these students, or teachers of students in
situations much like the ones in which these targeted students are. The first analysis
instrument is a survey for the other instructors in the institution. The second analysis
instrument is a survey to be distributed to students on the first day of class. Since this
course was designed for a multi-level elective class in the Program in Intensive
English, you may want to modify the survey to suit your needs.

The responses from these instruments should be collected and analyzed to find
patterns, groups of students, students who may struggle, or students who may need
extra help. This information will guide the instruction that takes place in the
classroom, as well. For example, if all students have a fairly difficult time speaking in
English in front of others, the teacher will need to incorporate strategies into the
lessons to help students feel more comfortable taking risks in language. If, on the
other hand, students lack writing skills, the class can focus more on aspects of
scriptwriting. These instruments will also inform the teacher of students learning
preferences, and the teacher can address this in some way.

Unfortunately, needs instruments have limitations, and these are not without. These
instruments cannot account for learners inaccurate perceptions of their needs. While
it is extremely important to get feedback from the students themselves, teachers must
realize that self-perceptions can be misleading. Another possible limitation of these
needs analyses is that students needs change. Students may start with one set of
needs, but several weeks later, have a new set of needs. One set of needs analysis
instruments cannot fully account for these changes, so it is the responsibility of the
teachers to continually assess the students needs.

The following table (adapted from Richards 2001, and Nunan 1989) highlights the
hypothesized initial and long-term needs of the students. It also hypothesizes some of
the unspoken agendas of the students. These needs and agendas are categorized into
the following: language skills needed, situations where English is frequently used,
situations where English is difficult, frequencies with which different transactions are
carried out, perceived difficulties, kind of interaction, and whether or not
communicative language use is important to success.
The following list hypothesizes the types of information required for a needs analysis
of this group of students. The Pre-Class needs analysis instrument and the Initial
Class needs analysis instrument seek to acquire this information.

Types of information required


1. Survey of students expectations
2. Survey of students motivation
3. Survey of students affective factors
4. Survey of students attitudes
5. Observation of gap between students needs and abilities
6. Survey of specific problems students have
7. Language proficiency and language difficulties
8. Subjective needs including learning strategy preferences, affective needs, learning
activity preferences, pace of learning, attitude toward correction
(adapted from Nunan, 1989)

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Predominant Syllabus Frameworks and Course


Content
In this ELI class, students will learn about and experience the many aspects of
dramatic performance in English. The final product of the course is the performance
in front of a live audience. To prepare students for this performance, they will learn
how to write a script, perform improvisation, perform role-play, and put together the
components of a show by planning their own performance.

The primary syllabus type for this course is a project-based syllabus. In addition to
this syllabus-type, a performance-based syllabus is also incorporated. A project-based
syllabus is structured around preparing students to complete a project. In this syllabus,
the project is typically completed as a culminating activity for each unit or at the end
of the course. In a performance-based syllabus, the content of the course is structured
around students performance. In this way, the syllabus is organized around one or
more performances. In incorporating these two syllabi frameworks, this course
prepares students to create their own public dramatic performance.

According to Alan and Stoller (2005), project-based classes are beneficial to students
because they have the potential to maximize learning when the projects require a
combination of teacher guidance, teacher feedback, student engagement, and
elaborated tasks with some degree of challenge (p. 11). In this Drama ELI course,
the teacher acts as both teacher and facilitator. At the beginning of the course, the
teacher teaches students about the many aspects of drama. As the class progresses,
students take more control over the project. Eventually, the students run the project
and the teacher acts more as a facilitator. The teacher is consistently guiding and
providing feedback. Because the students are largely responsible for the quality of the
performance, they will be more engaged. The challenge for the students will be to
work together to create a performance that they will be proud of and that their
audience will enjoy. All of these aspects help to maximize the learning.

