I don’t often do skits in class. How rare are they? Well we do 1 in each of Yr1 (at a restaurant) and Yr2 (the famous ‘bullet train’ sketch). That’s it. I generally prefer a communicative oral that evaluates how well a student can communicate. But let’s face it – sometimes the ‘skit’ suits perfectly and they can be great fun. However I have gradually altered what I expect both in the preparation and presentation of a skit – so that the focus is on the Target language/culture presented and it doesn’t become a grammatical show-off piece.
No “Script” Skits – Just Key Words – I know that some teachers demand to see scripts prior to presentation – and they ask for a them to be line by line. Then they are only performed when they are ‘perfect’. But I don’t like the pressure of this kind of memorization nor the focus on making something that is ‘error free’. With 4-5 students working together to create them errors tend to be minor when they occur. And, I admit, I don’t even have them hand it in after and have no wish to correct after seeing. So I have instituted the ‘key word script’ idea with the rules being:– If you know it in the TL – then why are you writing it down? Just put down – “We all come in the room and say “Hi”.” I don’t want you to be writing out ‘lines’ -Write down in the TL what you “need” to remember/may forget – in point or sentence form -Everyone writes down what is happening – for the entire group. It allows students to understand the whole presentation, it’s in their writing and it keeps them focused during preparation -Everyone in the group speaks an ‘equal’ amount -No dictionaries – if we don’t know the word we won’t understand you – what fun is that?
Individual Memorizing – If You Want To – For some skits are a joy but for many students they are nerve wracking. And the sight of a group forcing a member to memorize something on top of that – too much. To get around this I allow students to choose their individual level of presentation achievement. They all can have the script with them but their own presentation mark depends on how they do their part – and is not affected by what others do. As for criteria– Is it fully memorized? (okay maybe one glance at the skit sheet) or are you just comfortable reading your part (or in between?). – How well is it pronounced? (does it sound like its in the TL? or are the words sounding ‘English’?) – How at ease is the part presented? (is it well rehearsed or did you not practice a lot?)
An Active Audience – No ‘just sit and watch’ for me. I ask students to actively watch (with a response sheet) each others skits – not all of the skits but 3 or 4 of the ones being presented. It’s as easy as putting the order of presentation up on the board with 2-3 names beside them that they’ll watch. (For example “Lucy’s group watches Yuri’s, Lester’s and Annie’s group). Just make sure that they are not watching just before or after they themselves present. All group members do the viewing and they each have a sheet that asks them things (depending on their level of work in the TL) including:– For my more junior students they must check off when/if they hear either a key word, or structure. All the student has to do is ‘check’ when they hear it – and I only put 3 or 4 things down. The more senior students may have to give a 1 sentence summary of what happened or fill in key words that relate to the content of the skit. -Evaluate the skit on an Excellent, Good or Minimum scale. Honestly – they all prepped the same thing. They know what was required. I ask them to select the rating – and take that as my ‘overall presentation’ mark. There are usually enough evaluators (and I do note a quick E, G or M for each group myself) that a fair evaluation occurs.
Removing the ‘pressure’ of memorizing lines and perfect grammar, allowing students to choose their presentation level and asking the audience to be involved as listeners helps make the skit experience more bearable for many. And that works for me – when a skit is called for!