Teenagers can sometimes be rather hard work, and not just at home! It’s not easy being a teacher in front of a group of slouching, disinterested, de-motivated teens, who would rather be twiddling with their apps than learning English, which they see no point in doing anyway!
But as a teen teacher, you have to find a way. Using short skits is definitely worth a try. If you have not thought about using skits in your teenage TESOL classroom, please read this blog. If it inspires you, there is a link to a free short skit for teens at the end.
Why do skits work so well with teens?
Plenty of others vouch for using drama to learn vocabulary, increase confidence, motivate students and, a key attribute, shift the responsibility of learning from the teacher to the student. (*Alan Maley and Alan Duff 1982.) Using short skits with teens really works because students start using language in context, in situations, with humour. The dry textbook grammar comes to life in the skit. There is nothing better to improve speaking skills. Students interact and bond, the vocabulary and phrases become real, interactive and visual. Students remember their lines for a long time, instead of witnessing English during class time, like a train that passes in the night.
Importantly, the teacher becomes more of a facilitator than a drill-master. (That said, some drilling (via games) is excellent and truly productive, but one mustn’t spend the whole of class time like that.) Give out skits to small groups and have students work on them independently of the teacher. In this way, you support their learning rather than spoon-feed them. Spoon-feeding doesn’t work anyway. Students have to make a mental effort to learn, on their own. Just using and rehearsing the skits in small groups will help students become more confident in their abilities to learn and become autonomous. Since teens are always being told what to do by everyone, they will relish this opportunity to show you what they can do on their own. Now you can pat yourself on the back for having achieved a student-centered classroom, all the rage, and rightly so.
That said, your skits will be a flop if they are not teen-centered. My own teen skits book covers topics such as careers, music, parties, tattoos, dating and social media, jealousy, studying, learning things, drugs and drink, (which are given the thumbs down by other teens in the skit), travel, TV series and others.
Choose teen-centered skits like mine!
Multi-level classes and mixed abilities
More advanced students have the opportunity to take leading roles and guide others. Shyer or weaker students participate in the group skit, with fewer lines. Just through participating these shy students will gain confidence over time. In general, students will learn from and support each other.
Be more than an English language teacher, develop imaginations!
Moving on to other aspects, what we need in the world are more teachers who teach students to think and develop their imaginations. The more you try to think of ideas, the more ideas you have. I suppose it is the brain creating new or bigger neural pathways, or “practise makes perfect”. (UK spelling for practise by the way.) Using drama to teach English will help your students be more creative, develop their imaginations and think for themselves. You’ll help them develop as people too, learning to cooperate in the group, make decisions, distribute roles, compromise, work out props or movements, communicate and bond as a group.
Prepare teenagers for life
Teachers are also supposed to prepare students for life, for the job market. Using skits and drama in your classroom will help your students with that far more than reading paragraphs out of a textbook. Through rehearsing skits and putting them together, students will improve in many areas, all of which make them more confident for job interviews. For example, increased confidence, greater ability at public speaking, increased self-esteem, team-work skills and the capacity to organize themselves and work independently of the teacher. Learning to become responsible for your own English language acquisition is the same as accepting that you are responsible for your own life. You make your choices, and you reap the consequences. The sooner teens learn that, the better for them. It helps them make better choices. “Wine women and song” (Whitesnake), yes, but not every day of the week! Or, “I’ll pay more attention in class and make more effort with my homework.”
One step further – improvisation for higher levels
There is, of course, the whole area of improvisation and thinking on your feet. That is to be encouraged in classes of teens where there is sufficient language ability. It’s not such a good idea where students are struggling with the basics, though tell students that they are free to add or modify the script as they choose if they like. Improvisation can also be pretty terrifying, so take it step-by-step. There’s a heck of a lot you can do just by working on a given script.
If you have got through this dearth of benefits to using skits to teach your teens, you’ll be more than ready for these links. One to a free skit, and others to my books of skits. Both my skit books have intros with guidance on teaching the topics and vocab in the skits. There are discussion ideas for each of the teen skits. In both books, every skit (bar one) may be used for one to one teaching as well as in groups.
You’ve also got me to help you with anything, just ask in the comments box below. Your email is kept private, it’s just so I can respond to you.
Spolin, Viola (1986). Theatre Games For the Classroom. Northwestern University Press, Evanston, Illinois
Ref: * Maley, Alan, and Alan Duff. Drama techniques in Language Learning. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. 1982