Short Plays for New Americans
Plays designed to help students feel familiar with English, to be used by a classroom teacher in mixed native and immigrant classes. Plays are 1-5 pages long. Each is followed by a suggested English exercise, which could be used by a small group of immigrant children assisted by an American-born student. Each play also has some drama tips for the teacher.
|General Plan of Action||4|
|I CAN’T DECIDE||11|
|GIVE ME THAT PEN||17|
|EVERYBODY HAS PIZZA||27|
|TABLE FOR TWO||33|
|THE RIGHT GREEN||59|
|THE DUDES AND THE HICKS||75|
I CAN’T DECIDE
Judith S. Offer
Clerk in an ice cream parlor
SCENE: An ice cream parlor
[CUSTOMER enters ice cream parlor and looks at all the flavors, walking up and down.]
CLERK: Can I help you?
CUSTOMER: I can’t decide.
[CUSTOMER looks and walks some more.]
CLERK: Do you want a taste of one?
CUSTOMER: I can have a taste?
CLERK: Sure. Which one do you want?
CUSTOMER: The chocolate banana. No, the peppermint rocket. No, the lime sherbet. I can’t decide.
CLERK : Here, you can taste all three. I’m not busy.
[CLERK gives CUSTOMER tastes.]
CUSTOMER: Mmmm….mmm……mmmmm. I can’t decide.
CLERK: Since I’m not busy, I’ll give you another taste.
CLERK: Well? What did you decide?
CUSTOMER: I decided I’m too full to eat any more ice cream.
[CUSTOMER exits leaving CLERK holding an ice cream scoop.]
END OF PLAY
“I can’t decide.”
The point here is to teach your class to say this with varying degrees of frustration, starting with “a little” and working up to “very”. The first thing to do is simply have them mimic you. You can do this without really explaining by simply saying “I can’t decide” and then cupping your ear with one hand while the other hand signals, “You say it,” little waves toward yourself. If they don’t seem to understand at first, try repeating the whole thing. Try NOT to explain in their native language, as the class will quickly develop the habit of ignoring your English explanations and wait for you to explain it in whatever language they speak.
Once the class starts mimicking you, increase the frustration in your voice and have them copy you each time. Be ridiculous, wring your hands, wipe the “sweat” off your brow, whatever. The point is to get them to use their voices to create a range of expressions. Most people are very reserved in front of others, Americans or whoever. They need “permission” to let go and be silly.
Can and can’t
There is a big difference between “can” and “can’t”. Many English words, in fact, change meanings depending on the final sounds. If your students have trouble distinguishing the difference, it’s worth some time helping them. Here is a simple but useful exercise.
Write CAN on one end of your chalkboard and CAN’T on the other. Put a (1) next to CAN and (2) next to CAN’T. Now say “can’t” and point. Saying “can’t” again, try to indicate that you want the class to choose. The whole idea is for them to listen carefully to what you said, a skill many native-born Americans could improve. Once the class has caught on to the exercise, you can call on individuals.
Once they know this “game” you can use it with any two similar-sounding words.
Choose a student with good pronunciation to be the teacher for the exercise.
As a person who has studied several languages myself, I hasten to assure you that your students will not be bored by these exercises if they are having difficulty hearing the difference.
Yes, I can. No, I can’t.
If you want to teach your students another common use of “can” and “can’t”, make up a list of questions that will allow either answer. Start by asking several students the same question:
Can you play the piano?
The student will probably say “Yes” or “No”. If this happens, say, “Repeat” and model the longer answer. “Yes, I can.”
After you have asked several of these questions, increase the practice by having the students ask each other. You ask one and she/she answers and asks the next student.
Can you tie your shoelaces?
Can you iron a blouse?
Can you fix a faucet?
Can you fix a flat tire?
Can you eat three scoops of ice cream?
One teacher I knew thought some of these plays would be good for her African American students, too, and even did public performances of several. She especially liked the one with information about interviewing for a job.