Body English

After she read my “Why Bother?” post, a teacher-friend of mine in the U.S. e-mailed me:

The phrases are good, but try introducing some of the technique called Total Physical Response which is used for ELL students.

Make several sets of the phrases, with each phrase on a separate strip of paper.
Do you have little magnets and a magnetic white board so you can affix them to your whiteboard?
… whether with magnets, pins, tape … somehow you can take YOUR copy of the sentence strips and, talking aloud to model your thinking process, put them in order in front of the class. Then pass the sentence strips out to pairs (or individuals) and have them arrange them correctly and glue them on a piece of paper. (Have them check with you for approval before applying the glue).

Sometimes that act of physical movement wakes the brain up.

My U.S. friend’s suggestion dovetails nicely with one I received from Gemma Wiseman, a teacher and blogger in Australia:

Perhaps change the writing exercise to an acting/drama exercise! Put your graph on the board! Select role players for each part on the graph! Students will see the action and connect that with the graph! The fun element will make them less tense about learning!

So here’s what I’ve done. On landscape-oriented paper in 72-point type, I’ve printed all the phrases that I want the kids to put in the Story Plot Graph:

Brian can’t fly plane
Brian escapes crashed plane.
Brian knows The Secret.
Brian lives in New York.
Brian: flying to Canada to visit dad
Brian: on a beach with legs in water
Brian’s parents: divorced.
Main character: Brian
Pilot has heart attack
Plane crashes into a lake
Plane flies off course
Plane runs out of fuel

I’ve also printed, in 72-point type, the following phrases that will be glued to brightly colored construction paper:

I am the Introduction. Let me tell you a story…
I am the Rising Action. I cause problems for the main character.
I am the Climax. I am the most exciting (or most terrible) part of the story.
I am the Falling Action. Things go downhill from me.

I will select four students to play the roles of Introduction, Rising Action, Climax and Falling Action. These students will stand in the four corners of the classroom, one student per corner, holding up his or her brightly colored sign.

All the rest of students will receive a strip of paper with one of the phrases on it. They will need to decide, by conferring with each other, which of the major characters they should align themselves with. When they’ve made that decision, they will go to the appropriate corner of the room.

What happens if “Pilot has heart attack” ends up in the corner where Climax is standing?

I’ll announce to the rest of the actors that one of the actors is in the wrong place. “Could you please help C-Girl get in the right corner?”

I think this way of teaching the lesson on story plots will work. In fact, I’m so confident it will that I’m taking my camera to my classroom tomorrow!

This lesson just might give a whole new meaning to the phrase “body English.”

Posted on September 28, 2010, in lessons, re-teaching. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. What wonderful and creative friends you have. Great suggestions. Have fun and good luck with this new teaching technique.


  2. That’s what I love about teaching, the fact that when you need help, there is always another teacher with a suggestion or five. My hat’s off to you as a SPED teacher.

  3. Yeah! I am sure your students will love this! Good one!

    Now I have another suggestion! For my beautiful rebels – especially after lunch when they still would rather play basketball – I hand out mandalas for them to colour in! It calms them down quickly! The point is, it is a wonderful tool when I want them to listen to instructions and answer questions! This combination soothes the savage beasts and we all leave the lesson happy!

    Glad I could help a little!


  4. What a wonderful suggestion!

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