- Keywords: Collaborative learning, performance, creative writing
- Learner English level: High beginner to intermediate
- Learner maturity: High school and above
- Preparation time: Approximately 30 minutes
- Activity time: Three 60-minute sessions (two sessions for preparation and one for the performances)
- Materials: Handout listing movie titles (see below for suggestions), storyboard print (Appendix B), (Optional) AV projection equipment/PA-equipped auditorium
Learner-scripted small-group productions such as short sketches and plays are a great basis for a creative, learner-led, productive-skills-focused EFL activity. The following shows how to plan and organize this type of activity using the theme of movie titles. The procedures have been refined by the author over several years of preparing for the EC Challenge, a biannual event in which undergraduates taking a general English communication course show off their language skills to their peers. The design, planning, performance, and assessment components are student-led. Moreover, the collaborative nature of the activity encourages all members to participate. Specific opportunities are provided to practice:
- Creative writing, writing dialogue, and writing for audiences.
- Public speaking. However, unlike individual presentation type work, this activity provides a less-pressurized environment, thus helping learners overcome their fears of speaking in public.
- Aspects of speech important for spoken performance tasks, particularly intonation and projection.
- Creating PowerPoint documents.
Step 1: Select a list of movie titles. Try to avoid titles that are too specific (Peter Pan) or difficult to interpret (The Remains of the Day, The Seventh Seal, etc.). Popular titles such as Strangers on a Train, Ghost, When Harry Met Sally, Roman Holiday, Lost in Translation, Tokyo Story, and so forth are better starting points, as they are open to interpretation.
Step 2: Download the storyboard provided in Appendix B or make one yourself. Make one copy for each group.
Step 1: Ask students to form small groups of two to four. Choose a movie title for each group, or have them choose one for themselves from a provided list.
Step 2: Explain to the groups that they will be writing and performing a small play based on the title they chose, and that it will be a collaborative activity involving all members. Ask groups to discuss the main characters, the general setting, and the location of the main scenes.
Step 3: Groups outline the plot using the Storyboard print (Appendix B).
Step 4: Groups write an introduction for the opening scene (where, when, and who). For example, “It is 2 a.m. on a dark New York Street. A few people are walking home.”
Step 5: Groups begin writing the dialogue for each scene.
Step 1: Ask groups to finish writing the script that they began drafting in the previous session. Check the script together for grammatical/lexical errors. Also, highlight any irregularities in plot development that could be confusing or unclear to an audience.
Step 2: Ask groups to assign roles, including (if necessary) the role of narrator.
Step 3: Rehearse.
Session 3 (Performance day)
Step 1: If students plan to use A/V and/or PA equipment, check that it is functioning.
Step 2: Appoint an MC from among the students (or take this role yourself). The MC will introduce each performance (title, cast, and opening scene). If using a PowerPoint backdrop, the MC will also cue the slide changes in sync with scene changes, using a copy of the script for reference.
- Have students appraise each other’s performances using an assessment protocol (see Appendix C for an example).
- Film the performance and have students assess their own performances.
- Have groups make PowerPoints to be used as a backdrop for the performance (see Appendix A for examples). Tell them to be careful to choose pictures that are suitably large enough to fill a whole slide. Stretched slides lose resolution and will be blurred. Add music to the PowerPoint and/or include props.
Feedback from students who have participated in this activity has been overwhelmingly positive, indicating that it can be a useful addition to a language-learning syllabus.
The appendices are available below: