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Teachers… be theatrical and captivate your audience

miranda and kids risized

Often times, students love their teachers while others dislike them. Why is that?

Why is it that some teachers make us learn and love a subject while others send us to sleep?

When you first start teaching children English through theatre, it is important what you teach them as it is equally important how you teach that makes a lesson successful. And learning how to be a good communicator is fundamental for any new teacher.

Actors on stage are told how important it is to maintain the audience’s attention throughout a play. If they do not captivate an audience, they won’t get an applause at the end. Or in Shakespeare’s time, they would get a tomato thrown at them!

Teaching children is similar to acting. When you walk into a classroom for the first time, if you are unable to engage and motivate your children successfully, they instantly stop listening and become bored. They may not throw a tomato at you but you will lose their attention rather quickly which will cause your instruction to be ineffective and unsuccessful.

So, just as an actor learns how to entertain and inspire an audience, the first step to becoming a successful English Theatre Teacher is to learn how to communicate, to connect, and interact with your class. This will allow you to understand how to control your class, transfer your positive energy, and feel more confident yourself.

Body Language Skills:

If you want to make a good impression with a new class of children and parents, you need to be able to send the right message –  one of trust, confidence, friendliness, and professionalism.

Whether you like it or not — people will judge you in the first few seconds of meeting you on how you look and sound including how you stand, whether you communicate aggressively or have friendly gestures, whether you look confident or nervous, happy or sad, tired or awake.  This is a lot of judgement in the first 5 seconds and that’s a lot of pressure on you!

Don’t worry!  By learning some simple and effective theatrical skills, you can ensure you get over the initial nerves of meeting and greeting your very first class of children and their families.

  1. Don’t slouch! Stand up straight, shoulders back and uncross your arms and you’ll immediately feel and look more confident and open.
  1. Smile and they’ll smile back Smiling has a natural disarming effect on people. When you smile at someone more often than not they will mirror your behavior and smile back at you. By smiling you will appear warm, friendly and welcoming and above all you’ll communicate self-assurance. – All important qualities to establish in your first lesson.
  1. Make everyone feel special Make a positive impression by greeting parents with an energetic firm hand shake and using direct eye contact (there’s nothing more telling about someone’s personality than a weak handshake!). When you talk to children – kneel down to their eye level and smile.
  1. Negative Body language Avoid the following negative body language gestures which emphasize shyness, insecurity or disinterest.
  • Biting your nails
  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Looking at your watch
  • Drumming your fingers
  • Yawning
  • Rubbing your face

Voice Technique:

  1. Speak up! There is nothing more frustrating or irritating than trying to understand someone who mumbles! Children switch off if teachers are inaudible, chew their words, or trail off at the ends of sentences. To make yourself “ heard,  learn to adapt an enthusiastic, clear and engaging voice that will enthuse children. To project your voice, imagine you are speaking in front of hundred children, even when you only have ten! Don’t shout but inject a light and bright quality to your voice, chop and change your pace, rhythm and volume.
  1. Speed Use an enthusiastic tone of voice but don’t over exaggerate by speed talking! If you gabble, children won’t understand a word you are saying, so try and find a happy medium.
  1. Voice Musicality Using the same tone and pitch in your voice for the whole lesson is like listening to a broken record. You will appear dull and monotonous. Try and imagine that your voice is like a musical instrument, be inventive, play with it, have fun and vary it. Interpret different voices and adopted them to different activities. Surprise children by whispering a request, try singing a question in a high pitch or use a deep tone of voice to interpret different characters. Your children won’t expect it and it will make them laugh.
  1. Keep the language simple Don’t confuse children by using over complicated terminology in your first lesson. Keep your language simple and level appropriate and always help convey the meaning of the vocabulary by adding physical or facial gestures.

Try the following exercise by simply saying out loud the following instructions:

  • Come here and sit down please.
  • Wash your face
  • Brush your hair
  • Clap your hands.
  • Open the door
  • Put on your shoes
  • Clean the window

Now repeat and say out loud the same instructions but this time adding facial and physical gestures to the words. It’s a lot easier to understand, right? Try and become much more physical in everything you say in your English class from day one.

  1. Relax and breathe When you become apprehensive or nervous speaking in front of an audience for the first time, do you find your breath quickens and you find it difficult to speak? Do you feel you can’t seem to get enough air in your lungs or your throat tightens and closes? Or just when you want to sound super confident and in control, your voice betrays you and out comes only a tiny squeak? That’s because you stop breathing properly. Deeply. If you slow down and take deep breaths using your diaphragm and not your upper chest you’ll discover you not only calm your nerves but you’ll have a powerful and strong speaking voice that your children will want to actively listen to.

Let’s put it all together I hope these few simple “theatrical” ideas help you overcome any pre-lesson nerves you may have in approaching your first English theatre class of children and parents. Learning to incorporate positive body language and voice technique in teaching children does have enormous benefits but it does take practice, trial and error.  Remember to always plan your lessons well in advance and rehearse acting them at home, it will help you feel more confident when you are faced with a real audience!

Happy teaching Miranda

 

 

 

 

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Make An Impact Teaching Children English Through Drama

Your first lesson teaching children English using Theatre is an important one because it’s where you present yourself for the first time and depending on that first impression will determine if students decide to enrol in your courses or not. It’s really a make or break situation.
So how do you initially break the ice with young children and prepare them for a fun filled lesson of language learning?

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The Sticky Game

The Sticky Game 

Welcome back! I hope you all had a great summer break. I thought you might be interested in a fun and simple warm up game to start off the new term. I often use this “ice-breaker” with new classes as it not only familiarizes children with the different  parts of the body but it also encourages them to jump around to music and overcome any initial embarrassment or shyness they may have in relating to a new group.

Level: All

Age group: 3+ (ideal also with adults)

Time: 5 min

Aims: To introduce and practice body vocabulary e.g nose, ears, back, knees, hands, shoulders etc:

This game should be played in pairs. You will need some lively music to play. Ask the children to stand back to back and tell them, or better still demonstrate to them that they are “super glued” together and they must dance and move to the music without ever becoming “unstuck” from their partner. Call out different body parts that the children must “stick” to using their partner for example:

– Nose

– Feet

– Hands

– Ears

– Shoulders

– Back

– Eyelashes

– Cheeks

– Bottoms/ Backside

Continue suggesting different body parts, the faster the teacher changes words, the more hilarious the children find the game.

Happy teaching

Miranda

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5 Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed Song

To introduce this popular song to my class of 5-6 year olds I made a simple felt board out of an old cardboard box, covered and taped it with a black flannel blanket.

To make the monkeys, mummy and doctor I downloaded some materials  and laminated them. It is a good idea to laminate and protect the characters and  stick double sided tape to the back so they can  be attached and removed easily from the felt board.

At the end of the lesson I distribute some paper monkey finger puppets or masks which the children colour, cut out and use to sing the song again during the next lesson.

Children enjoy making their own finger puppets and it is a great way to involve and engage them in reviewing numbers and new vocabulary.

As an alternative – encourage children to interpret and re-enact the song using monkey masks and simple costumes for the Mummy and Doctor characters. Bring to class some props for example toy telephones for the children to use.

 

*Five little monkeys jumping on the bed (hold up 5 finger puppets)

One fell off and bumped his head (make one finger puppet roll down to the floor and tap your head with your fist)

Mummy called the doctor, (hold up finger and thumb to your mouth and ear miming a telephone)

And the doctor said

No more monkeys jumping on the bed (wag your index finger from left to write to indicate no)

Four little monkeys jumping on the bed

One fell off and bumped his head

Mummy called the doctor

And the doctor said,

No more monkeys jumping on the bed

 

Three little monkeys jumping on the bed

One fell off and bumped his head

Mummy called the doctor

And the doctor said,

No more monkeys jumping on the bed

 

Two little monkeys jumping on the bed

One fell off and bumped his head

Mummy called the doctor

And the doctor said,

No more monkeys jumping on the bed

 

One little monkey jumping on the bed

One fell off and bumped his head

Mummy called the doctor

And the doctor said,

Put those monkeys right to bed

*Sing along to 5 Little Monkey Jumping on the Bed  from Super Simple Songs

 

Happy teaching!

Miranda

 

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Learn colours in English with Flashcards and Wendy the Witch

Flashcards are a great resource in English Language Lessons with children when they are used creatively. It is not enough just to hold up a card, repeat the word and expect the children to remember.

Here is an example video of how I introduce simple colour flashcards (with my young Italian students ) with the help of a friendly Witch Puppet who adores munching on the colour red!

In my next post I’ll give you some more ideas on games to play with children using colours and flashcards.

Happy Teaching

Miranda Flynn Legge

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The Rainbow Song –learning colours in English

 

A simple activity to play in class to introduce colours

Traffic Light Game Young children love this game both being the Ferrari and the traffic Light. Aims: To introduce and practice colours red, yellow, green and Stop, Be careful, Go

    1. Cut out some squares 10x10cm of different coloured paper and use them as flashcards. Elicit the colours red, green and yellow.
    2. As you hold up each flashcard and call out the colour ask all the children to run and touch something “red”, “yellow” or green in the room it could be someone’s clothing or an object in the room. Do this a few times until the children are familiar the colours.
    3. Explain to the players that when you hold up the red flashcard and call out red the children must stop and freeze!
    4. When you hold up the yellow light and call out yellow the players must start hopping
    5. When you hold up the green flashcard and call out green the players can run (but no bumping into others!).

