January has been productive and progressive.
Grade 6 students resumed their study of ‘Un jour bizarre,’ polishing off scene 4 and launching into scene 5. Students are working each class on their pronunciation and expression, especially during whole-class activities when we all speak together. Individual groups practise together and perform scenes in front of the class. Each lesson, we engage in a writing activity, which is modelled and practised as a class before the individual task begins. Writing tasks include answering questions in full sentences, connecting broken sentences together, and identifying errors placed purposely into sentences.
Grade 6 students will be performing all 5 scenes of the play in just a few short weeks, after which, we will begin our final project : a written retelling of the play using different words. Each student will retell the story of Brigitte, perhaps from a different point of view, or with different characters, using many new words and expressions. Paraphrasing, improvising and interpreting are important factors in my program.
Grade 7 students began the New Year with a new play: Veux-tu danser? This play has 7 scenes and lots of new vocabulary. The first task included memorizing the entire first scene, not just a single character’s dialogue. Memorization is just the beginning of course. Students add synonym after synonym, expanding their vocabulary, until the answer to a question will vary with each student, depending on their choice of word and how long the sentence becomes. Lessons are comprised of choral speaking, answering questions using synonyms, and students coming up with their own questions for their peers. The whole goal of my program is to give students the confidence to speak unscripted, as they would in the real world, and the key is the acquisition of a massive vocabulary upon which students may draw.
Grade 7 students performed the memorized full-page with very few exceptions… a testament to the methodology of teaching that involves the gesturing of words. The most amazing moment in a lesson always comes when a student is alone in front of the class, struggling for a word, when another student in the audience gestures it and the performer says it correctly. It is marvellous to witness.
Grade 8 students have been engaged in the intensive study of pronouns, which are really fun to use once you grasp the concept. Turning an object or a place into a pronoun requires analysis of the sentence. Where is the verb? Where is the object? Into what can we turn the object? It is a technical exercise, and students were entasked with transforming the entire scene 4 of ‘Qui arrive ce soir’ into sentences with pronouns. Then students individually scripted scene 5 of the play, using vocabulary acquired during study of the first four scenes. Merged into small groups, students read their scene to each other and performed a peer evaluation, leading to the selection of a scene the group would ultimately perform in front of the class. The winner of the selection took on the role of director. The director chose the parts for his or her group members and taught them the lines as well. The final product took only two lessons to conceive and it was great fun, with lots of improvisation on the spot!
Grade 8 students are set to begin their final play at The Valleys. It is the final instalment in the continuing saga of a girl and a boy. What will happen? We shall find out soon enough!