These exercises by John Morgan have been found recently among the papers he has left behind. They are dated September 1994. Mario who has found them describes the activities as: “simple and clear, clearly influenced by Dufeu, though much modified towards what teachers will go for”.
A few words from John
Exercise E etc
This stems from a TT workshop that Paul Davis and I ran in Sochi, Russia, in August 1994. It started out as a grammar exercise (based on a presentation by Rob Bolitho many many years ago at Pilgrims in Canterbury but rapidly took on a life of its own before being brutally curtailed by Lunch. The description below is a first revision after the event, and I’m still working on it, under the simultaneous influence of Silent Way rods work and Psychodrama. ( Not anymore, he is dead. MR)
The group (with the teacher ) sit in a circle, which also includes three empty chairs side by side with a chair’s width space between each and its neighbours. The teacher explains that the central empty chair represents the Present, the LH chair the Past, and the RH chair the Future. (As the activity proceeds, it should become clear that these terms refer to time, not verb tense.)
The teacher invites a student to sit in the middle chair and describe (for a minute or so) the clothes she is wearing. Alternatively, or in addition, members of the group fire questions at the protagonist to get her to describe her clothes.
The first student returns to her own seat.
A new student sits in the middle chair. With eyes closed (or wearing a blindfold, or facing away from the group), she describes (or answers questions about) the clothes other members of the group are wearing.
She returns to her seat.
A new student sits in the LH (past) chair. The teacher says, “It is now….” (giving the time and date of the previous group meeting). The student describes (in the present tense) the clothes she was wearing at the previous meeting. She returns to her seat.
The teacher invites another student to sit in the middle chair, facing the LH chair, announces today’s date and time, and invites the student to describe (in the past tense) the clothes she was wearing at the last meeting.
The teacher invites a student to sit in the RH chair, facing the rest of the group, announces a future date (or suggests a future event, such as the protagonist’s wedding, graduation, etc), and invites the student to imagine she has moved forward in time and to describe (in the present tense) the clothes she is wearing. The students then moves back to the middle chair, faces the RH chair and repeats the description using a future tense
It should e possible, by choosing suitable combinations of “subject” and “object” chairs, to get students using at least some of the more complex verb tenses, such as future perfect, past perfect (or might we need a fourth chair?!), and the interrelation of simple and continuous forms. Any ideas?
The above seems to suggest three main areas of classroom design:
- Work on activities above the one-off, Recipe Book level. I think we should be paying much more attention (in form as well as content) to the development and presentation of repeatable, variable techniques that can be built into an EFL course rather than just a single lesson;
- The possibility of distancing the idea of time from the idea of verb tense (and possibly verb aspect) as a means of making the English verb system (s) clearer. I need to work a lot more at this, because my ideas on grammar are somewhat shaky, not to mention hidebound. The idea of using a present tense when the same chair is both “subject” and “object” seems to me intuitively sound, and stems from the well-known use of this device as a means of permitting a learner to talk about any time period without having first to have learnt an appropriate verb tense: the problem of “correctness” is solved by dramaturgy, not grammar:
- The development of activities that are flexible enough to switch easily between focus on language and focus on content. The example exercises above, though, I hope, of some intrinsic interest to the protagonists as regards content, focus mainly on form (verb tense).
Precisely the same mechanism could at any point be allowed to focus on content merely by altering the scenario to be enacted on the chairs: in the Sochi workshop, the participants did just that, and wrenched the activity away (without any great protest on my part) from grammar in order to pursue their own meditations.
Please check the Creative Methodology for the Classroom course at Pilgrims website.
Please check the Drama course at Pilgrims website.