Coming at SL as a former TPRS/CI teacher, I have always been tempted to incorporate motions, gestures and movement into my SL lessons. I know kinestetic movement can be a powerful tool in the language classroom, but I didn’t want to compromise the sanctity of the story. What seemed to fit best for me was including acting as an add-on activity after telling a story. Sometimes it didn’t go like I wanted, while other times it was lovely and enjoyable. After experimenting and reflecting, I think I might have discovered the common denominator for the best chance of success, which I hope to share with you here. I do believe a small dose of collective class acting can be a fun way to provide variation every once in a while and get wiggly students up and moving. This type of collective post-story class acting seems to work best with Kindergarten and first grade.
Here’s what I do:
- Tell a story SL style.
- Invite students to stand up. Ensure they know what the boundaries are. I have Sit Spots which I instruct them to stand on.
- Reiterate a condensed version or specific parts of the story while simultaneously modeling how to act it out and pausing to allow students to try.
Step 3 is important. What you act out must be shortened and simplified. I select words or phrases that are easy to act with a gesture. Remember you are not re-telling the story. You are reinforcing a few parts of the story and providing an opportunity for kids to engage with the story in a different way, plus satisfying the need to move.
For example, I tell the story of the Tortoise and the Hare in rich, full language. Then, I instruct my students to stand up say,
“We are hares.” (in Spanish, English, or both)
“Once upon a time there was a hare.” (in Spanish) – draw big rabbit ears, tale, nose, etc.
“The hare was fast.” (in Spanish) – signal fast with hands, clapping one hand quickly against the other.
“He ran very fast.” (in Spanish) – run fast in place.
“Now we are turtles.” (in Spanish, English, or both)
“The turtle was slow.” (in Spanish) – signal slow with a slow hand gesture.
“The turtle walked slowly.” (in Spanish) – walk very slowly in place
“They have a race.” (in Spanish, English, or both)
“The hare runs and runs and stops to sleep.” (in Spanish) – run in place and pretend to sleep
“The turtle walks and walks and doesn’t stop.” (in Spanish) – walk slowly
“The turtle wins!” (in Spanish) – fist in the air, chant, “Tortuga, tortuga!”
“The hare cries.” (in Spanish) – sad face signaling tears with crying sounds
“The end.” (in Spanish)
In my experience, this is the maximum length a collective post-story acting should go for little ones. The nice thing is, you can gauge how it’s going and either skip to the end and wrap it up or extend it a bit.
Another take on this that I enjoy is to simply take dialogue from characters in the story and reiterate the dialogue with some acting flair. For example, I tell an adaptation of the story, Thank You, Bear by Greg Foley. In the story, a bear finds a box and thinks his friend mouse will love it. He looks for mouse but stumbles upon a few other animals along the way who aren’t pleased with his box. Finally, the mouse sees the box, runs to it and jumps inside and says, “It’s perfect for me!” First, I tell the story. Then, we stand up and I say,
“We are bears.” (in Spanish, English or both) – draw bear ears and hold up your bear paws
“The bear sees a box and says, ‘Perfect!'” (in Spanish) – Act out the bear seeing a box, being amazed and say, “Perfect!”
“The elephant sees the box and says, ‘Too small!” (in Spanish) – Act like an elephant being annoyed and say, “Too small!”
“The monkey sees the box and says, ‘I don’t like it!’ (in Spanish) – Act like a monkey being annoyed and say, “I don’t like it!”
“Finally, the mouse sees the box, runs to it, jumps inside and says, ‘Perfect!'” (in Spanish) – Act like a mouse, run in place, jump up and crouch down like you are inside the box and say happily, “Perfect!”