We all know that children learn a lot if they are actively involved in the learning process. So what could be better than putting on a play to get everybody in the class involved?
Producing a play at Christmas time is a perfect opportunity for the children to show off the English language they have learnt and for their families to appreciate the children’s progress, all in a relaxed and informal context.
When we think about putting on a Christmas play, many of us think of religious contexts, which can cause some problems nowadays in multi-ethnic and multi-religious classes. There are, however, many non-religious themes at Christmas, the most popular is that of Father Christmas and his elves and reindeer. This theme also gives the opportunity for the whole class to play a role as, although there is only one Father Christmas (and his wife?), there are nine reindeer and as many elves as are required!
Once the topic of the play is chosen, texts can be found on the Internet, in specialised books or written by the teacher and/or the class. One suggestion is that, keeping in mind the level of the pupils, the teacher writes the play with the children. In this case the creation of the story will be spread over a series of lessons.
Some ideas for possible plots are included at the end of this article.
Firstly, in L1 get the children to tell you all the different stories they know about Father Christmas. Choose one of the stories, especially one with some funny ideas. When all the children agree on the plot, expressions in the English language can be introduced.
On the blackboard write all the Christmas words the children will need and, in turn, ask each pupil to go to the blackboard and write a sentence. Get all the children in the class to write a sentence, always keeping the plot in mind. If there are time-pressures, the plot can be agreed with the children and the sentences written by the teacher.
When the story is complete, allocate parts to each of the children. Remember not to give the longest or most difficult parts to the best pupils: the play should be a challenge and the weakest children in the class should learn that they can take leading roles too. More importantly, the strongest pupils should learn that every role is a good role!
When all the parts have been allocated and the text is complete, rehearsals can begin.
How else can the children be involved? Scenery needs to be designed, made and painted – costumes need to be made – music needs to be chosen. The more responsibility given to the children, the more the project will seem like a REAL theatrical play!
Invite the children’s families and other classes in the school to watch the children perform the play.
As well as the children’s imagination, the teacher will also need cardboard, felt-tip pens, cloth for the reindeer and Father Christmas...
A Few Suggestions...
- Write short, simple sentences for the children to memorise.
- Use the same words often so that children can learn and remember them.
- Write all the Christmas words onto pieces of paper and stick them around the classroom so that children will have the possibility to read them every time they look around.
- Get the children to create a Christmas poster/picture dictionary with all the Christmas words such as: Father Christmas, presents, lights, elves, reindeer, sleigh etc.
- With the children, choose some gestures that will be used if they forget their lines. They will feel like real actors and feel more committed to the play!
- Help the children to create scenery and costumes. Do not hesitate to ask other teachers or parents for help: the more people involved in the creation of the performance, the better the end product – the play – will be!
- Give a name to each elf, nobody wants to be Elf 1 or Elf 2, but everybody will be happy to be Galadriel, Elwing, Arandel... You can easily find the names of the “real” elves from literature or on the Internet!
- Remember the names of the reindeer: Rudolph, Dancer, Dasher, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen.
- Ask the children to invent a detail, something particular, for each character. For example: a small red heart for Cupid the reindeer, a small star for Comet and so on.
Children often like to change serious things (as serious as Father Christmas can be!) into funny things, so why not give them the chance to make fun of Father Christmas and the elves?
... Father Christmas catches flu the night before Christmas?
... Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer, can’t remember how to fly?
... The elves run out of raw material to make toys?
... The sleigh breaks down and Father Christmas has to borrow his neighbour’s motorbike?
... The elves are on strike and Father Christmas has to do everything by himself?
... Father Christmas doesn’t remember who he is, he thinks he’s just a nice, red-clothed retired man?
... Father Christmas (or the reindeer) is afraid to fly?
... Father Christmas is touring the world with his brand new rock band (Father Christmas and the Elves...) and forgets to bring presents to the children?
... The Elves make mistakes when reading the letters that children sent to Father Christmas and so he gives the wrong presents. For example, a girl who wanted a dog gets a bag, a boy who wanted a train gets a brain. An interesting exercise for the children is to get them to make a list of words that can be confused (dog – bag; train – brain etc).