Facilitator of the discussion: Eleonora Salvadori
FG recording is available here:
Video recordings of theatrical activities are available here:
The Focus Group discussion took place on May 13th, from 5pm to 7pm at Cairoli Institute (a High School in Pavia) and was attended by 4 teachers and 3 persons representing SIMELTA: a facilitator and 2 assistants. 3 other trainers, who had assured their participation, had to give it up at the last minute.
The process: The participants were shown 4 short videos entitled “Diversity at different levels”, “From game to language”, “Various Italian units”, “Achieved results” illustrating the theatrical activities used in the courses to migrants and refugees. The videos were followed by the discussion on the use of theatrical activities in teaching languages to refugees and migrants. The discussion was really lively and very meaningful. Everyone showed a real interest in our project.
This is a short summary of the conclusions the participants arrived at during the Focus Group discussion based on the assistant’s notes and the video recording of the discussion:
- the teachers’ first questions concerned the meaning behind theatrical activities in SIMELTA project: the project representatives emphasized that these were mainly intended to be bodily expression activities and simulations / role plays;
- the participants highlighted adequate spaces allowing free movements and interactions while playing as an absolutely essential condition;
- regarding the use of theatrical activities in language teaching, all pointed out that in language learning, the mobilisation of the body movement is significant, as the language, when it is acquired and acted, fits into the body and would not fade from memory. Body is mobilised through the context, the story, when students not only learn the language, but also learn to communicate and achieve their daily goals through the language;
- among the language aspects that can be taught with the help of theatrical activities, another fundamental remark concerned the cultural aspects, mostly unconscious, that come into play when we are doing exercises focused on the body; it is often difficult (but necessary) to be aware of it and to hold it in account as teachers. Moreover, the cultural aspects and traditions specific to Italy can be very well taught through theatrical activities;
- it was highlighted that theatrical activities foster involvement, integration, formation of groups. They eliminate embarrassment which otherwise undermines communication. Teachers tend to underestimate the role of student-student communication in a class, which actually constitutes the major part of it;
- similarly, the importance of the rhythm was noted and its creation during the acquisition of new linguistic materials;
- concerning adjusting the dramatic structure of simulation situations, they should have a certain dynamism, they must never be trivial, but should contain conflicts or some unexpected moments;
- moreover, it became clear that there is a need for alternation between formal lessons (e.g. grammar) and theatrical activities, so that there is a balance between cognitive acquisitions and those arising from a personal emotion. Language textbooks these days are designed following the communicative approach. However, there is a large difference between reading a task alone and playing the same task out as a group. In the latter case, it is possible to build a real group interaction based on the task which lets students build a bond with each other and not just read, but rather experience the language;
- finally, asked what would motivate the teachers use more theatrical activities in their work, the teachers expressed the need for new ideas and possibility to share their experiences. There was also a need for the guidelines on how to structure classes with theatrical activities and in what situations they are useful as a teaching tool and how to address typical difficulties.
The representatives of SIMELTA stressed the importance of creating a kind of “syllabus” and planning a training course with a precise progression to offer to teachers and trainers, with a large space devoted to creation and invention of activities by the participants.
The key points:
- Theatrical activities in teaching languages incorporate bodily movements that are linked with a meaningful use of the language;
- Consequently, premises are needed for practising theatrical activities that meet the space requirements larger than regular classroom;
- Theatrical activities are particularly beneficial for teaching cross-cultural aspects and provide for social integration;
- For theatrical activities, inherent dynamism and conflict are important in their dramatic structure;
- A course that instructs teachers how to use theatrical activities in language classes for refugees and migrants would encourage teachers to apply more of such activities in their courses.