Saturday, August 3

Dramatizing Captain Nobody For Low Proficiency Classes


For the past 6 months, I was a failed teacher. I failed to get my Form 5 students interested in Captain Nobody by Dean Pitchford. They would be apathetic every time we had to discuss the different aspects of the novel & it became pretty obvious that they hadn't read the novel & it was impractical for them to read the novel during class.

This is concerning because they will be tested on their understanding of the novel in SPM. If they don't read the novel & don't do their group assignments, how will they be able to adequately address the exam question?

You see, most of my students struggle with basic English, so this novel is truly a challenge for my students to comprehend & relate to. The novel depicts the life of a small town boy in the US with plenty of references to US culture in complex vocabulary. The novel is actually very interesting if you have good proficiency.

In an attempt to bridge the emotional & psychological gap experienced in my classroom, I had my students dramatize it instead. It had to be approachable for low-motivation & low-proficiency students with a low-budget teacher. Here's how...

Win #1: They were actually READING THE TEXT! 😍
When assigned group projects or comprehension questions, it was clear that most just didn't even bother.

 Steps

  1. Go to a book store & find a reference book with excellent chapter summaries. Make copies for each student. (Don't ask me which book I used. What works for me may not work for you.)
  2. Divide students into groups of 3-4, & assign 1-2 chapters (depending on length & complexity) to each group for them to narrate & dramatize.
  3. MONITOR. Walk around. Listen in. Provide LOTS of GUIDANCE. Explaining what is happening & giving them lots of suggestions. (Lower proficiency students tend to need extra support.) ENCOURAGE them to practice, after they've read & discussed their roles.
  4. During every lesson, remind students that this is meant to be both FUN and EDUCATIONAL. This is STUDY SMART. They need to know the story & the characters if they are to write about them convincingly.
  5. After each performance, give constructive FEEDBACK & SUMMARIZE the chapter. Give prickly comments to lackadaisical groups before also encouraging them to do better. Don't be a pushover. Demand to be taken seriously.
  6. Award a point for each group that gave their best during each round.
  7. In the end, give chocolates to the group with the highest total points. Give a savory snack to everybody for their hard work. (Costing RM15/class.)
  8. Follow up with writing-based individual/group work to solidify insights gained from the dramatization.
Win #2: They were really immersing themselves in the characters & deepening their understanding of what's going on. Engaging multiple intelligences too.
Win #3: They were actually enjoying themselves rather than disengaging, falling asleep, or being passive aggressive.


Here's a playlist of the better dramatizations. What do you think? I think they did pretty well. There were also several sparks of ingenuity.

I teach the lower proficiency classes of a sports school (read: not particularly academically motivated) & I think this has helped my students be more invested in learning about the novel. It even worked for the class with students who were English-illiterate. As we draw closer to SPM, I'll need to start drilling with SPM-modelled questions. This activity has built an understanding of the novel & will help the exam drilling be even more effective.

Have you done something similar in your classes? How can I improve this?

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