Yes! Let’s! A Classroom Exercise in Accepting and Responding
Language skills are important to you – after all, you’re a language teacher and you want to prepare your students in many ways for conversations, written work and tests.
Drama is a good method to let students practice what they’ve learned, and to find out what vocab or language skill needs to be worked on.
You have used games before in your lessons, no doubt, so I’ve created an activity that includes games in order to practice language and a very important skill within acting, which is to collaborate with your partner(s).
This is the time to have fun – to urge your students to try out new things, to discover ways of communicating with words and body, and to focus on the person you’re working with – as he or she might come up with some crazy ideas of their own.
Just keep an eye on those students of yours, and make sure they don’t enjoy it too much!
This activity is an exercise in Accepting and Responding within communication, and is suitable for various ages and you can partner up different level students with ease.
You can also use it in a short version to energize a lesson, or as a warm up for a conversation class.
Reflections are, as always, optional for the lessons and can be written in workbooks or on computers, or communicated as discussions.
Do you want to start the activity? Yes! Let’s!
TOPIC – Yes! Let’s! An exercise in Accepting and Responding
1. Assign partners, as you want students to work with people they haven’t worked with before, and then ask them to find a place in the room as this is not a sitting down exercise.
Both A and B get a turn, so it doesn’t really matter who is A and who is B.
To prepare for this game, both A and B need to decide on a different daily activity that is easy to explain and execute. For example making a cup of tea, switching on the light, buttering your bread, or putting on your shoes. Let’s say A picks the making tea option. Now A needs to explain to B in a very precise manner how this is done. Encourage them to use language and mime as much as possible. It always helps if you say that you’re explaining this activity to someone who doesn’t come from this planet.
While A is explaining, B has the task to listen and observe really carefully, as he/she has to repeat that particular activity later on.
Set a timer for 2 minutes for A to explain, then it’s B’s turn.
After that, give the partners about 30 secs to remember what the partner’s activity was.
It’s B’s turn to repeat to A what he/she explained earlier. The task is to copy as much as possible of what and how A demonstrated; again ask them to use up 2 minutes.
A subsequently does the same to B, explaining what B’s activity was.
Afterwards, ask your students questions like:
What did your partner do that explained things more clearly – was it the language or the acting out?
Can you pick one movement of your partner that was funny, or peculiar and show the group?
How did your partner do an impersonation of you when he/she was explaining your activity?
Ask them to show these ways of speaking or moving to the group.
Ask partners to talk together about what might have been missing in the explanation, what was fun about it, is observation of what the other does difficult and if so, why, etc.
This exercise allows people to observe others closely and to focus so they can repeat what’s being done and said. This means they have to listen, remember words and movements, but also they have the freedom to be silly about something so simple as making tea.
As a writing exercise you might want to ask them to write down their partner’s activity, exactly as they have heard and seen it.
2. Yes! Let’s!
This is a very ‘traditional’ improvisation exercise to prepare actors for accepting and responding. In improvisation we don’t really want a player to block another player, as that would finish the improvisation or make the continuation of it difficult.
For example, if A says that it’s so sad to hear that B’s dog was just killed in a car accident, and B said that he never had a dog, then A has to work really hard to get this scene back on track. B is allowed to say that it wasn’t his dog or something similar, but he then has to hand some information to A to keep the scene going, like ‘the dog was my grandmother’s, who was actually driving the car’, or ‘the dog didn’t die, it transformed into a unicorn and took off in that direction’. In both cases A gets handed information that spurs her/him on to take the next step in shaping the scene.
Let’s partner up your students in A and B, and tell them that they both will get a turn doing the leading and the following. Let them find a space in the room, and make sure there is enough empty space for them to walk about.
The story behind this exercise might be that A is visiting B in a hospital; B has gone a little bit crazy after she/he fell down the stairs (or something not too painful) and comes up with rather funny ideas. This is where the ‘Let’s!’ comes in…
A wants to please B and for her/him to become healthy again, so A does everything that B says. Obviously, ask your students to keep it safe!
An example would be:
A: How are you doing, Thomas?
B: I’m fine! Shall we walk around on tiptoes?
A: Yes! Let’s!
Then A and B (always both of them) walk around on tiptoes, until B has another suggestion, which A also happily does.
In order to make it about language as well as a physical activity, ask the ‘ill’ person to first explain carefully in words what the action entails; only then can she/he mime it out.
Give your students a few minutes to execute several actions, and then switch so that A gets her/his turn.
Afterwards, ask your students questions like:
What does it feel like to have to do everything the other person wants you to do?
Would you say that your partner was generous when she/he set you a task, or did they make it difficult for you?
When was this exercise fun to do and when was it difficult?
3. Now that you’ve introduced the skill of Accepting to your students, you can go to the next step and ask them to improvise a scene, which can start with a (daily) activity.
First, give a small demonstration, for example you’re digging up a garden, or washing windows. Ask someone to come into your scene and start a conversation with you. If they refer to your activity as something completely different, e.g. they remark on your cooking skills when they see you dig, or your painting skills with washing the windows, then you have to accept that. Maybe you had an idea about what your scene was going to be about, but you have to let go of that idea now (accepting) and go with what the other player came up with. This is much more fun than it sounds like at first as it keeps people on their toes.
A player is always allowed to step out of the scene of she/he doesn’t feel comfortable anymore or when the scene isn’t going anywhere.
Also, tell your students it’s not about who comes up with the best argument, or story – it’s about reacting, listening and focusing on each other, and having a good go at being in a scene that was not written or rehearsed before!
Remember – improvisation is difficult at times, so don’t worry if it doesn’t work the first time around. If your students get the hang of it quickly, allow a third or fourth player to enter the stage as well.
I like these exercises very much, as it can mean free entertainment for the teacher!