Alternative Game: to practice Stop, Be careful, Go

Explain to the children that they are all cars and mime a steering wheel using your hands and beep on the horn. Now hold up the red flashcard and tell the children that when you hold up read and call out stop they have to freeze! When you hold up the yellow light and call out be careful the cars must go very slowly and when you hold up the green flashcard they can drive very fast (but no bumping into others!).

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Fruity Prepositions with Pippo the Puppet

thomas_gorilla 

Teach Prepositions with Pippo the Puppet

When introducing prepositions (in, on, under, in front of, behind)  a puppet can be a useful teacher assistant and engaging for children.

Activity Instructions

Bring to class some fruit props (orange, pear, banana, apple, kiwi, etc) children tend to become very excited about real fruit, but plastic fruit is fine and easier to store away for future exercises:-) Place the fruit on your desk or on the floor in a circle where all the children can see it. Use an empty box (puppet size) and give your puppet instructions to carry out.

Example:

“Hello Pippo, can you show the children a banana, please? Very good Pippo.” (Pippo picks out and holds up the banana for the children to see, get the children to repeat the word and use lots of applause of encouragement both for Pippo and the children)

“Where’s the pear, please Pippo?” (Pippo picks out and holds up the pear for the children to see, and again have the children to repeat the word)

When the children become familiar with the fruit have Pippo select an incorrect fruit and get the children to correct him. Then ask for a volunteer to help Pippo choose the correct fruit. Get the other children to applaud and encourage, if the child is unsure Pippo can always hint:-)

Now give Pippo preposition instructions :

“Pippo can you put the apple on the box/chair please?”

“Pippo can you put the apple in the box/chair please?”

“Pippo can you put the apple under the box/chair please?”

Again as the children become familiar with the prepositions , have Pippo make mistakes and encourage the children to correct him.

Have a competition between a child and Pippo as to who can be the quickest in putting the banana under the box/chair. The child always wins, of course!With older children this game works well with one child competing against another but be careful with younger children as they can end up in tears, especially if they don’t win. A tried and tested lesson that guarantees laughter and group participation even for the shyest of children:-)

Have Fun!

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Rusty in Tuscany. Substitute the teacher… with a puppet!

 

Hi I’m Rusty the Puppet. I’m from England and at the moment I’m visiting my friend Thomas in Florence, Italy. Thomas is bilingual which is a good job as my Italian is not up to scratch. The other day he took me on the new Tram to the centre of Florence where we visited Piazza Santa Maria Novella. In the background you can see the Duomo, Florence’s largest Cathedral… WOWWW ..it’s nearly as big as my mouth!.

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How to teach English when you don’t know a word!

Would you like to teach your children English even if you can’t speak it well yourself?

starfall

I use this fun interactive “learning to read site” with my bilingual Italo/English 6 year old. He speaks and comprehends English well but like many bilingual children his reading and writing skills are behind. Starfall is fun as it uses phonics, stories and plays to teach and motivate children to read aloud. For non-English speaking parents or teachers you can easily follow the simple stories yourselves and click on words to reveal their correct pronunciation.

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Have no fear! Puppets are positive creatures that bring about positive responses.

We are extremely happy to finally go live with our new website GoGoGenius

gogogenius_home

My husband and I decided to set up GoGoGenius as we wanted to create a special place where parents, teachers and educators could find products, tips and suggestions to help their children learn English through fun and creativity .

We are based in Florence, Italy, and we sell puppets and educational products primarily, but not exclusively, dedicated to teaching English, using fun, unconventional methods and theatre techniques.

Over the next few weeks we will be adding many more products and resources and we would love to receive any feedback from you.

Check out our puppet range as I believe they are a fantastic resource for any parent or teacher for use in educational activities such as storytelling, phonics, mathematics, and foreign language teaching.

As an English teacher, I use puppets in class on a regular basis because I have seen for myself that they work very successfully . Puppets are positive creatures that bring about positive responses. They fascinate and engage both children and adults in a special way. They capture a child’s attention and make learning fun!

Many educators shy away from using puppets not knowing really what to do with them apart from using them as a simple “doll”.

Fear not!!!!!!

I will try and give you some fundamental puppet tips and convey to you what wonderful teaching tools they really are.

Stay tuned!! Miranda’s back!!!