- Keywords: Collaboration, skits, phrases, idiomatic expressions
- Learner English level: Pre-intermediate and above
- Learner maturity: University
- Preparation time: 10 minutes
- Activity time: 60-80 minutes, depending on class size
- Materials: Whiteboard, A3 paper, whiteboard markers
Skits are a versatile and practical tool for exposing students to new language through creating opportunities to engage in dynamic and interactive exchanges with classmates. Easily adapted to different target language, the following activity takes an interesting phrase, ‘pet peeve’, and has students define, illustrate, and then act it out. Throughout the process of planning and performing skits, students of varying L2 proficiency levels are encouraged to draw on their L2 linguistic resources to collaborate and negotiate the unexpected. In addition to facilitating class bonding, skits, especially when humor is involved, create a non-threatening environment which is particularly valuable when introducing students to pragmatic features of the L2.
Step 1: Assign the class to groups of 3 to 5 students. Have students arrange desks and chairs so they are facing group members.
Step 2: Place a blank piece of A3 paper between group members.
Step 3: Write the words ‘PET PEEVE’ at the top of the board and draw a line down the center. On the left write ‘DEFINITIONS’ and on the right ‘EXAMPLES’.
Step 1: Instruct students to work with their group to compose a definition of ‘pet peeve’ in English. Ask students to identify and write down 3 examples of a ‘pet peeve’ on the A3 piece of paper. Tell the class that they may use cell phones or dictionaries.
Step 2: Ask each group to write their definition and one example on the classroom board. Point out that an example cannot be written twice so students will need to keep an eye on what other groups have contributed or better still, get their examples written quickly.
Step 3: Teacher reads through definitions and examples with the whole class.
Step 4: Inform students that they will have 15 minutes to plan their own short skit. Each skit must include two ‘pet peeves’ either from the board or an original idea. Advise students to set their exchanges in physical settings outside of the classroom such as a restaurant, station or supermarket. Notify students that all members must participate in the performance and skits should be between 2-4 minutes. Tell students that they can write key words and ideas but should avoid completely scripting dialogue.
Step 5: During preparation, the teacher moves between groups and guides students to share ideas and knowledge.
Step 6: Have students arrange their chairs in a semicircle to create a performance space. Each group performs their skit while classmates watch.
Step 7: Evaluate what has been learned about the expression ‘pet peeve’ and review the different examples presented in whole class discussion.
Give groups different idiomatic expressions or phrases to act out such as ‘think outside the box’, ‘play devil’s advocate’ or ‘let the cat out of the bag’. Prior to performing skits, have groups write their assigned idiom on the board and afterward have classmates suggest what the idiom means.
This activity is a versatile and useful means of teaching new vocabulary, phrases and communication skills while encouraging students to exercise autonomy. Throughout the process of skit creation, groups take on responsibility for their own learning as they collaboratively determine the content of their performances. The dynamic and improvisational nature of performance often takes a turn for the comical, resulting in enjoyment and laughter.