As stated earlier, this syllabus is a combination of a project-based syllabus and a


performance-based syllabus. To structure the syllabus, the ten steps outlined by Alan
and Stoller (2005) are taken into consideration. These steps guide the making of a
project-based syllabus. I have adapted many of these steps into the syllabus for the
Drama ELI class, but to incorporate the performance-based syllabus, the ordering of
the steps is somewhat modified. These steps include: (a) instructor prepares students
for the content and language demands of the final performance, (b) instructor prepares
students for the demands of the performance, (c) students and instructor agree on a
theme for the performance, (d) students and instructor structure the performance, (e)
students present the final performance, (f) students and instructor evaluate the
performance (Alan & Stoller, 2005). As seen here, the syllabus follows these steps.
The purpose of the ordering of these steps is so that the students are prepared to make
decisions about their performance and are engaged in the learning process.

As discussed in Stoller (2006), The most commonly reported positive outcome of


project work is linked to the authenticity of students' experiences and the language
that they are exposed to and use (p. 24). This Drama ELI course exposes students to
authentic language use, in that outside of the classroom, students must listen and
respond without planning. To address this in the Drama ELI class, impromptu
speaking and improvisation has been incorporated. Many IEP students hope to take
undergraduate courses in their major, wherein they will most likely have to give oral
presentations. This Drama ELI course also prepares them for this task.

To develop this course, two sources will prove useful. The first source is Drama
Techniques by Alan Maley and Alan Duff (2005). This is an invaluable resource for
all of the aspects of this course, including improvisation, warm-ups, voice, working
with texts and scripts, and planning a performance. Another source that will be useful
is The Magic of Drama by Alexis Gerard Finger (2000). This activity book is written
for the student audience, and can easily be adapted for this Drama ELI course. A
benefit of this book is that there are worksheets and exercises written for use by ESL
students. Some chapters of particular use include: creating character improvisations,
playing with props, and expressing emotions. Additional teacher resources are listed
here.

Syllabus
The syllabus developed for this course reflects the project- and performance-based
frameworks. The content for this course has been selected based on what students will
need to successfully plan and implement their own dramatic performance at the end of
six weeks. The performance will include a balance of improvisational acts and
role-plays. These two areas of drama were selected so that students have experience
preparing for a memorized role and impromptu speaking. The course begins with the
basics of dramadefining story and writing scripts. In doing this, students begin to
realize the complexities of dramatic scripts. Next, students learn about and practice
role-playscripted and rehearsed dramatic performance. Then, as students gain
confidence, they learn about and practice improvisation. This skill is needed for the
final performance so that students can speak without planning. After the components
of the performance are taught, students take control and begin to plan their final
performance. They write the script, assign roles and jobs, and begin to practice.

The syllabus addresses the needs of the students and the program in that it provides
them the opportunity to be creative with English, be responsible for their own
performance, integrate skills (reading, writing, listening, and speaking), use authentic
language, and gain confidence in English. Based upon the needs assessment (here and
here), teachers can further tailor the class to meet the students needs. The Program in
Intensive English (PIE) is designed to prepare students to be successful users of
English both academically and socially. Other courses in the PIE (reading and writing,
listening and speaking, Core, etc.) meet the academic preparation need of students.
This course is designed to meet students communicative and creative language use
needs.

The course goals and objectives are met in this syllabus in multiple ways. When
students practice scriptwriting, they improve their language skills in both reading and
writing. During role-play, students read scripts for main ideas, details, and
interpretations. Students gain confidence and performance skills as they perform a
dramatic interpretation of a script. In the improvisation section of the course, students
improve listening comprehension, speaking comprehensibility, ability to cope with
change, formation of ideas, critical thinking skills, confidence, and communicative
skills. In planning and implementing their performance, students develop rapport with
classmates, formulate and defend ideas, and perform in front of an audience. The
sample materials reflect the types of activities that teachers can implement in this
course.

