How can you get pupils talking to each other in the target language? Tony Elston has devised a role-play based on the ever-popular televsion series.
You have taught the module, but your pupils' knowledge of some key language is still shaky. Why not bite the creative bullet and put on a prime time TV show?
Blind Date, presented by Cilla Black, is the ideal format for consolidating, reinforcing and extending a modern foreign language. The Blind Date format, where a contestant asks the same three questions to three potential dates before selecting one, allows you to meet many modern language national curriculum requirements in a single week's work by providing important question practice in a creative context.
Pupils can perform to their own class, to other classes, or to visitors at open days (where a video recording of a class's individual "Blind Date" sketch allows visitors an engaging snapshot of pupil oral work).
The key to getting pupils to produce a lot of language is to offer a sample script. This means that the weakest pupils have plenty of familiar language at their fingertips while more confident pupils are encouraged to develop their own script ideas.
Planning * Decide on the audience for whom the pupils will perform their finished work;
* list the key conversation questions pupils need to practise;
* intersperse these with Cilla's questions in a simple script, based on the model shown here, at a level appropriate to your pupils' language level. Make your script's three potential blind dates strong characters, eg conceited, shy, funny;
* prepare a revision worksheet of key questions and possible responses in random order, similar to the sample shown here;
* to increase motivation, consider awarding certificates or other group prizes, for instance for best group effort, clearest delivery, best use of new vocabulary;
* if possible, recruit others to perform your model sketch with you in lesson one: teaching colleagues, language assistant, trainees, sixth-formers. Video recording this model sketch would mean never needing to perform it live again!
* if your pupils study drama, find out which conventions their drama teacher uses to group them, to get their attention and so on.
Lesson 1 * Explain that the group will revise key language in a fun way, and stress the need to produce high quality work for your important audience;
* distribute the revision sheet of questions and answers in random order. Pupils match these up, referring to textbook glossaries if necessary;
* early finishers create answers to Cilla's questions using familiar language at an appropriate level: many, for example, may be able to include je pense que;
* correct the sheet as a class, focusing on any problems. For instance, encourage pupils to remember the meanings of yeux and cheveux by reminding them that yeux contains y like eyes, while cheveux contains h as in hair * present your model Blind Date sketch live to the group, or play them a video recording of it; l. to consolidate questions with which pupils had difficulty, call these out. Weaker pupils writea single-word response while more able pupils respond with a sentence.
Homework Pupils needing more support Pupils complete the blanks on the model script to produce their own version. Provide a help sheet of key language or refer pupils to relevant textbook pages. Very weak pupils will need a choice of possible responses listed on the model script itself.
Pupils needing less support Pupils use the model script as a starting point to create their own Blind Date script using language they know. Encourage them to include a couple of new things (but no more!) which you can then look at as a class.
Once you have corrected the scripts completed for homework, review them to help decide the best pupil groupings. Will the class divide up successfully without your intervention, or do you need to group pupils according to personality or the language level of each script?
Lesson 2 * Return the corrected scripts;
* Pupils read the scripts aloud in pairs. At this stage, a pair can share out all the parts in an individual script. (Du bist Cilla und der Junge 1. Ich bin das MAdchen und die Jungen 2 und 3.);
* Monitor the pairwork to see whether you need to highlight particular points;
* Divide the class into groups of three to five. (More confident pupils can act out several parts in the same sketch.) Each group works on an amalgam of all the group members' scripts, or possibly on one individual's script.
* Encourage the group to practise the dialogue rather than elements such as the theme tune and stage directions;
* Monitor progress, starting with the group needing most support;
* Where a group wishes to say one or two new things, note these in English.
* Bring the class together and highlight the strengths of their work and what they need to do next. List the English expressions pupils could not translate, and help the class offer suitable translations, using dictionaries if feasible.
Homework Pupils put any finishing touches to their scripts and practise saying them aloud. More independent pupils learn their parts by heart. Pupils with access to a computer print copies of the corrected, finished script for their group. You will need to ensure that other pupils needing a copy of a finished script are provided with one.
Lesson 3 Pupils perform their sketches to each other, with you video recording each sketch, if possible. Pupils will appreciate seeing themselves after the event and in the years to come, and the video will also offer examples of good work to future groups. At the end of each sketch, encourage the rest of the class to comment on at least one aspect they liked. Make any awards you offered.
Review Did your stimulus material contain the right level of language to move all pupils forward?
If not, how could you adapt it for future classes?
Are there points of language you need to practise further?
Will you celebrate in the staffroom with a bottle of white or red?
Tony Elston is head of languages at Stretford High School and is co-author with Patricia McLagan of the key stage 3 French course 'Genial' (Oxford)