Friday, December 11, 2015

The English Doctor!

The first time I taught English to ESL students, I decided to have them act in an English play. It was a mixed class of adults with some of them having participated in plays in Hindi, so I had them write and direct the play themselves. It was a fantastic play, based on a social problem prevalent in our village- alcoholism. The play had good acting and humor, but the most important part was that each participant spoke some English.

Later, while researching the subject, I found several articles on how useful drama is for ESL students. It was a pleasure to see that what I did spontaneously is actually a known technique for ESL teaching.

For my next spoken English class of 12-14 year olds who had come to Himachal for a month, I started with the end in mind, that of an English play at the close of their camp. I didn't expect anyone to learn to speak English in 8 classes, but I wanted them to lose their inhibitions about speaking a "scary" language and have fun while doing it. All the lessons and activities were designed with this in mind.

Given the lack of time, I decided to hand the girls a play instead of writing one with them. I wanted a play in which a large number of students should be able to participate and have fun. I spent several hours searching for one such play and found it on this site

The play was about patients going to a rather bad doctor for various illnesses. My colleague Sonika and I acted out the play for them once and helped them choose their particular illnesses. No scripts were handed out because the lines were simple and repetitive. They practiced with us for a couple of times and then a few times on their own.

Here is the end result, as presented by the girls from Nari Gunjan in front of an audience of about 20 people at Aavishkaar campus. There was much laughter and fun, especially with the patient who is vomitting. The girls spoke their lines easily and enjoyed themselves thoroughly! The fact that they had gems for medicines helped! The laughter from the audience shows that the audience had a blast too!

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