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Situation Analysis
One factor to consider in planning a curriculum is the target situation. There are many
aspects of the target situation that the curriculum developer must consider. These
aspects include societal factors, project factors, institutional factors, teacher factors,
learner factors, and adoption factors. In analyzing all of the various factors, a
curriculum developer may get a clearer understanding of how the project will progress.
Additionally, in assessing the factors, the curriculum developer can predict the
potential impact that these factors will have on the project. I will illustrate this by
discussing the learner factor and the societal factor.

First, I will describe the students for which this course has been designed. Learners in
this situation are international students in the Program in Intensive English at
Northern Arizona University. The Drama ELI course is a multi-level, multi-skill
course. Therefore, students in the class are from all levels of ability in the program.
Most of the students classes are academic basedreading and writing, listening and
speaking, Core (content- and project- based instruction), and computer applications.
However, the ELI courses are different, in that they focus on different skills and
abilities. Students perception of the applicability of this course to their goals (passing
the TOEFL, passing the PIE exam) may lead students to question its effectiveness.
This might lead some students to not support the elective courses. Hence, student
initial attitudes towards electives may be mixed, or slightly negative.

Because many of the students in PIE were taught in teacher-centered classrooms,


they may be skeptical of learner-centered, communicative teaching (as this course is).
This may decrease motivation because they feel that they are not learning anything,
when in actuality, they may be. However, when students see the applicability of
communicative language teaching, and how it can help them achieve their goals, they
may become more motivated. Additionally, students can see the applicability of
learning the skills taught in ELIs to other contexts of their life. This will have a
positive impact. It is up to the instructors to convey the importance of the goals in this
ELI class.

Many students desire to learn how to use English in social settings. One benefit of
this Drama ELI class is that it uses real (or hypothesized) situations in which students
are asked to dramatize, or act out. Students can play with the language, practice
dramatizing social situations, learn some pragmatics skills, and become more
confident in their abilities to carry out a conversation with a native speaker. This is a
clear positive impact on the learner.

Societal factors influence the elective in other ways. As this class was designed to be
taught in the United States, there may be some effects of the society on this
program. The PIE has proposed that these ELI classes be implemented to give
students projects, fluency practice, and motivate them to use English in real situations.
Many, if not all, professionals in the TESL program support these electives classes.
When it was offered previously, a Drama class similar to the one proposed here got
many positive remarks on behalf of the professors and instructors in the TESL
program at NAU. They believed that it was a good way to get students to take more
risks in language, effectively communicate with others, and apply their knowledge of
English to various situations (real or hypothesized).

Because this class is highly supported by instructors and the department, people may
start talking about it. Although Drama courses for English language improvement are
not commonplace, many supporters of communicative language teaching would
possibly adopt it into their curriculum. If it becomes more widespread, the effects will
be clearer. Nonetheless, it appears that in acting, students use all skills, and use
English in authentic ways. This should have a positive impact on the learners and on
society when learners are more able to attempt communication without fear.

The following list of questions hypothesizes both the societal and learner factors to
consider when creating the situation analysis. The situation analysis seeks to
hypothesize these factors by hypothesizing the potential internal strengths, internal
weaknesses, external opportunities, and external threats.

You may create your own situation analysis by answering the following questions:

Learner factor
Do students support this elective?
What is their attitude towards this elective?
What language learning experiences do they have that influence their attitude?
How motivated are the students to participate in this class?
What are their expectations of the class?
How do they view language teaching?
What type of content do they prefer?
How much time can they be expected to put into the class?

Societal Factor
What current language teaching policies exist and how are they viewed?
What are the underlying reasons for the elective and who supports it?
What impact will this elective have on the program?
What language teaching experience and traditions exist in the PIE?
How do members of the public view second languages and second language
teaching?
What community resources are available to support the Drama performance, such as
radio, TV, and the media?

Sample Materials
1. Contentless Scenes

The following activity can be used in as an introduction to role-play, body language,


or emotions in the Drama class. Using intonation and facial expressions, students
apply different emotions to a scene. This helps them practice expression when
speaking. It also helps them identify appropriate body language to use when trying to
convey a particular emotion.

1. Building Background:
a. Ask students what makes a play or movie interesting to watch. Try to elicit
the following from students:
i. Interesting plot
ii. Movement
iii. Action
iv. Emotion
2. New Information:
a. Tell students that when they are given a script (the text of a play, the text that
tells you what to say), they must add emotion to it. The emotion is not written in the
words. The emotion in your voice and in your movements tells the audience what you
feel. It helps the audience know the meaning of the words.
b. Ask students to generate a list of emotions on the board. (This will be a
resource for them later)
3. Practice: Students practice facial changes for each emotion.
4. Apply:
a. Tell students that they will first practice with an unusual scene. Its called a
contentless scene. Ask them if they can think of what a contentless scene might be.
Elicit responses (A contentless scene means that means that there is no content, or
meaning, to the words that the characters are given). The script can mean many
different things. The way that the audience knows what is happening is through the
emotion in your voice and the way you move.
b. Tell students that they will work with a partner with one contentless scene.
c. Each student finds/is assigned a partner.
d. Tell students that they will each choose an emotion. The emotions can be the
same or different from each other. They may refer to the board for examples of
emotions.
e. Students should work with their partner to identify appropriate facial
expressions and gestures for their emotion. Give them a couple of minutes to discuss
this and get into their emotion. Circulate the room to give feedback.
f. Distribute one contentless scene to each pair. They should decide who is A
and who is B.
g. Ask students to read the script using that emotion. They should try to create
the purpose of the scene. They need to be creative and decide on the purpose of the
scene, the emotions of the characters, the setting, and other details of the scene. These
decisions should be apparent when they act out the scene.
h. Optional:
i. Students will talk about how their characters should move. Use your
knowledge of the emotion you chose and the purpose of the scene. REMEMBER:
avoid having your back to the audience!
ii. Students practice the scene again, using emotion in their voices, and
movements.
i. Next, students try the scene again, but this time with completely different
emotions. Ask them how the purpose changes.
j. Optional: try once more, with different emotions.
5. Assess:
a. Ask groups to volunteer to perform their scene in front of the class.
b. Audience guesses the emotions of the actors.
6. Cool-down: Discuss how the emotion can change the meaning of the scene.

2. Dubbed Movie

This exercise is used to help students practice improvisation. In this activity, two
students act out a scene. However, they may not speak. One student is assigned to
each of the actors, and provides the dialogue for that person. In this way, the scene is
co-created by the actors and the speakers. They must act and react to each other. This
helps the students learn to speak and act without planning. This activity is adapted
from Improv Encyclopedia (2007).

1. Two to four students volunteer to be the actors. Explain that they will act out a
scene, however, they may not speak or make noises. Although they cannot speak, they
can move their mouths as if they are speaking.
2. The same number of students volunteer to be the speakers. Each speaker is assigned
to an actor. They may not act; they only provide the dialogue for their actor.
3. The speakers sit at the side of the stage so that they can see the actors, and are
also seen by the audience.
4. Elicit from the audience (rest of the class) the following situation:
a. Location
b. Characters (decide what character each actor is)
c. Problem
5. Given the situation, the actors and speakers begin to act out the scene. No
preparation is given. They act and react to what other group members say and do.
Good listening is essential!
6. Audience can rate the performance on the following variables:
a. Cohesivenessdid the members work together as a whole? Did speakers and
actors work together well?
b. Comprehensibilitywere members intelligible? Was speech and action
understood?
c. Entertainmentwas the performance enjoyable?
d. Participationdid all members contribute? Did anyone dominate? Did anyone
refuse to participate?
7. Give both the audience and the participants the chance to comment on the exercise.
8. Audience and participants switch places. Repeat the above steps for new
participants.

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