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ESOL Online. Every child literate - a shared responsibility.
Ministry of Education.

Learning task 4

Being a writer

Vocabulary work

Before beginning this drama unit, provide each ESOL student with a book ring (or they can buy their own, available at most stationers, around $4-5 for pack of 4) and make a pile of small cards, punched at one end, to go on the rings. The students enter new vocabulary on these cards. This is an efficient way of learning new vocabulary and one of the best ways of having new words on hand when working in a context where the new words are used frequently. As students meet each new word, it is written onto a card, the word on the front, the definition on the back in L1 or L2. Constant reference and use helps the specific vocabulary to be learnt.
Some of this vocabulary will be familiar to mainstreamed ESOL students through their study of the English curriculum. However check terms such as soap opera, sitcom, (see VocabList (Word 42KB) ). The introducing of specific vocabulary as outlined in Teacher Notes will be done as for the rest of the class, but ESOL students will record this vocabulary on their rings.

  • Remember native speaking students already have a large vocabulary base to which they will add new terms with relative ease, but ESOL students lack this and a method such as a vocabulary ring is necessary.

Where new terms or words are within the first 3000 words of English these words will be marked with an asterix. This will help the teacher to decide which words students should add to their vocabulary rings. These will include:

  • technical words essential for the unit;
  • new general words that come within the first 3000 words of English and therefore should be part of students' vocabulary. Low frequency words that are not essential learning can be glossed for students.

ESOL students (and maybe others) will need a chart or table with the TV genres on it with matching characteristics of each genre. Students may use their bi-lingual dictionaries to help them understand the terms. Students with experience of TV viewing in their first language may write in their first language (or translated versions) examples of each genre from their TV experience in their own countries. Encourage students to discuss their examples in pairs briefly explaining to a partner in English what each programme is about and why they think it fits the particular genre. The new terms can be transferred to their book.
Many ESOL students may be integrated with native speaking classmates for this activity. However students who are at a beginner stage of English could work with each other and deal with only the types of humour they really understood, such as misunderstandings, visual gags etc. The emphasis is on practising English for fluency, rather than accuracy. Encourage 'noticing' of accurate language patterns for students integrated with English speaking classmates.


What genre is Being Eve? Gather evidence on four big pieces of paper headed up with, Soap Opera, Sitcom, Series, and Serial. Discuss the evidence for and against each style of programme.

Brainstorm a list of television programmes that use the genres of comedy, farce, and parody.

Does everyone have the same sense of humour in your class?

Allow ESOL students to watch the following piece of Being Eve several times before discussing the kinds of jokes. The characters speak quickly and students may be slow to pick up the dialogue even if the vocabulary is familiar. Remember it's a large piece of language to process at once.
Then make sure the language used to describe the jokes is versed in simple English. E.g.

  • the first one may be: Use jokes that depend on what you can see.
  • Use the fact that someone thinks someone else is another person, not who they really are. etc

Students who have been in NZ several years will probably pick up many of the jokes as they are typical student exchanges and even those with limited NZ experience will get the universal visual jokes. Few students will be able to identify verbal humour, incongruous jokes or exaggerated characters but each can work at their own level. Native English speaking class- mates will often explain verbal jokes. Although this humour is cultural, it's a part of the culture students have already been exposed to and those with less NZ experience will recognise the type of humour from their own culture.

 Look at the first ten minutes of episode 2, Being Popular. What sorts of jokes are being created here? Can you identify jokes that:

  • use visual gags (for example, somebody's face, body, or clothes have something wrong with them)?
  • use mistaken identity?
  • are caused by misunderstanding?
  • use verbal humour, for example, accents?
  • use a difference in race or social class?
  • use physical humour (often called buffoonery)?
  • use disappearing or appearing jokes (either people or objects)?
  • use humiliation (being made to look ridiculous)?
  • use bodily function (sound effects)?
  • use incongruous jokes (unusual ideas that don't belong together are put next to each other)?
  • use clowns versus straight men (or women) also known as white-faced clowns?
  • use exaggerated characters drawn from melodrama?

Take one of the themes in the storylines and with your group either create your own "action replay" of an episode you have seen including at least three types of humour - one of which needs to be a physical joke - or create a new play to present to the class including at least three types of humour and one of which needs to be a physical joke. You need to start and end your piece on a frozen moment.

  1. Appoint a group director to keep you on track.
  2. Improvise and rehearse your scene in groups.
  3. Decide on costumes you might want to bring for your presentation.
  4. If you have access to an electronic keyboard you might find some sound effects you can use to emphasise jokes, for example, crashes on cymbals for a falling down joke (demonstrate action and sound of cymbals).
  5. If possible, use improvised stage lighting to enhance your presentation.
  6. Perform your scene to the class.
  7. Watch each other's performances observing the courtesies of listening and responding appropriately.
  8. Rather than using real props mime what you need as much as possible.
  9. Think about timing, that is, coming in on cue during your rehearsals.

Published on: 09 Jan 2018