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September 26, 2009

Physical Language - Theatre Games

I love language and words, but sometimes it helps us "register" our meaning if we use actions instead of words. But what if we, as teachers and learners of a new language...

...had more of a focus on literally "expressing" ourselves.

Sometimes physical actions and improvisations are essential - or at minimum - complementary to complete communications. Depending on physical actions completely pushes us beyond language and immediately into direct communications.

I highly recommend the physical expressions embedded in what is known as Theatre Games (http://www.creativedrama.com/theatre.htm).

Theatre Games is suitable (and fun) for all ages.

Consider the game "The Blob";

Participants spread out in an enclosed playing area, and close their eyes/put on blindfolds. Participants will have to move slowly and carefully to avoid crashing into anyone. Select a Blob by tapping him on the shoulder, and then signal the participants to begin. At the leader’s signal, the Blob begins trying to tag another participant. When the Blob succeeds in tagging a participant, that person latches on to the Blob, becoming part of the Blob. The Blob continues to try to tag others, and as they get tagged, they also join the Blob. Eventually, everyone is the Blob, and there is no one left to be tagged. Encourage both groups of participants as they try to avoid or assimilate, ask them to use senses other than sight to determine where the Blob is or non-blobs are. The objectives for the Blob and the non-blobs should prevent the participants from thinking of this. The group will probably ask to play again, and because this is a fairly short game, there should be time to repeat the game. The second time, encourage the Blob to work together to find better ways to tag people, and the non-blobs to discover original ways to avoid the Blob.

And here is a game to use on the first day of a class to help students (and teachers) learn each other's names:

The participants sit or stand in a circle. The leader says, "We are having a party, and everyone has to bring something for the party that begins with the same first letter as their name. My name is JANINE, and I am bringing a bag of JELLYBEANS." The person to the leader’s right says his name and item, and then repeats the leader’s name and item: "My name is ERIK, I am going to bring EGG SALAD. This is JANINE, who is bringing JELLYBEANS." Each person in turn introduces himself, announces their item, and repeats the name and item of everyone who preceded them. This means that the last person has to remember everyone in the group, or at least try. The leader should encourage others to help out when participants get stuck on someone’s name or item, with verbal or pantomimed clues.

Sounds like fun, doesn't it?

There are few experiences more satisfying than fully expressing one's self - sometimes even without any language!

It is good to remember that we are all always learning. And it is always more fun to learn together. We can learn as much from the past as from the present. And we can learn as much from using and stretching our imaginations as from studying our textbooks.

Let me know what it is about English that you find confounding, infuriating or endlessly intriguing.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

My best to you as you make your way through this intriguing , constantly shifting linguistic landscape.


About the author of this entry:

Morf has a B.A.from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and an MAT (Master's in Teaching English) from the University of Washington (Seattle). Morf prefers international and independent films, foods he can't pronounce, music no one else has heard of and riding his bicycle in foreign cities.

Posted by mmorf at September 26, 2009 10:42 AM

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