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:

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