Drama for Language Learning

language-learning1Drama is an effective way of helping students to learn languages including English as a Second Language (ESL), as it uses active teaching and learning styles likely to motivate and sustain the attention of a wider cross section of pupils. Activities can include role-play, drama games, improvisation, group discussion and individual or pair work.

The activities which follow can easily be used along with other teaching techniques, or you might like to choose some to put together as a drama session.  They are suited to a range of learning levels, so you will need to decide what is appropriate for your group.

To begin with, you could use a couple of warm up activities like Clap Around The Circle which may not even use language, but will introduce the class to the enjoyment, participation and cooperation which is a natural part of drama activities.

Clap Around The Circle
In a circle, each person claps in turn. Try to make it sound like one person is clapping. Now try again with your eyes closed. It’s much harder!

Look in the drama games section for lots more ice-breakers and warm ups.

What Are You Doing?

This activity is not only fun, but is also a way of exploring the present continuous! It works well if it follows a lesson on hobbies, occupations or everyday activities. It begins to introduce some simple language along with actions, which will help to reinforce vocabulary.

In a circle.  The first person starts miming an activity. The person to their left says “What are you doing?”. The person miming the activity has to keep acting and at the same time say the name of a different activity – in the present continuous. For example, if they were “eating an apple”, they could say “I am playing the piano”. The second person then starts “playing the piano”.

The first person stops their mime. Now the third person asks the second, “What are you doing?”. The second person keeps “playing the piano” and names a different activity which the third person must mime. There should be no repetition and no similar activities.  For example if you are miming “climbing a ladder”, you cannot say “climbing the stairs”.

Word Tennis

In this word-association game, participants have to keep thinking up words in a chosen category and ‘bat’ them to each other. Whoever repeats a word or can’t think of one is out, and somebody else takes his or her place.

Demonstrate the game with two participants. Ask the pair of players to face each other and explain that they will be playing tennis with words. They should mime holding a tennis racquet. Give them a category, such as “colours”. The first player names a colour and “bats” it to the opponent who then names a different colour and “bats” it back. They keep going until one of them can’t think of a word – or repeats an earlier word.

Now that you have demonstrated it you can set up the team game. Ask for four more players to stand behind each of the two players. Give them another category and ask the front pair (who are facing each other) to start playing. When one player can’t think of a word (or repeats a previous word), he or she should go to the back of the line. The next player takes their place. Remind the players to mime batting the words to each other – it’s more fun with actions.

Depending on the size of your group you may want to set up some more teams to play each other. Usually the team members will help the person who is playing by whispering (or shouting) suggestions. I usually allow them to do this as it encourages more of them to use language.

Suitable categories may include:

Colours, fruit, vegetables, sea creatures, flavours of ice cream, pets, jungle animals, sports, hobbies, adverbs, adjectives

  • Change the categories as often as you need to maintain interest. Students will soon come up with their own interesting suggestions for new themes.
  • To help language learners you can put word lists on display around the space.
  • If necessary give a word limit for each person so that everyone gets a turn – otherwise someone who is really good could keep going while the other team members wait to have a turn.
What do you think this Ten Second Object is? (Answer at the bottom of the page)

What do you think this Ten Second Object is? (Answer at the bottom of the page)

Ten Second Objects is also a good way of reinforcing new vocabulary as well as encouraging physical awareness and group cooperation. It is very quick to organise (if you have the space) and always interesting, as you can never predict what groups may come up with! Once groups have made a few objects suggested by you, they could make up some of their own for the rest of the class to try and guess.

Many of the games and strategies on this site are very useful for language learning, including

Answer: The Ten Second Object is a sofa!