Activity: The Dramatic Reenactment

My latest lesson recipe is the ‘dramatic reenactment.’ I assign the students parts and make them act them out. The catch? The roles are not exactly… human.

When to use dramatic reenactment:

Dramatic reenactment is great activity when you have a bunch of vocabulary that is inter-related within a system. Last week I used dramatic reenactment to review electric circuits. Next week we will use it to review the circulatory system.

Lesson objectives:

  • Identify the different parts of a system
  • Understand the functions of the parts of a system
  • Follow the sequence of a system


  • Space: you either need enough room for all students to be involved, or enough room that all students can easily see the students who are involved.
  • Props: kinesthetically engage your students with the relevant verbs; for example, if red blood cells carry oxygen to body parts, create oxygen props for your red blood cell actors to literally carry.


One way or another, I have my students identify the parts of the system. There are a bazillion ways to come up with a word bank. Then, I assign each student a part that we have identified. Some of the parts I reserve for the props, especially if their role is to be carried, transmitted, or exchanged.

It’s best to start out with the basics so that the students get used to the activity before they have to do too much critical thinking. In my experience, I find it is best to focus on the main item that is moving through the system and have the students answer the question,

“Where does it go next?”

This question identifies the major parts of the system and puts them in order. Next, I have the students run through the system again, but this time we identify the roles of the different parts of the system by asking:

“What happens here?”

As a class, we talk about the best way to show what is happening. This is a nice opportunity for discussion when students have to say why they think one thing or another is the best visual representation. Once we’ve determined the role of the major parts and how to show it, we can do another run-through. Then we go into more detail:

“How do we get from here to there?”

“How” can be a difficult question to answer, which is why I save it for later. We might run through the system a couple more times so that the students can play different parts.

Then, I add any complexity or complications with questions like:

“What happens if…?”

Then, I have everyone sit down and take an exam.


Because I’m teaching subjects in an ESL classroom, no matter what the content, every lesson has the same underlying goals:
  1. Teach and reinforce new vocabulary
  2. Model fluent phrasing and pronunciation
  3. Create opportunities for students to speak

One of the challenges of dramatically reenacting non-human interactions in the ESL classroom is coming up with opportunities for the students to speak. Here are some of my ideas:

  • Class Mandate: Keep a few students out of the reenactment in order to have them tell the students in the reenactment what to do
  • Auto-narration: Have students narrate what they are doing when they are doing it, e.g. “I am transferring oxygen to the body organs and picking up carbon dioxide.”
  • Scripted narration: Create a script which students read aloud while other students perform
  • Charades: Ask performers to do certain things, and have the classmates guess where and what they are based on what is happening.

Other Resources:


Teaching Is Like Cooking

The hardest part about teaching is the monotony. It is hard work coming up with new lessons day after day. But teaching is only monotonous while the teacher is uncreative, unadventurous, and inexperienced (I hope!). Really, teaching is just like cooking.

At first, I felt like there was but one ingredient: information. I was given a pile of information. The information looked all the same: black words on white paper. My instinct was to feed it to the children raw, in a lecture. I didn’t know any better. I didn’t know what else to do. My interaction with the information was embarrassingly rudimentary. I chewed the information on my own, then regurgitated the information before the class and said, “Isn’t this delicious?” The class was not impressed, but they were content because at least they did not have to think very hard.

Later on, I learned to be more objective. I would say, “Note the different textures. See the different shades of color. Sometimes, here, the information is bitter. This information is very sweet.” I would ask, “Which parts do you think are the most delicious?” Ambitiously I would add, “…and why?” The good students had opinions. These were my favorite students. I loved them. I blessed their parents. The cheeky students said, “The whole thing is disgusting.” I loved them, too. Some students bothered me. These students did not say anything at all. They were not even listening.

One day, in a horrifying moment of self-realization, I realized I was feeding my students vats of ketchup like it was soup. It was not the students’ fault that they were not paying attention. They were right to be disgusted. I was a horrible cook.

I tried to spice things up by putting the information in different packages, like smearing ketchup on toast. I disguised the information as a game. Even the students who never listened perked up at that novelty. I baked the ketchup into cupcakes and had the students work in small groups. Over several weeks, I designed an entire ketchup buffet, with students reciting and presenting and talking. Once or twice I cooked up a ketchup sensation, as harmonious as ketchup and french fries. But occasionally I would cook up a ketchup disaster. My disgusting novelty ketchup treats were making my students wary of ketchup. And now that my lessons were more demanding, my students couldn’t just zone out; they had to work and think. My students started getting restless.

This is the point where we are at now.

The good news is that after trying all those experimental techniques, I now have a stack of them at my disposal. I just have to match them up with the proper ingredients. Then I have to learn how to serve them in the right order.

That is why I am going to start posting some of my techniques: so that I can search for them when I have the right ingredients and save time when I am cooking up lessons in the future.

Some day I hope my students will come to class hungry and excited to eat, and every lesson will be delicious.

