Saturday, September 13, 2008

Activating English in 'The Dating Game'

Several years ago, another teacher (Sara Jensen) and I would collaborate to put on the Dating Game with two or three classroomsful of students participating. It was always very successful, thanks to Sara's planning. For a summertime activity in my advanced conversation class, I decided to put together my own Dating Game Show.

I asked two other instructors (Mai and Siobhan) with advanced conversation classes to help me re-enact the once popular game show program. We had a large audience and 12 participants, including a last round with the three female teachers playing the 'bachelorettes,' competing for a date with a student bachelor. The object of the game is for the contestant (male or female) to ask a number of questions of the three candidates for a date. Based on the candidates' responses, the contestant chooses one of the three for the special date. The audience also votes for their preferred match, and the contestant can either stay with his/her choice or change based on the audience feedback.

To carry out this production successfully requires a relatively large space (20x30 feet minimum - we had more), four chairs, and some kind of space divider to prevent the contestant from seeing the three candidates for the date. Strips of questions (about 40 total) are given to the contestants (I compiled the list from student-generated questions and others that I got from my daughter which had been passed on to her from another college student) so that the contestant doesn't have to invent the questions on the spot. The audience can sit on the floor or on chairs, if available, facing the candidates. The audience contributes to the activity with their emotional reactions (e.g., sound effects) to the answers given by the candidates and by their votes. From all accounts, they had as much fun observing and listening to English as the candidates and contestants had acting!

Before my students actually participated in the game show, I showed them a couple of samples of the 1970's TV program. Click on the names to see footage of some familiar celebrities on YouTube: Arnold Schwarznegger and a teenage Michael Jackson.

Here is a video clip of our class version.
Tanita got everything off to a great start (thanks, Tanita!):
Great performance y'all!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

English in Action

As a teacher, one of the most rewarding experiences is seeing your students use their English in a situation that they might never experience in their own countries. For example, most students would have no opportunity to speak in an American courtroom.

To give students a flavor of how our legal system works, a fellow teacher and I worked together to prepare our students to perform a mock trial of a real case (this is a great lesson idea from A Different Angle by Michelle Buehring, JAG Publications, 1998, Ch. 15 "Given Half a Chance," pp. 82-94) involving the shooting death of Yoshihiro Hattori, a high school foreign exchange student from Japan.

In preparation for the trial, two advanced ESL classes watched the film 'Philadelphia,' starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington, both of whom played lawyers. Although the movie covers the weighty topic of discrimination against gays and all the ramifications of society's fear, abhorrence, and misunderstanding of homosexuality, it also gives students a chance to see some of what can take place in an American courtroom. In addition, students read about the case of Yoshihiro Hattori (see above reference).

The two classes were divided into jury members, judge, witnesses to the shooting, a defendant, and two legal teams, one for the prosecution and another for the defense. The two instructors who were present observed, and only at the end, after the jury made its decision, did the teachers intervene by informing the students of the outcome of the real court case.

Below is a video excerpt of the trial and a photo of both participating classes and their instructors. All the students gave outstanding performances and took their roles seriously, and there was a sense of suspense as we awaited the jury's verdict. Bravo! Encore!