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Humanising Language Teaching
Year 3; Issue 2; March 2001

An Old Exercise

These three exercises are taken from Alan Maley and Alan Duff's classic book: Drama Techniques in Language Learning, Cambridge, 1978.

Group Dream ( P. 75)

What to do

The students lie ( or sit) with eyes closed, in silence. Anybody may initiate a dream ( which may be the beginning of a real dream they have had, or simply an image that has come to their mind). Others may join in at any time to add details or to move the action along. Gradually, a composite dream emerges.


Level: elementary upwards

Obviously, this activity requires a class with a good deal of experience in working together, and confidence in using the language.

Strings ( P. 79)

What to do

The teacher takes a number of lengths of string ( half as many as their are people in the class) and holds the bundle so that the ends come out either side of her hand.

Each student then takes hold of one end of one piece of string, without pulling.
The teacher releases the bundle and the students are in pairs.
The exercise can be repeated if groups of four are needed ( with half the number of strings, and with pairs taking the string ends.)


Suitable for all levels

Forming groups is not always as easy as it sounds. Much time can be wasted if students hunt around for the people they would like to work with. If one plans to use drama techniques regularly, it is essential that everybody in the class should be willing to work with everyone else. As they grow to know each other, the students will come to realise that personal antipathies can be overcome, and that often the most exciting works arises from cooperation with a seemingly 'hostile' partner or group. In the early stages, therefore, it is important to have a few 'democratic' group- forming techniques up one's sleeve.

Spot the change (P. 89)

What to do

Groups of eight to ten students face each other in lines. They look carefully at where the members of the opposite team are standing, and at what they are wearing. After three or four minutes, the groups go to different corners of the room and try to remember together the full details of the opposing team. They then discreetly exchange articles of clothing or alter details of their appearance ( eg letting down their hair, literally, of course!)

After five to eight minutes, the teams come back to face each other , but standing in a different order. The members of the first team take it in turns to say one thing that has changed in the opposite team. They continue until they run out of observations. It is then the turn of the opposing team to do the same. ( The team that spots the greatest number of changes is the winner )


Level: elementary upwards

The exercise is both enjoyable and linguistically useful: mostly the language of identification-

    'You had a .,'
    'You were wearing a,'
    'Weren't you wearing a .?',
    'Didn't you have a?'

Are these classical exercises, brought into EFL by two of our field's most creative writers, any less useful in 2001 than they were in the late seventies of the last century?

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