Predominant Syllabus Frameworks and Course Content
In this ELI class, students will learn about and experience the many aspects of dramatic performance in English. The final product of the course is the performance in front of a live audience. To prepare students for this performance, they will learn how to write a script, perform improvisation, perform role-play, and put together the components of a show by planning their own performance.
The primary syllabus type for this course is a project-based syllabus. In addition to this syllabus-type, a performance-based syllabus is also incorporated. A project-based syllabus is structured around preparing students to complete a project. In this syllabus, the project is typically completed as a culminating activity for each unit or at the end of the course. In a performance-based syllabus, the content of the course is structured around students’ performance. In this way, the syllabus is organized around one or more performances. In incorporating these two syllabi frameworks, this course prepares students to create their own public dramatic performance.
According to Alan and Stoller (2005), project-based classes are beneficial to students because they have the potential to maximize learning when the projects “require a combination of teacher guidance, teacher feedback, student engagement, and elaborated tasks with some degree of challenge” (p. 11). In this Drama ELI course, the teacher acts as both teacher and facilitator. At the beginning of the course, the teacher teaches students about the many aspects of drama. As the class progresses, students take more control over the project. Eventually, the students run the project and the teacher acts more as a facilitator. The teacher is consistently guiding and providing feedback. Because the students are largely responsible for the quality of the performance, they will be more engaged. The challenge for the students will be to work together to create a performance that they will be proud of and that their audience will enjoy. All of these aspects help to maximize the learning.
As stated earlier, this syllabus is a combination of a project-based syllabus and a performance-based syllabus. To structure the syllabus, the ten steps outlined by Alan and Stoller (2005) are taken into consideration. These steps guide the making of a project-based syllabus. I have adapted many of these steps into the syllabus for the Drama ELI class, but to incorporate the performance-based syllabus, the ordering of the steps is somewhat modified. These steps include: (a) instructor prepares students for the content and language demands of the final performance, (b) instructor prepares students for the demands of the performance, (c) students and instructor agree on a theme for the performance, (d) students and instructor structure the performance, (e) students present the final performance, (f) students and instructor evaluate the performance (Alan & Stoller, 2005). As seen here, the syllabus follows these steps. The purpose of the ordering of these steps is so that the students are prepared to make decisions about their performance and are engaged in the learning process.
As discussed in Stoller (2006), “The most commonly reported positive outcome of project work is linked to the authenticity of students' experiences and the language that they are exposed to and use” (p. 24). This Drama ELI course exposes students to authentic language use, in that outside of the classroom, students must listen and respond without planning. To address this in the Drama ELI class, impromptu speaking and improvisation has been incorporated. Many IEP students hope to take undergraduate courses in their major, wherein they will most likely have to give oral presentations. This Drama ELI course also prepares them for this task.
To develop this course, two sources will prove useful. The first source is Drama Techniques by Alan Maley and Alan Duff (2005). This is an invaluable resource for all of the aspects of this course, including improvisation, warm-ups, voice, working with texts and scripts, and planning a performance. Another source that will be useful is The Magic of Drama by Alexis Gerard Finger (2000). This activity book is written for the student audience, and can easily be adapted for this Drama ELI course. A benefit of this book is that there are worksheets and exercises written for use by ESL students. Some chapters of particular use include: creating character improvisations, playing with props, and expressing emotions. Additional teacher resources are listed here.
The syllabus developed for this course reflects the project- and performance-based frameworks. The content for this course has been selected based on what students will need to successfully plan and implement their own dramatic performance at the end of six weeks. The performance will include a balance of improvisational acts and role-plays. These two areas of drama were selected so that students have experience preparing for a memorized role and impromptu speaking. The course begins with the basics of drama—defining “story” and writing scripts. In doing this, students begin to realize the complexities of dramatic scripts. Next, students learn about and practice role-play—scripted and rehearsed dramatic performance. Then, as students gain confidence, they learn about and practice improvisation. This skill is needed for the final performance so that students can speak without planning. After the components of the performance are taught, students take control and begin to plan their final performance. They write the script, assign roles and jobs, and begin to practice.
The syllabus addresses the needs of the students and the program in that it provides them the opportunity to be creative with English, be responsible for their own performance, integrate skills (reading, writing, listening, and speaking), use authentic language, and gain confidence in English. Based upon the needs assessment (here and here), teachers can further tailor the class to meet the students’ needs. The Program in Intensive English (PIE) is designed to prepare students to be successful users of English both academically and socially. Other courses in the PIE (reading and writing, listening and speaking, Core, etc.) meet the academic preparation need of students. This course is designed to meet students’ communicative and creative language use needs.
The course goals and objectives are met in this syllabus in multiple ways. When students practice scriptwriting, they improve their language skills in both reading and writing. During role-play, students read scripts for main ideas, details, and interpretations. Students gain confidence and performance skills as they perform a dramatic interpretation of a script. In the improvisation section of the course, students improve listening comprehension, speaking comprehensibility, ability to cope with change, formation of ideas, critical thinking skills, confidence, and communicative skills. In planning and implementing their performance, students develop rapport with classmates, formulate and defend ideas, and perform in front of an audience. The sample materials reflect the types of activities that teachers can implement in this course.