The Politics of Fútbol

I can hear church bells and falling rain. The swanky grooves of Outkast’s album The Love Below go surprisingly well with church bells. Gray days don’t seem so bad when they are rainy. Gray days aren’t bad at all when they are couched within weeks of bright blue skies–and today is special anyway, because today is the day that Derek arrives. The rain is good for him; it will feel more like home (bwahaha, snow storm!).

I turn on my space heater for a couple minutes and drink hot tea, staving off the chill in solidarity with my friends and family back home, and I read the news. BBC Mundo is a lot easier to understand than El País. For some reason I gravitate toward the sports section, something I rarely do in English. I see that Barcelona vs. Real Madrid is coming up on Wednesday at 10pm.

I’m probably thinking about sports because last night the bar across the street blared el himno sevillana, the “anthem” of Sevilla Fútbol Club:

There are two major Sevillan fútbol clubs, Bétis and Sevilla. Sevilla plays in Nervión, near me, and that is enough to earn my loyalty. I’d like to learn the lyrics and go to a game. I need to buy some red and white.

My loyalty is similarly arbitrary when it comes to the Real Madrid v. Barcelona rivalry, El Clásico. I have been to Madrid and liked it, but have never been to Barcelona; and so I root for Real Madrid. Except when it comes to Real Madrid vs. Barcelona, it’s political; you either affiliate yourself with right-wing pro-Franco Conservatives or Catalán nationalists. Bummer.

Unsure how I felt about separatism and concerned that my choice would reflect my overall attitude regarding Spain in the 1930s (EVERYONE WHO LOOKS AT ME IS JUDGING ME), I took that Political Compass test. The test did nothing to clarify how I felt about secession, but the results would come as no surprise if you played Apples to Apples with me at all over Christmas. For those of you who did not get this pleasure, I will tell you:

The x-axis represents social politics while the y-axis represents economic politics. My red dot falls within the bottom left quadrant, indicating that I am both economically and politically liberal.

FYI: I will pick "George W. Bush" for "Scary," but not if it has already been played. Be creative, people!

According to my results, if I want to surround myself with like minds, I should sit with the blue and red. But when you’re at a fútbol game, you’re saying to the person next to you, “This referee is horrible!” not “Can you believe that Franco guy?” Are politics really the best reason to affiliate yourself with a team? I support the maize and blue because I went to University of Michigan and so did many of my family and friends, not primarily because of the University’s politics. Some of my friends simply root for the underdog, and who cares if that changes every year–or every game. So why not choose Real Madrid just because I like el Parque del Buen Retiro?

Alternative title for this post: “Megan Thinks A Lot And Then Decides It Doesn’t Matter.”

What I Think About Graffiti

This is some of the graffiti on my morning commute when I walk past Santa Justa station on my way to the bus stop. Isn’t it spectacular?

Bulbous bodies in pink and white.

This is the first graffiti; on the other side is a giant pixelated snake that runs the entire length of the wall, crawling up the stairs.

The body language is dejected and depressed, but I like the shading, the proportions, and the different ways the fingers are executed. I like the depth created by the pretty trees in the background. I think the light gray blob on the far right looks like a fetus. Whether or not that impression is accurate probably says something about my medical expertise. Whether or not you know it’s accurate says something about yours! KA-BOOM!

A girl with a third eye sits next to a green skeleton with black wings, who sits next to a giant red apple.

She looks familiar. Where have I seen a girl with a 3rd eye before...?

Check out the lesser graffiti in the back. HOW EMBARRASSING. I guess everyone has to start somewhere. But the stuff on the left totally means something. I just don’t know what. I think it might be spiritual. A third eye. A skull. A worm in an apple? Ah, my mortality!  The most interesting element is the spray can: it has a heart on it, but a skull coming out of it, and the skull is leaking paint or blood or maybe both. Are empty spray cans the dark angels of graffiti death? Isn’t that kind of a given? Guess what? I have literally never thought about this before. But now we have both thought about it together.

A tall white man, a deer-like animal, a round, laying figure.

I can't tell what I like best: those hands, which remind me of Audrey Kawasaki; the deer, which reminds me of Princess Mononoke; the bird, which reminds of John Lennon; or the round figure on the right, which reminds me of a Goron who has just seen something horrible on the internet.

There is this (mildly erotic; consider yourself forewarned) artist, Audrey Kawasaki, who used to draw girls without upper arms, but with lower arms and hands. I imagine the tall, white figure is what those girls look like when they are wearing snuggies.

I enjoy that the deer is wearing lipstick. I love its long, thick neck and I like to imagine it in profile. It would have no distinctive head; just a face slapped on front of the stump, with ears sticking out on either side.

A young blonde with a 3rd eye stands next to a boy with a red rabbit on his lap.

Maybe this is who that girl with the 3rd eye reminds me of. In any case, the style of this piece reminds me Mark Ryden.

Mark Ryden is a painter obsessed with blood, meat, bunnies, and Abraham Lincoln, but his palette is both bright and somber like this. I have no other comments because this graffiti creeps me out.

A giant octopus eats his words.

I have no idea what it says, but the letters are more like what I expect graffiti to be. The Spanish word for octopus is 'pulpo.'

