Thursday, 8 May 2014

Making a drama out of grammar (1)

I am passionate about the use of drama to explore and consolidate language learning.Over the course of this academic year I have been considering ways to use drama to practise and consolidate young learners knowledge of grammar in a target language.This is my first bulletin on simple drama activities linked to grammar in the target language.

I think that drama can help the primary child to meet the demand below of the new POS for languages at KS2......

"understand basic grammar appropriate to the language being studied, including(where relevant): feminine, masculine and neuter forms and the conjugation of high-frequency verbs; key features and patterns of the language; how to apply these, for instance, to build sentences; and how these differ from or are similar to English."

On 17 June we will be holding our annual network conference.I will be encouraging teachers to consider simple ways to engage children in the physical  learning, practising and reinforcement of simple grammatical structures through drama and performance.

Here are a few simple ideas for you may like to try to out with your young learners and encourage them to use their bodies and imaginations to bring grammar to life!

They are simple performance activities that can be attempted either in the classroom or in a hall space or in the playground.


Noun Collectors

In the early stages of learning a language we introduce children to collections of nouns. 

Can we engage the children with the collections of nouns and understand the ways we can use these?

Noun collector nets (learning and recalling nouns)

1 .Practise the key nouns related to the content and context focus with your class

2. Encourage the children to hold an imaginary net (like a butterfly net). Can they either stand up away from their chairs or move   freely around the room or the hall and catch the nouns you have practised one by one. 

  • What do the nouns sound like as they are caught- are they long words, soft words, large words, squeaky words etc? 
  • What do the nouns look like? Are they nouns high up in the air they are hard to catch as they float by or are they nouns to be found sliding along the floor or hiding around a corner or under a chair ? 
The children’s voices and actions and ways they catch the nouns in their imaginary nets should reflect how they hear and perceive/ see the nouns in their minds.

3. Can the children share their nouns  that they have caught in their nets with a partner?Each noun should be released from the net as an action and a sound and should disappear back into space as they were found e.g.floating away, under a chair , hiding , sliding quickly away.

Noun collector’s treasure (masculine , feminine , neuter)

  1. Practise the key nouns related to the content and context focus with your class.

  1. The children work in pairs with the written nouns on cards and they must fill their own treasure boxes with these precious nouns
  2. The children could pretend to be pirates or Kings or millionaires. What they must demonstrate is how much they "treasure" their items and want to put them away carefully - just like we need to store the nouns carefully in our memories and remember the genders of the nouns correctly.They have two imaginary treasure boxes in French and Spanish and three imaginary treasure boxes in German( masculine, feminine and neuter singular). One child mimes the noun on the card and the second child must remember if it is masculine, feminine or neuter and place the treasure (as if it was the object) itself into the correct treasure box. Children might need to wrestle with jungle animals, or carry food items carefully … without eating them   or fold up clothes items appropriately etc .The children should swap roles every third noun.
  3. You can use this activity with singular and plural or with indefinite articles too.


Adjective actors

As the children develop in their language learning from stage one into stage two of language learners they l begin to create simple sentences describing objects. 
Can we encourage the children to internalise and recall key adjectives through physical performance? 
Can we allow the children to physically explore and demonstrate how adjectives change depending on what type of noun they are describing?

A fisherman’s trawl of adjectives 

1.     Working in a large space,paste six to eight adjective word cards on a wall opposite to where the children are standing in pairs.The children should work on this activity with their partner. Each partner takes it in turn to pull in their "imaginary" fisherman’s net and share with their partner the adjective they have caught. This child reads silently all the adjective cards and selects the adjective that he/ she wants to catch and pull toward their partner in the imaginary net.To do this he/she will need to pull the net at least four times towards themselves and after each pull must portray by actions and sounds a meaning of the adjective e.g. cold ( shivering then saying “brrr” then putting on a piece of warm clothing then rubbing and blowing on their hands) . 

    Can the other partner guess, identify on the cards and say the key adjective as the imaginary net is pulled right up next to them? 
    The children then swap roles and pull in another net with an adjective they have “caught”

2.Make this a more challenging activity by mixing up noun and  adjective cards on the wall opposite the children . Can the child who has to perform the mime , select an adjective from the nouns and adjectives they can see?Can s/he mime this for the partner and can the partner go to the wall and select/point at / write down or collect the correct word card for their fisherman's net.

3. Make this two team race- who can collect all their adjectives first? 

If you enjoy these activities with your beginner learners then maybe you can revisit the activity with more challenge later in their language learning development . Take a look here at Advanced adjective fisherman's trawl

Different sides of an adjective.

  1. Once you have practised with the children the agreement of adjectives with masculine , feminine , singular , plural nouns ( and in German neuter nouns) the children will be able to take part in this four sided activity.

  1. Divide your children into groups of four. Ask them to stand in a square facing outwards. Each group of four is working in the first instance with one noun e.g. if you have been looking at clothes then each group has a clothes item. They must create a moving 4D image of the noun and four adjectives that can be used with then noun. Each child in the square is responsible for the performance and the utterance of the noun with their adjective. Remind children to think carefully whether the noun is masculine, feminine, neuter, singular or plural. Remind them that you will need to hear the correct agreements on the adjectives.
  2. Now swap the activity over. Give the groups one adjective and four pictures of items (e.g. animals/furniture/foods)   – each one is a different gender or singular/ plural. Can they create a speaking sculpture of their adjective used with different nouns? Each member of the sculpture is responsible for the spoken utterance of one of the nouns and the adjective with correct agreement and the performance and depiction of the noun and the adjective.
  3. There is an opportunity here to film the performances and fade one performance into another so we see and hear four “different” sides of an adjective!


Across the four years of KS2 children will come in to contact with verbs.There are  many ways that we can explore verbs through drama. Here are two simple examples to use verbs physically in drama and language activities.

Powerhouse Machine Imperatives!

1.Practise verbs of action – run, jump, hop, skip, dance, walk with the  children
2. In groups of six ask them to create a “powerhouse machine “. The machine must move around and must be made up of the imperatives and the actions and the sound of the actions. The children can use one action as many times as they want but all actions must be included.How high ,low, far, fast and slowly can their powerhouse machines move? All six children must be included in the performance.
3. Share this with the class
4. Join the machines together and create a class powerhouse machine!

Robot routines

  1. Practise with the children the phrases they would need to use to describe a sequence of activities they may participate in e.g.own daily routine in the morning or activities on a day trip to the beach.
  2. Sit two children opposite each other and ask one child to be in control of the daily routine phrases they want to say.This child needs to say a sequence of sentences describing specific activities.
  3. Can the partner respond with the correct actions? 
  4. Can the partner then remember and repeat the sequence of phrases with the correct actions. This child is now "the robot"-programmed by the first child.
  5. Can the robot adapt the actions and the phrases to generate a robotic type speech and actions?
  6. Can the robot move to another partner and share the sequence with the new partner who then adapts the sequence back to a human voice and human actions?

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