The Language of Drama – Strategies

This blog post is slightly different. Rather than focus on one particular strategy, I take a free resource for the subject of Drama from the TES Resources website and exemplify for focusing on a language element (e.g. tense) will allow us to come up with appropriate EAL differentiation. 

I acknowledge, of course, the ownership of the TES resource, freely available at TES. The resource is available at:

Let’s begin. The first activity, as we can see on the left in the image, asks students to consider the reasons for learning drama and its utility in life – and present their ideas on a spidergram.

The spidegram is a form of graphic organiser, which is one of the strategies considered useful for EAL learners. But – presented as it is – it does not allow students to learn any new linguistic structures or vocabulary. At best, it misses a teaching opportunity, at worst – it disadvantages learners as they might have no way of creating sentences and participating in the collaborative group work. It is usually the case – and particularly in learning languages – that repetition will lead to new learning. We need to find a repetitive grammatical or lexical item here, then.

Look at the differentiated graphic organiser on the right. We need to give the learners the ability to construct sentences: adding “When I hear the word” to “drama” and following these with “I think of” would allow the learners to create a complex sentence. If we want them to use the lesson’s keywords (which you might translate for them or they might do this themselves first), we might also teach them that “I think of” can be followed by a verb with the –ing suffix attached to it. The two boxes at the bottom here then need to be matched up to create verb/noun phrases, such as “having confidence” or “delivering performance”. This quick differentiated extension of the activity will allow our EAL learners to participate in the group work.

We see here on the left that the learners are to write / say sentences such as “When you mime, you can…” and “When you mime, you cannot…” It would be wise to draw your EAL learners’ attention to the “cannot” word, which is the formal equivalent to “can’t” – I wouldn’t assume your students are going to automatically know “cannot” even if “can’t” is familiar to them. The concept might need to be explained to them.

First, we can use a simple substitution table such as the first table on the right (see below) – this will allow the learners to make sentences. Why not extend this one to a choice between “When you…” and “Where one” – this way, you teach them that “one” is not just a number” but can be an equivalent to singular “you” or “somebody”. It will also check the learners’ understanding that whilst the present simple verb “mime” when following “one” will take the –s suffix, but there is no –s when it follows the pronoun “you”. This way, the substitution table will verify the learners’ grammatical knowledge whilst checking for their understanding of Drama (as by the end of the sentence you will require specific information as to what can and cannot be done).

We can also use substitution table for the “3 important things” table and a separate one for justifying these choices. The issue with the REASON part is that it won’t be just one word they can provide. Rather, the sentences would look like, “This is because it is…” or “This is because …. might happen.” If you are concerned that your learners might be unable to write such extended sentences, you can actually write these up, cut them up into small individual word cards and ask them to recreate them and then write them.

In the next activity (below) the question is why a still image is “good” – I would happily replace “good” with more academic vocabulary (less general) for the EAL learners vocabulary building benefit. Here, we can make this task accessible by simply telling them to annotate the mind-map (on the right) with ideas in their own language. They could translate later. Perhaps even better, in the interest of social cohesion, your other learners could translate these, so all of them could be added to the English version belonging to their group.

The image below is not from this lesson; it’s an example of annotation in different languages from one of my other lessons.

I mentioned previously that “good” being a very simple and basic word, should perhaps be avoided. Here, we’ve got a vocabulary cline – the children need to arrange the words from the weakest to the strongest on the ramp, or from most spoken-like to academic-like.

In the next activity (scroll down a bit), when we look at the bullet point list task, we can see that “could” might become our focus  as the question is about what COULD go wrong. You can teach about the differences between words such as “is”, “can”, “could”, “might” and “may” – again, you could use a cline to ask about which one is the weakest (least certain) and the strongest (the most certain).

Since the questions are about a restaurant, it would be wise to teach the learners some restaurant words – on the right, we can see a picture of a restaurant which can be labelled – or simply find a picture dictionary page with labels already present. Then, you can use the substitution table / sentence frame. You want to insist on the use of the modal verb “could” as this is your language focus for this lesson. When your group works and writes down the sentences, why not get the EAL learners in the group to write the modal verb + main verb with a different colour pen whilst the other members of the group write the rest. Allow your EAL learners to write down the adjectives in the sentences in L1, and the group can translate these into English.

In the following activity, I am first looking at the kind of questions asked. Trouble is that two of these use the past simple tense (the second and the third), but the first one is in the past continuous tense. I am changing the second one to past simple, too, (“What drama skills did the actors use?”) so as not to confuse the EAL learners.

We want to teach our learners how to use the questions to generate the beginning of the answers. Look at the tables on the right. Clear here is that the auxiliary verb “did”, present in the questions, disappears in the answers, and that the subjects (“the actors”, “they”) move to the first position, followed by the verb. This kind of visualisation should help the learners to generate their answers. If you provide a list of irregular past simple verbs and teach that regular verbs take –ed, your learners should be able to write their answers.

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