With very few lines from characters and an Act of Silence.
/note: all Acts should have been more logically called Scenes. But an Act of Silence sounds too good to reject it../
The People in the Play:
Teacher of English
9 university students
Act 1 At the door
TEACHER: There’s a password today to enter the classroom. Think about our lessons, concentrate on your thought. Now in order to come in you need to complete the idea:”I think it could be a good idea to … in class.”
(whispers, muffled sounds)
note: each sentence from a student is followed by a reaction from a teacher, such as “oh, wow, great, thank you, I like that” + making a note of the idea. All students eventually end up in a lesson.
STUDENT D: I think it could be a good idea to watch short videos in class.
STUDENT Aboy: I think it could be a good idea to read books in class.
STUDENT Sgirl: I think it could be a good idea to listen to songs in class.
STUDENT V: У нас идеальные занятия, меня все устраивает и у меня нет никаких предложений. (We have ideal classes, I’m satisfied with everything and I have no suggestions.)
TEACHER: Sorry, thank you, but please think of some idea for the sentence. Thank you!
STUDENT Sboy: I think it could be a good idea to have a break in the middle of the lesson.
STUDENT Agirl: I think it could be a good idea to have fun.
STUDENT V: I think it could be a good idea to sometimes sleep a little in class.
STUDENT K: I think it could be a good idea to write letters to each other in class.
STUDENT B: I think it could be a good idea to discuss our problems with physics.
Act 2 Perceptiveness
(all students are taking their seats and getting ready for class)
STUDENT V (to Teacher): Why are you sad?
(Puzzled look and a silly near-smile on Teacher’s face)
TEACHER: That’s a very good question. How do you know?
STUDENT V: I have this feeling.
TEACHER: I don’t know. I slept very badly and I hate this weather.
(In Teacher’s mind: very unusual and sweet that it’s this particular student who noticed change.)
Act 3 Skipped, or On Fast Forward
(feedback conversation on students’ suggestions for class, organizational moments, questions, Student D brags about a white scarf very fashionably tied around neck, brief review of what reported speech is all about)
Act 4 From Tales of the Unexpected
Teacher hands out copies of Genesis and Catastrophe and invites to read the paragraph about the author preceding the story. Students learn that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is actually a book first. Teacher goes a bit exclamatory about Roald Dahl’s legacy and its fun and use for learning English. A couple of Students are noticed to take a note of the author’s name.
Part 2 of task: reading Page 1 only. The page ends with this line: “None of my other ones lived, Doctor.” Several Students make articulate and very recognizable “aaww”, “oohh”, sigh and wonder out loud (“Will he live?!”).
TEACHER: You’ll get the copies to read the story till the end at home, if you wish.
Part 3 of task: dividing the dialogue in half and working in pairs to transform it into reported speech. All Students are noted to be working, even those who normally openly sleep.
Act 5 Act of Silence
(One student finishes very early, flips the page and goes on reading. There’s still 40 minutes of class left and a whole big, partly irrelevant point on the lesson plan to be done with.)
TEACHER: Please read the story when you finish with your work.
The 25-min silence that followed was broken several times by the following:
STUDENT D: Why is the text so sad??
STUDENT Agirl (the one to have begun reading first): He’ll survive.
STUDENT D: He shouldn’t have.
(in a while)
STUDENT Sboy (jumping off his chair and exclaiming almost in panic): This is about Hitler!!!!
(this outburst resulted in a lot of moaning, disgruntled remarks, hushing, blaming of “spoiler-ing” the story for those Students who were reading behind)
25 minutes of near absolute silence being engrossed in the story. Pleasant silence. Unhappy when broken. Unusual to all in the classroom. Filled with mute emotions on Students’ faces which were read from their, very different, changing expressions: shocked looks, raising eye-brows, laughing (??!), frowning, sighing, eyes wide open. Watching Students read for Teacher was most exciting and eye-opening. The reactions of certain Students, who might have previously been labeled for repeated lines in their behaviour, shook the world of Teacher’s mind.
As everybody were leaving the classroom, after a brief sharing of opinions regarding the title of the story and the shocking impact, the following lines were heard and noted:
STUDENT V (to Teacher): Goodbye. Don’t be sad.
STUDENT Agirl (to Teacher): Sleep enough.
Everybody leaves. Closing curtain.
This class happened last Thursday and the notes used to write the post were made during the lesson itself. The decision to give the time to read in silence in class was impulsive. We didn’t do planned things. Reading literature is not part of our syllabus (and these are Physics students). I’m not ready to analyze how effective this move was and how much they learnt in comparison to what they could’ve learnt had we followed the plan. I can’t know or measure the impact of the decision I take until I take it and see what happens. As Josette LeBlanc used this word in her post once – fluid – it’s become one of my favourite words. Looks as if it refers all around my understanding of teaching at the moment. If the day/group/mood/ whatever other conditions had been different, this wouldn’t have happened, wouldn’t have been my choice.
And there’s no further analysis to this Play, just a funny post factum observation that we did read in class as one of the students had wished to do at the beginning of that lesson. =)
Thank you for reading.