Focus Group Almada – Portugal
The Focus Group session took place at Fernão Mendes Pinto School on May 8, 2019.
A quite significant sample: three teachers teaching three different foreign languages with three different opinions on the introduction of theatrical practices in the classroom.
All in all they represented the reactions expected in a school context. It is worth watching the interview as well as reading the document with its essentials.
FOCUS GROUP SESSION
ALMADA – PORTUGAL
MAY 8, 2019
Participants: Deolinda Fernandes (Portuguese teacher), Zoraida Teles (English teacher), António Rocha (Portuguese and Italian teacher), Paolo Balicano (Italian Teacher)
After the project coordinator started with a short introduction to the project and its goals, the participants were shown some SIMELTA activities, carried out by different teachers, and a brief explanation complemented about the steps that were taken in order to achieve them.
Then the coordinator started asking the formerly prepared questions.
1st Question: What do you like about the video recordings?
Zoraida showed interest and mentioned she also used that kind of drama activities in her classes, adding that students often have fun while practising and get used to real life situations.
Deolinda questioned if those kind of practices were really productive. Although she hasn’t used them yet, she points out that they’d probably take very long and might get in the way of preparing students for their exams and concluding the syllabus (it’s a time-consuming activity!).
Zoraida says that just as long as it is prepared/planned in advance, it will be a positive thing since the students are working as a group and helping each other while learning.
Deolinda “fights back”: some of the students won’t work enough, group work isn’t always productive because some students lean back instead of performing their tasks.
Zoraida adds: “That’s life! There will always be leaders!”
Deolinda argues that probably not all the students will take advantage from them (theatrical activities and group work).
2nd question: What makes them suitable/unsuitable for the target group (i.e. migrants, seniors, etc.)?
Zoraida: Yes! She already does it in and outside/extra class and the drama moments are quite good for students. It requires a lot of commitment, but they work with a lot of dynamical aspects (likes and dislikes, etc.)
Deolinda: Working outside /extra class? It doesn’t really work! Deolinda seemed kind of sceptical about the topic, she stated she usually avoids that kind of tasks.
3rd question: Can you use these activities with your students? How would you adapt them to your context?
Zoraida says students would probably need to prepare vocabulary previously. It would probably require some previous preparation.
4th question: Do the videos contain what may be called as theatrical activities?
Yes! (Deolinda and Zoraida agree)
Deolinda: As soon as they finish (taking part in those drama moments), students will feel they were actors and they’ve learned from it.
Zoraida underlines the “close-to-reality” advantages of it.
5th question: What is generally understood by theatrical activities in language teaching?
Deolinda: Students are using their skills to deal with future situations.
Zoraida: Students feel “free”, change their routine, feel happy and motivated. They’ll overcome their fears and work on aspects such as accent and voice articulation.
6th question: Brainstorm language aspects which might be taught with the help of theatrical activities
Zoraida: Communication, knowing how to interact and react, using gestures that are inherent to communication.
António: The interaction between “characters”, the relationship with one’s body, resourcefulness.
7th question: What language aspects are “immune” to drama?
There are none! (most agree)
8th question: Why do some teachers still avoid using drama activities in the language classroom?
Zoraida: We (teachers) will have to consider aspects such as the “when”, “how” and “who” we’re going to use them with. The number of students involved and their personalities may also influence it (the use of these techniques/practices).
António: aspects such as the number of students involved and their inaction or passivity may influence it. It may mean changing some of the teachers’ “habits” as well.
9th question: What would motivate you to use theatrical activities more often?
Zoraida: the extent of the syllabus since there are fewer weekly hours available to work with the students (TIME!) may come in the way. But the students’ reactions to roleplaying is usually good so it would motivate them.
António: If we had more examples of success on it, it would motivate us.
Lurdes asked a last, non-previously planned question, since she felt it was a much needed one: What can we (the SIMELTA team) do to have a bigger impact on the other teachers?
Zoraida: By providing examples of real life (successful) experiences. The “unknown” is scary!
António: Workshops on it would be useful!
Finally, the participants answered a questionnaire in writing and shared their insights on the session. In general, the participants felt it went well, they enjoyed it and hoped their contribution had been meaningful.