Get on Stage!

Herbert Puchta, Guenter Gerngross and Matthew Devitt
Helbling Languages 2012

Get on stageWith so much authentic and ELT specific material available for free online, you might think that photocopiable resource books had had their day. This release from Helbling Languages, however, demonstrates that well-designed, original and creative materials are still very relevant.

Pitched at teens and young adults, Get on Stage! is both a collection of drama-based classroom materials and a teacher training resource. For the students, the main body of the book is divided into four parts. There are ten short sketches, three medium-length sketches, five medium-length plays based on traditional stories, and three teenage dramas. A quick-reference guide in the back of the book gives the CEF level (between A2 and B2), language focus, number of roles and performance length. Whether you are looking for something light and humorous for a small class on a rainy afternoon, or a semester-long serious drama project, you will probably find something to suit. If that’s not enough, almost all of the plays and sketches are on either the CD or DVD, in pockets inside the back cover. There is also a photocopiable worksheet for each play, focusing mainly on vocabulary and grammar, and a set of answer keys.

These resources alone are probably enough to make the book worth buying. However, what I think really sets it apart is the instructional DVD. Presented by co-author Matthew Devitt and his young cast, it leads the teacher through the basics of stage acting and direction. As a teacher who wants to start putting on plays with his students, but has no experience or background in drama, I found it incredibly useful. Devitt has an extensive CV as both an actor and a director (including an Olivier Award nomination!), and engagingly demonstrates such concepts as staging and blocking, voice projection and learning lines. The DVD is pitched to the teacher rather than the student, although some sections may be helpful to show in class. The information presented on the DVD can also be found in a more succinct and organised form in the introduction of the book, along with a number of shorter warm-up activities.

An enterprising teacher may be able to put together a similar collection of materials from YouTube videos and online scripts, but I really think Helbling have published such a well- crafted and thorough collection that there is no need. I have already had very positive student feedback from the first couple of sketches I tried out in class, and I’m looking forward to testing more of the ideas in the book in future.

Darren Elliott has been teaching and training teachers in Japan and the UK since 1999. He has published material on teacher development, technology and language education, and learner autonomy.