To be honest, I hadn’t expected today to be such a success.
My apprehension was purely based on the fact that Speaking and Listening was not going to count towards GCSE English. The students knew that, too. When it used to be worth of 20% of the grade, there was a practical impetus behind a drama-based Super Learning Day for year 10 pupils. They worked hard all day; they were assessed for their discussions and performances; the aesthetics and enjoyment were more of a secondary concern. It was out of necessity. But the situation was different this year.
My anxiety finally set in. I was worried that without the immediate relevance to the students’ GCSE grades, they might use that as an excuse for being uncooperative or disruptive. I lay awake in bed, planning for the worse case scenario – I must make them see the reason behind what they were going to be asked to do, the bigger picture, so to speak.
The day did start with some quiet queries about the Speaking and Listening situation. Surprisingly, my students didn’t seem too grumpy about the long day ahead. Some pep talk and some light-hearted references to the television docusoap, Call Centre, and the mention of some anecdotal tales of talking to faceless telesales on the phone seemed to put today’s enterprise into perspective. Some dramatic demonstrations from me seemed to have made them laugh and relax the tension somewhat. Needless to say, my students were not totally convinced, but they were prepared to give me the benefit of the doubt and give today a go.
That’s all I needed.
With some help from clips of a stage production of Of Mice and Men, and a few hilarious improvisation comedy clips from Who’s line is it anyway? on Youtube, the students got down to work productively: discussing, scripting and rehearsing. They got themselves organised and followed the structure provided.
The performances started soon after lunch break. And what performances they were! I was truly impressed by the outcome of their day’s endeavour. Some of the performances were genuinely inspired. Not only had they shown an excellent understanding of their characters and their knowledge of the text, the dramatic quality shone through their thoughtful stage directions. They made me very proud.
And they seemed to have enjoyed themselves.
It has to be noted, too, that the collaboration amongst the staff had contributed immeasurably to today’s pleasing culmination. I was lucky enough to have another member staff (a biologist) to work with me. In addition, my two trainee teachers were also at my disposal. Throughout the day, I involved all three of them in marking, supervising, supporting and videoing the students’ progress. Without their generous support, it wouldn’t have been half as successful.
Yes, despite its demotion, Speaking and Listening is no less valid in the development of a child’s skills in English. Today’s programme made sure that they learned how to work collaboratively, intelligently and how to communicate via a variety of effective vehicles.