Practice in Action
Story and literature dramatizations give students an opportunity to act and explore characters, bringing literature to life. Acting out characters' parts engages students while building critical reading skills.
Choose a poem, short story, or play that will really engage students. Ask
students for their ideas, or talk to their teachers to find out how to connect to the school-day curriculum. Review the story, plot, and characters, then assign roles or let students decide. Ask students to think about their role, discuss what makes each character convincing, and encourage them to really take on that character. Students aren't required to memorize lines unless they choose to.
Afterschool provides the perfect setting for dramatizations. After a day of sitting in classes, students can move around and act things out while building literacy skills. While some programs mount full-scale theatrical productions, there are any number of ways that dramatization can be integrated into afterschool activities through finger puppets, rhymes, reader's theater, or songs.
This practice is especially effective for English language learners because it employs multiple learning modalities (physical, visual, auditory, etc.) that have been shown to reinforce language learning. Repeated readings of a script and practicing line delivery build fluency and expressiveness in English, and the collaborative nature of the practice provides essential opportunities for interaction. Pantomime and follow-up discussions can be very effective for the integration of language and meaning.
Many students who are learning English may not have the same background knowledge related to text structure and content as native English speakers. For example, they may be unfamiliar with the format of a theatrical script, or with a fairy tale that is traditional in this culture (such as The Three Little Pigs). When choosing texts for this activity, select from a variety of culturally relevant texts, gauge students' levels of background knowledge, and provide additional explanation and instruction where needed.
Planning Your Lesson
Great afterschool lessons start with having a clear intention about who your students
are, what they are learning or need to work on, and crafting activities that engage students while supporting their academic growth. Great afterschool lessons also require planning and preparation, as there is a lot of work involved in successfully managing kids, materials, and time.
Below are suggested questions to consider while preparing your afterschool lessons.
The questions are grouped into topics that correspond to the Lesson Planning
Template. You can print out the template and use it as a worksheet to plan and
refine your afterschool lessons, to share lesson ideas with colleagues, or to help in professional development sessions with staff.
Lesson Planning Template (PDF)
Lesson Planning Template (Word document)
What grade level(s) is this lesson geared to?
How long will it take to complete the lesson? One hour? One and a half hours? Will
it be divided into two or more parts, over a week, or over several weeks?
What do you want students to learn or be able to do after completing this activity? What skills do you want students to develop or hone? What tasks do they need to accomplish?
List all of the materials needed that will be needed to complete the activity.
Include materials that each student will need, as well as materials that students
may need to share (such as books or a computer). Also include any materials that students or instructors will need for record keeping or evaluation. Will you need to store materials for future sessions? If so, how will you do this?
What do you need to do to prepare for this activity? Will you need to gather
materials? Will the materials need to be sorted for students or will you assign students to be "materials managers"? Are there any books or instructions that you need to read in order to prepare? Do you need a refresher in a content area? Are there questions you need to develop to help students explore or discuss the activity? Are there props that you need to have assembled in advance of the activity? Do you need to enlist another adult to help run the activity?
Think about how you might divide up groups―who works well together? Which students could assist other peers? What roles will you assign to different members of the group so that each student participates?
Now, think about the Practice that you are basing your lesson on. Reread the
Practice. Are there ways in which you need to amend your lesson plan to better
address the key goal(s) of the Practice? If this is your first time doing the activity, consider doing a "run through" with friends or colleagues to see what works and what you may need to change. Alternatively, you could ask a colleague to read over your lesson plan and give you feedback and suggestions for revisions.
What to Do
Think about the progression of the activity from start to finish. One model that
might be useful—and which was originally developed for science
education—is the 5E's instructional model. Each phrase of the learning
sequence can be described using five words that begin with "E": engage, explore, explain, extend, and evaluate. For more information, see
the 5E's Instructional Model.
Outcomes to Look For
How will you know that students learned what you intended them to learn through this
activity? What will be your signs or benchmarks of learning? What questions might you ask to assess their understanding? What, if any, product will they produce?
After you conduct the activity, take a few minutes to reflect on what took place.
How do you think the lesson went? Are there things that you wish you had done differently? What will you change next time? Would you do this activity again?