Special report: J. Aden and J. Anderson

Special report: Paris Colloquium 2005, Agir pour apprendre

Joëlle Aden and Joel Anderson on “Drama as an Intercultural Approach to Language Teaching”

By Anna Rabin

The majority of this very experimental workshop was devoted to a series of exercises. Our group of over 30 gathered in a circle and began by each person saying their name to the group. At first, we worked on the way we said our name and eventually we added a gesture, such as bowing or striking a pose. Next we stopped saying our name to focus entirely on the gesture and finally the whole group repeated each person’s gesture.

Poses dominated the second part of the workshop. First two people shook hands and froze, and the group analysed the image objectively (they’re shaking hands, Mary is looking over Jane’s shoulder), and then subjectively (they’ve just had a job interview). The variety of interpretations was fascinating. Then we shifted to moving poses. Two people posed and a third entered the pose, which freed the first of the original pair to leave the original pose and strike a new one. Thus each pose was constantly evolving. We finished with an exercise where each person struck a pose that symbolized cross-cultural understanding to them, and then moved towards others with a similar pose. Each group made a noise on command in the final exercise of the session.

In the last ten minutes, we discussed how we could use these exercises in our classes. The value of the exercises was obvious. They created energy in a relaxed atmosphere, showed that communication isn’t only about talking and could help an existing group see itself differently. A few people spoke of the power of doing something different and gently destabilizing people. One participant suggested that they would be a perfect opening exercise.

While everyone was enthusiastic about the potential of the exercises, a debate broke out about using them in business English classes. In this context, could you start with the exercises, as we had done, or would an explanation of the exercises’ purpose be necessary for this population to agree to play the game? Joëlle and Joel, the workshop’s facilitators, argued for the importance of doing the exercises and then analysing them, but others expressed doubts that business people would cooperate without an explanation. In any event, this workshop educated us about a unique way of using drama in ESOL classes.

Contributed by: Anna Rabin
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