I want to use drama activities to teach English. You've come to the right place!

Teaching English with Drama

and audiolingual drills

for English as a foreign language by Bob Wilson at autoenglish.org

A Little Theory Planning Your Classes Drama Games

PROJECTS (in  Powerpoint  and Word)

Drama Classes - Part One ppt

Drama Classes - Part Two ppt
DRAMA GAMES (in  pdf)




The Big Fail

In my neighbourhood in Valencia there are twice as many private English academies as there are kebab take-aways.


In schools in Spain, English is generally taught using a student's book and an activity book supplied by one of the big publishers. They have claimed at one time or another to use the communicative approach but this does not seem to be true when you read up about this methodology.


In these text books, every unit is disconnected from the previous one in terms of learning goals but maintains the same format: a text superimposed onto a photo followed by reading comprehension exercises; some vocabulary exercises; a grammar section; a writing section and lastly a speaking section.


These books are easy to use but rarely coincide with the contemporary interests of students and the overall results do not seem to be especially good, as the proliferation of English academies would seem to indicate. This appears to be particularly true when it comes to developing oral expression and spontaneous speech.


How Do We Acquire a Second Language?
Bob Wilson is a constructivist and adheres to the theories and tecniques of Jerome Bruner, Stephen Krashen and Scott Thornbury. I will very briefly spell out the main conditions for optimum second language acquisition.

Learning by doing


Input is king!


Opportunities for interaction


Low anxiety levels

· Learning events as positive emotional experiences 
· Conversation-driven
· Grammar and vocabulary are emergent.
The Golden Rule
Allow only the target language to be used in class.

When students are involved in project-based learning they tend to use their mother tongues to communicate with each other when working in groups. While they will gain vital skills in many areas, they will not improve their speaking skills in the target language.


Students are highly resourceful. They help each other or ask their teachers directly when they are trying to express themselves. Once they know how to say something, they will never forget and will have obtained another brick for building their target language.


The first few weeks will be difficult but after a month or two, students will feel great about being able to express so much in their target language. It will feel "cool".


Use a control sheet to penalize the use of other languages. This may seem harsh but no one likes losing points. After 2 months nobody will be losing points anymore anyway. Download this one and adapt it to your needs:

Why Use Drama to Teach English as a Foreign Language?

Bob Wilson has seen how using drama to teach English as a foreign language has changed students' attitudes from disliking what has just been another boring school subject into something fun and creative. He has seen how happy faces actively seek out the "cool" way of saying things and build their speech brick by brick or expression by expression and then go on to use the language in a spontaneous way. Here are more reasons to try using drama in your classes.

· Drama activities are fun and frequently funny and so students will be intrinsically motivated.

Language is being used in a meaningful way or for real purposes.


Learning becomes not just a cognitive process but also a physical and emotional one which makes new language much easier to remember.


Learning is a collaborative cooperative process as students help and correct each other. This process snowballs.


Students become used to using English in a spontaneous way and so gain confidence using the target language and in expressing themselves generally.

· Students have the desire to speak well and so will seek correction proactively and without any sense of shame.
· Students have the opportunity to try out bits of language they have picked up in songs and from TV series and discover that they work! Then they will look for more.

Teachers tweak students' grammar or use of English so that they learn firsthand about when the present perfect sounds good and which preposition works in a particular instance. As these kinds of errors are reoccurring, students will have plenty of oportunities to get things right. Remember that humans have an instinct for grammar. (Noam Chomsky)

· Teachers will help students to use REAL English and to pick up new and topical terms and expressions which spring up in contemporary language such as FAKE NEWS.
How to Use Drama to Teach English as a Foreign Language
My classes take place over the school year and I split the course into two main parts. First we focuss on process drama. For process drama, the classes do not have the objective of a final performance. Instead, the classes focus on developing the students' drama skills such as learning to become more spontaneous with the language, confidence-building and problem-solving in socially typical situations.
The second part of the course is dedicated to devising. The class is divided into teams of between 4 - 6 students. Each student develops a character and with the team they prepare their own short play of about 10 minutes which emerges from the various improvisation activities they have been doing. They write a script together and then rehearse. At the end of the school year, the class performs a pageant consisting of all the short plays prepared by the teams. Another class makes an ideal audience. And if things have gone really well, you can even invite the parents in for a special performance.
Part One - Process Drama

Classes typically have the following structure:-

1. CIRCLE WORK - STANDING UP - 2 minutes
We start with a physical warm-up.
These activities loosen people up and bond the group.
Language building and audiolingual drills
With 5-7 year olds you can do vocabulary, sentence building games, numeracy and alphabet games and songs.
I find that young primary school children pick up vocabulary with ease but stringing together phrases is another story. To encourage this, I play a game where I give each student sitting in the circle a word. For example, the first student's word is MONKEYS, the next LIKE and the next BANANAS. Then they have to remember the words, so we get a phrase. Then I ask the class if anyone can remember the whole phrase.
As the class gets more adept, they can start to make up their own words and the teacher corrects them if you get an error eg A LION LIVE IN ... "OK, that should be LIVES"
The result is that students get more and more accurate and creative with their phrase formation. You can target vocabulary and grammar they are doing in their book. This and other activities are listed in the pdf below.
For older students this is a good moment to practise making questions, for example," Marķa ask Juan how old he is."
This is also a good moment for audiolingual drills such as:
Teacher: Anne.
Student: Her name's Anne.
Teacher: Michael.
Student: His name's Michael etc.
One type of drill a day is enough. I have my own free book full of these drills which you can download for free below:
This is all about improvisation activities which boost students' confidence when speaking English spontaneously.
For example, tell two volunteer students that they are an old couple in a supermarket arguing about what breakfast cereal to buy. Go!
Here are some lists of improvisation situations and games:
And this is a brilliant website:

The Improv Encyclopedia

Part Two - Devising
After a term of learning and enjoying lots of drama games and activities, it is time to start devising. Devising is a way of making plays by developing characters or characterisation and  by recording and expanding improvised scenes that have worked particulary well. Devising requires teamwork and in the theatre teams are often called ensembles.
Below are some great games for creating and developing characters.
Teams need to time to explore, alter and develop their characters and to work out a story which involves all the characters.
When they have worked out that, they can start to work out a script. Teachers must help them with their scripts: giving them the expressions they need and converting their ideas into natural-sounding language.
The ultimate aim is to get to the performance stage. Different people have different skills. Guide them toward their natural abilities. You will have musicians, natural actors, costume designers, organisers, dramatists, lighting experts. Allow them to emerge.
They can perform their plays for another class and once their evaluation is out of the way, maybe they would like to perform their work in front of their parents.





MADE IN VALENCIA BY BOB WILSON © ROBERT CLIFFORD MCNAIR WILSON 1999 - 2017 autoenglish.org All rights reserved