There’s more great graffiti in Sevilla, as I have already shown you, and more popping up all the time. Which reminds me that I still have to watch Exit Through The Gift Shop!

On  my home I took the 22 bus instead of the 27 and got to walk past the park; it’s a bunch of orange trees, olive trees, and flowers. See? Sevilla is a really beautiful place, even if it is a lot dirtier than Madrid!

looking up into an orange tree with bright oranges; worked with christmas lights

Ripening citrus adorned with Christmas lights.

bunch of pigeons and doves on the ground by a row of olive trees

Peace in our time: a bunch of white birds pecking at fallen olives.

lane of flower trees separated by a pool of water

La Buhaira

Where I Live

Did I ever show you where I live? Take a look!

Here is the bathroom. I try to spend as little time in here as possible. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

Orange and white tiles reminiscent of the kitchen.

The bathroom.

I spend almost no time in this room, even though it has the TV. I prefer the cozy kitchen or my bedroom. I’ll sit in here on Tuesday nights, though, to watch The Big Bang Theory with Omar.

Two couches at right angles; a small coffee table in between. Light comes in through the balcony window.

The living room. How do you like our coverlets?

The kitchen is my favorite room. I like to sit at the little table in front of the refrigerator and chat with my friends while I cook a big lunch and eat. This window is quieter than the one in my room because it faces the plaza instead of the street. The tiles are so bright and cheerful!

My kitchen, all orange and white and tiled with a light wooden floor.

This is my favorite room! This is the kitchen. The Special K is not mine. The spaghetti is, though.

My Past Two Days

My 35 hours of travel were better than I expected. I prepared for them well, I think, and it wasn’t so bad with the overnight layover because it felt like 6pm-2am to me. The second day was a bit harder because it was a series of 2-hour journeys and I was too nervous to comfortably sleep on any of them. My favorite 2-hour stop was in Madrid, where Customer Service told me they left my luggage in London, but they could mail it directly to my piso. Sweet! I walked lightly around el Parque del Buen Retiro before grabbing a bite to eat in Atocha Station.

The hardest 2-hour leg was the last, on the train between Madrid and Sevilla. I kept on falling asleep without meaning to; my thoughts would turn into waking-REM and I’d jolt back to reality whenever my head collapsed. I’d giggle nervously at the person sitting next to me, and with traditional Spanish straight-face, she would say nothing and slowly turn her head to look out the window. Every. Single. Time. The only time she laughed was when the management restarted Green Lantern for the 4th time because they couldn’t figure out how to do Spanish dubbing instead of subtitles. A harried RENFE employee with wild eyes hurried past after the 3rd failure, her blue silk neck-scarf billowing behind her quite prettily. I like to think she was the one who fixed it because the movie worked after that. GIRL POWER!

Segue, I saw a rad old lady on the train wearing busy black-and-white snake-print pants and a mid-calf-length furry leopard print coat. She also had on a leopard print silk scarf. Somehow she looked completely awesome and way more stylish than I could ever be, and not at all like a goofy pimp. I think it was the way she carried herself. She smiled at me. I fell in love with her.

Everyone is so beautiful and well-kept in Spain. I remembered it and commented on it in the US, but it still surprised me when I saw it again. I felt over-dressed, even, in no make-up but at least not wearing sweat-pants when I got on the plane in Chicago. I felt perfectly fine in London. But when I landed in Madrid, I felt like a dirty, yucky slob! Everyone looks like Penelope Cruz. Everyone is prettier than Penelope Cruz. Everyone was wearing full make-up, their long, thick, Hollywood hair unperturbed by 8 hours of travel; they wore pretty, tailored heather-gray peacoats with matching tall brown boots, clothing artfully layered; they pushed the cutest swiveling carry-on bags and hung smoldering-hot male accessories from their arms to deal with the overhead compartments. I was very aware that I had not showered for 30 hours. I tried to figure out if that smell was coming from the gross leather headrests or my armpits. I pinned my elbows to my sides and casually leaned away from my fellow passengers. I hoped I wouldn’t fart when I finally fell asleep on the tiny plane.

When I got home (oh lovely home!), I was so happy. I missed my piso. And Sevilla is so beautiful and warm, and the skies are so blue, and it’s familiar and alive and it even smells right. At first I thought no one was home, which made me sad since I planned to go to sleep right away but wanted to be able to say hello. I peeked in Andrés’ room, but something was wrong. His room was clean. Too clean. I was naughty and peeked in his armoire to see if he had clothes put away. It was empty. Hm.

At 5:30pm, as I was getting ready for bed, Omar woke up to get ready for work. I talked to him for a bit and it turns out Andrés moved out on Friday. He went to Madrid to live with his sister and to look for work there, since nothing was turning up in Sevilla. Now we are on the hunt for a brand new housemate, just as Derek is poised to arrive. I think I will like basically anyone who is clean, only yells during soccer matches, and doesn’t steal my stuff.

Jet lag is actually a blessing. Waking up at 4:30am means I’m totally going to be on time for work. I’m glad I only have to work two days this week; Friday will be 70 degrees warm and sunny, and I can’t wait to say hello to my pretty city.