The SIMELTA project has come to its end, and, having advocated the use of theatrical activities in teaching languages for two years, we feel the need in some kind of the last word. In our letter, we want to sum up what has been done, share some insights and make some plans for the future.
The theatre is all about playing, but used in teaching, it goes beyond the fun of it. Although the resistance to using theatre in teaching continues to exist at the individual and institutional levels, the value of play in learning creativity is a matter of common knowledge. More and more often, play is seen as a core thinking skill that promotes new ideas and motivates growth and improvement. The principles above are fundamental for all SIMELTans.
We did not start from a scratch – there had been a project preceding SIMELTA (the link to the previous project “PLALE, Playing for learning” is available here). The continuity is essential; thus, we do not wish for the labour of these two years to disappear. We want to share the knowledge we gained through this mutually enriching experience.
- Target audience
Who could benefit from our materials?
Although the starting point was to focus on those facilitating adaptation of migrants through the language of the host country, it has never been the only concern. In the end, we can proudly say that our materials might prove to be useful for wider circles of L2 language teachers, trainers and educators, with their target audiences ranging from pupils to seniors.
- Activities and training
During 2 years we conducted multiple successful seminars, workshops and trainings in all 4 countries.
In France, the activities started in Bordeaux but went beyond the constraints of the city and involved such organization as
– Centre Social et Culturel La Colline (http://www.csc-lacolline.com/)
– FISPE de Paris (http://www.fispe.fr/)
– Médecins du Monde (https://www.medecinsdumonde.org/fr)
The vigour of English Com’Eddy Theatre (http://www.coursanglaisbordeaux.com/index_m.html ) makes their recorded sketches not only valid teaching materials but also entertaining videos per se.
The strongest in the segment of school education, the Portuguese partner presented by Escola Secundária Fernão Mendes Pinto in Almada has a long-standing reputation. So, it was only logical that they opened the training within the SIMELTA project and provided two workshops, namely,
- a) “The theatrical game in foreign language learning” conducted by Carlos Gouveia-Melo (the pictures from the workshop are available here) and
- b) “Movement, Rhythm and Dance in Language Learning” given byHelena Dawin (the pictures from the workshop are available here)
Possessing invaluable experience in teaching languages through theatre, Carlos Gouveia-Melo (see “Práticas teatrais no ensino-aprendizagem de línguas não maternas” in ALMADAFORMA https://almadaforma.net/ ) is always ready to share his methodology and give advice.
The hub of all activities in Almada, Escola Secundária Fernão Mendes Pinto (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Escola-Secund%C3%A1ria-Fern%C3%A3o-Mendes-Pinto/106472256055114) is constantly involved into multiple projects and always open to collaboration in the field of language learning.
Generously supported by the municipality of Pavia, the Italian partner has established a network of connections involving such organisations as
– Centro Interculturale “La Mongolfiera” di Pavia https://www.lamongolfierapv.org/
– ASNADA http://www.asnada.it/
The highlight of their contribution was a 5-day workshop introducing SIMELTA participants to different methods and practices adopted by several Italian associations and institutions working with migrants (the pictures from the workshop are available here)
The Latvian partner presented by the University of Latvia in Riga were happy to apply their academic knowledge in working on questionnaires, focus groups and infographics. SIMELTA page with focus groups is available here
Further the UL successfully exercised its resource of being the main university in the country and presented a share of seminars for disseminating the approach among teachers.
Find the list of videos of the seminars with hyperlinks here:
- SIMELTA seminar at the University of Latvia on 16.03.2018. PART 1
- SIMELTA seminar at the University of Latvia on 16.03.2018. PART 2
- SIMELTA workshop at the University of Latvia on 27.04.2018.
- SIMELTA Interview with Dr. philol. Vita Kalnbērziņa
- The project gave the stimuli to convey masterclasses on teaching seniors English
Find links to the videos of the activities “TEACHING SIMPLE PAST”
- Intro: Breathe and tune in (a breathing exercise)
- Warm up: I am what I am (a colour-emotion game)
- Activity 1. Homo emotus (reading with intonation)
- Activity 2. Truths and a Lie (reading emotions and seeing false information)
- Activity 3. Guess how I feel (reading a situation)
- Intermezzo: Calm down! (relaxed breathing)
- Activity 4. I’ll beat you (playing cards with verbs)
- Activity 5. Death at the circus (a yes-no game)
- Activity 6. Sweet memories (memory work – final stage)
- Exit exercise: Worries go away! (short guided meditation)
Find the links to the videos of the activities “Restaurant/Cafe” (Latvia)
- Lesson 1: Introduction + Giving a Compliment (Speaking skills + Memory training)
- Lesson 2: Warming up (Body awareness + Facial expressions)
- Lesson 3: Family-group (Team-building + Concentration)
- Lesson 4: Window effect (Imagination)
- Lesson 5: Voice variation (Mood + the variety of tone)
- Lesson 6: Intonation training (Intonation patterns)
- Lesson 7: Variety of tone (Speech tone and stress)
- Lesson 8: Memory training (Vocabulary)
- Lesson 9: Pantomime (Abstract thinking)
- Lesson 10: Role-play (Communicative skills + Theatrical skills)
and establish closer links with the Latvian Language Agency (https://valoda.lv/en/about-us/). Sharing experience of teaching English and Latvian proved that theatrical methods are useful in all contexts of language learning.
- Benefits, concerns, needs
The role of feedback in education cannot be overestimated. To make it structured and analysable, we organised a series of focus group discussions in all participant countries. The links to FGD materials are available here, On the part of the benefits given by the theatrical activities in language learning, the results were predictable but worth protocoling. All agreed that through high involvement (including bodily one) theatrical activities significantly increase learners’ motivation, and they are particularly useful when placed in real-life context. Dynamism and conflict are inherent to the dramatic structure, and that feature makes theatrical activities highly suitable for teaching cross-cultural aspects.
Among the problems raised in the focus groups, the first common one is new requirements to the teacher. Then the preparation, and especially in the beginning, may require a lot of time. The amount of additional work together with fears and insecurity often stay in the way of implementation of new methods into practice. Physical space of the classroom too may become an obstacle for vigorous activities. Further, time and syllabus constraints of the formal environment are often detrimental to implementation of theatrical activities or revealing their full potential.
Although there is no easy cure-all, some general advice could be given. So, the starting point is the wish to try and use the new approach, and next is the desire to improve. Structure and consistency in implementation are paramount, and humour helps to spice it all.
What transpires in all after-training discussions is that there is a great need in positive examples, evidences of the success achieved using the method. Being generally overloaded, all participating teachers expressed the demand for workshops giving them hands-on experience, the wish to obtain ready-to-use study materials including written sketches, plays etc. Many opted for a training course teaching them how to use theatrical activities in language classes as well as a model course using ones.
- The Future
For us, sustainability is not a mere word. Having invested so much energy and overcome multiple obstacles, we do not want to stop, we are to go on. Now, we see the next steps more clearly and they are in developing packs of materials as well as further dissemination.
It has appeared to be impossible to develop a curriculum, for contexts and concerns have proved to be too versatile to select one or to create a meaningful whole. Instead, we offer a scheme for constructing a curriculum of teaching languages with the use of theatrical activities. The link to EXPECTED RESULTS OF SIMELTA is here.
More than that, we still exist, and we would be happy to come into touch with anyone interested in our expertise or wishing to collaborate!
SIMELTA online presence: