Taking the terror out of role play

29th September 1995 at 01:00
Using Drama in Modern Languages, Training video. Nottinghamshire Education Videos. Pounds 75. Jean Hemsley, Fairham Training Centre, Summerwood Lane, Clifton, Nottingham, NG11 9AE

A surprisingly dull title for a top quality video, which offers excellent ideas and lots of encouragement for using drama to teach modern languages.

The video takes eight language teachers, all of them looking apprehensive, through the elements of a one-day course run by Sue Craggs and Crispin Harris. The former is well versed in drama and modern language training and the latter an actor and drama consultant, showing how drama activities can bring modern language teaching to life.

The workshops with the grown-ups are interspersed with scenes from a classroom, showing how a teacher has used ideas and suggestions with her children after a day attending the course. The video is divided into seven sections covering many aspects of drama, beginning with posing for a photograph and moving on through puppets, mime, some improvisational activities and role play. Classroom logistics, such as what to do with the other children who aren't taking part, are dealt with briefly but effectively. The audience is seen as a controlling device, bringing tension into the performance, making it sharper and clearer. Children watching a performance, we are reminded, are constantly having to use their comprehension skills.

The children positively glow with enthusiasm, delighted to be immersed in a role and forgetting any stage fright they might have felt. When talking out of role one girl says how she feels free of embarrassment and a boy holding a puppet says " . . . you can use this as your personality".

In much the same way the language teachers soon lose their inhibitions and pep up their performances with humour. We have a young man phoning a girl after they have been matched at a dating agency. "Vous cherchez un homme?" he asks. "Je suis cet homme".

The ideas put forward can be applicable to all languages. They can be adapted to suit all age ranges, can be shared by children from different age ranges and many suggestions lend themselves to cross-curricular interpretation. Everything is presented in a refreshingly positive, supportive manner and the emphasis is very much on enjoyment.

Above all, the presenters encourage a flexible, open approach that will soon have even the most anxious language teachers trying out ideas of their own. That drama can bring language alive is the video's very clear message.

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