More Time for Mime
Mime is simply [ U ] the act of using movements of your hands and body, and expressions on your face, without speech, to communicate emotions and actions or to tell a story: The first scene was performed in mime.
[ C ] a short play without speech. 1
Miming is so useful that it should be the concern of teachers, not least with Learners with almost zero English. Beginners, who hope to be taught by a teacher who profusely uses the mother tongue, are driven away from such a bad habit through miming.
One should be skilled enough to mime most of what he teaches. It’s an art that certainly keeps the teacher’s talking time to a minimum. Sadly enough, a class observer, be he a student or a colleague, may think the teacher who uses much miming is not a fluent speaker; he is probably masking his speaking weakness under the guise of miming, yet it is a skill a few excel at! It is a sort of paralanguage utilised to assist linguistic voiced forms. Paralanguage in speaking mainly comprises intonation and loudness and in texting is mostly emoticons, choice of font or colour and capitalisation.
Miming can be used in various ways in classrooms:
Giving orders or directions
A teacher may easily mime directions to say « Sit down », « Stand up », « Go out », « listen », « Write down », « Shut up », « Hurry up », ‘Go to the blackboard’ and the like. It does not entail much dexterity or great training to communicate such things even with the deaf and the mute! In the wake of much miming orders, the instructor may resort to Total Physical Response (TPR) developed by James Asher which is “based on the coordination of language and physical movement” and wherein “instructors give commands to students in the target language, and students respond with whole-body actions.”2
A teacher may easily teach a host of frequent verbs via gestures as though he were addressing the deaf shaking the background knowledge and associating the gestures with the words allowing them to be inculcated once and for all. He normally has to move his hands, eyes, feet indeed all his body counter to normal as necessity obliges him to do so. He may teach ‘speak’, ‘write’, ‘read’, ‘listen’, ‘eat’, ‘fall’, ‘walk’, ‘cut’, ‘run’, ‘fly’, ‘knock’, ‘sleep’, ‘push’, ‘pull’, ‘switch on’, ‘switch off’ and so on by means of miming. By so doing, the students’ talking time increases and student centredness is at once highlighted and boosted. Nonetheless, a concatenation of verbs like ‘manage’, ‘become’, survive’, ‘dream’ and ‘explore’ can not by any means be mimed, for misplaced miming is actually maiming!
Everyday teaching in classrooms abounds with instances of mime. The teacher can draw in the air horns to teach ‘male sheep’ or may refer to his moustache to mean a man or may even tone up his muscles to teach strong or powerful. The risk that might desperately arise is that if you make unusual gestures you can look ridiculous and be subject to laughter. Creativity is limitless and efficient teaching is that which conveys much knowledge with less effort. A teacher who talks too much, loses much energy and gets easily nervous has to be sure that hypertension and diabetes are unsurprisingly close at hand and miserably round the corner!
Cues for role-playing
The tutor might mime some directions for a pair of students to act before the whole class. Greetings as well as asking one another about names, health, age, the weather, the location where they live, nationality, the favourite colour and a host of other things are cued in mime for Learners to enact. The players, indeed students, assume the role of unreal characters in a short narrative that suits the level of learners. This actually facilitates interaction and betters conversational skills.
One can show learners various ways of greetings through miming. Shaking hands, bowing, kissing one another on the cheeks, hugging, patting the shoulders and kissing one another on the nose can all be dexterously mimed to stress the difference among cultures. Eating with one’s hands, using forks and knives, using Chinese wooden sticks can not move beyond the realm of mime.
Neither fully-fledged teachers nor novice ones may gloss over the paramount import of mime. Most of them usually do it unconsciously and a great number of them need to give it a try, face students and avoid using the blackboard as a refuge and spending most of the time writing with their backs to the students!
At length, it saddens the heart to discover that teaching has consumed most of our lives without stopping at a number of things, exploring them and taking advantage over them. Nobody denies that miming in teaching is pivotal and that time is ripe for mime especially with beginners. Anything such as miming that guarantees the centrality of learners and keeps the teacher as a guide, and not as the sole purveyor of knowledge, is all too welcome.