Andrew Wright and Julia Dudas

The power of stories
We, all, children and adults, need stories everyday. Even the news often begins with, ‘The top stories today are…’. Stories are used in business to communicate concepts and to model roles and attitudes. Stories have been used by the state and the church from the beginnings of time to give people paths to walk on. And, of course, stories are central to a child’s life and development.

Stories and language teaching
Words usually have a central role in stories. Understanding the story as a whole helps the participants to experience the meanings of the words. Given that everybody wants stories and that stories are largely based on words how can stories not be central to language teaching?

Making stories
Some people’s brains only come alive when they can make something. Making stories as a class can be moving and can be fun and can be both AND what better way is there of re-using language?

Making a soap opera
We are using the term, ‘soap opera’, because it is so well known but we really mean creating a fictional community and animating it with events.
This might mean writing episodes and acting them out and even recording them on video like a soap opera but that is a very limiting path to take. What we are suggesting is that the class create and continuously develop characters and places and introduce situations and events. Language is used in this creation both in speaking and in writing.
Essentially the class create the people, community, place and events…not you. You ask questions, supply some material…delight in their creativity…and remember that, in terms of language accuracy, your cup is half full and not half empty.
They create what they can with the language they have got. They do not create in the mother tongue and then try to translate. Thus characters can be launched from the very first lesson…What’s his name? How old is he? Etc.
The soap community can be a mild supplementary to your normal teaching or it can be the main way in which you introduce and use language.
It is a way of giving intense experience in using the language for purposes which matter. Seen from this point of view it is not an extra but an alternative, efficient, practical path for you and the class to take.

How to start it
You/they can start with one, some or all of the following: a person, people, place, animal, object. You can help them by asking them questions and just collecting, discussing, agreeing and finally getting them to confirm the answers.
Examples: starting with people or animals
– A magazine picture of a person: the class invent info about him/her according to their proficiency level.
– One toy animal: the class ditto above
– Characters taken from a story the students know.
Examples: starting with a place
– One rough sketch, in cross section, of a block of flats: the class invent people to live in each flat and invent information about them as ditto above.
– The class draw an island and include features: mountains, rivers, towns, etc. and then create individual people to live in places on the island.
As in all storymaking and telling, it is a good idea to establish very strong and simple characteristics for each protagonist.
The characteristics cannot be changed arbitrarily except through stories of events…eg a person cannot become younger except in spirit etc….as in life.
You might like to use advertising, catalogues, etc to build up the characters: houses, clothes, furnishings, cars, food, entertainment, holidays, etc.
The class can continue to develop details about the place: geography, nature, work, entertainment, history, etc.

How to continue it
Anything which happens in normal social life can happen in the community created by the class. Here is a list of ideas to show you that there is nothing mysterious in the idea:
– A community party…getting to know each other…deciding on friends, enemies or in-between.
– Love triangles. Adult/teenage tensions. Bad behaviour and its effect.
Crime and its effect. Natural calamities and effects. Illness. Setting up in business. Losing weight.
– Obviously, you might like to take an aspect of the present text book unit you are working on and to put that into the community and see what happens.

Sometimes discuss things as a class. Sometimes ask pairs or groups to work on different things and then to share with the class.

Examples of ways of using writing in a class soap opera
– Creating a book of the characters, places and events.
– Sending letters from one character to another.
– Writing a community newspaper.
– Designing posters, invitations, graffiti.
– Writing a book of ghost stories set in the community.
– Writing a history of the community and area.
– Writing dialogues for particular events in preparation for video or audio recording.
– Writing a journal about the characters and events.
– Creating a real website for this fictitious community.

Our history of this method
We have been working on these ideas for fifteen years. We received useful experience related to the development of the idea in working with Word and Action, Dorset and in studying the work of Dorothy Heathcote. We also were enriched by studies of traditional popular theatre in which established and widely recognised characters entered into situations without the provision of a script: Commedia dell’ Arte with many characters including: Harlequin, Pantaloon, Pulcinella, Fiorinetta, Isabella, etc. But also see the traditional approach in South East Asia to performance of the Ramayana stories through shadow theatre.
It was only later that we heard about the Scottish Method which is almost identical in its overall character but is different in being used, normally, in the mother tongue and for providing a holistic setting for cross curricular education. Note that the originators of the method stress that the students are responsible for the creation and development and are involved continually in reflection, discussion and creation.
If you would like to know more about their very exciting work which was first launched forty years ago and is now well established in some schools in North America and Northern Europe then please see their web site.

Copyright or Copy Wright?
If you would like to publish this text or to reproduce it for your students then simply email me and tell me what you want to do. I am almost certain to give you permission to go ahead.
If you want to know more about us and our training courses please click on TEACHER TRAINING on the opening frame.


24 Responses to “Creating a soap opera”

  1. 1 Michael Tim February 28, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    I love your site!

    Experiencing a slow PC recently? Fix it now!

  2. 2 amy j margolin November 2, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    i would like more info on creating a soap of my own. this site is awesome. can u send me some stuff on how to go about it? would appreciate it. thank u very much. sincerly, Amy Margolin

    • 3 Andrew Wright November 8, 2011 at 5:41 pm

      Amy! I hope you will not be too disappointed in me! I dont think there are any other publications on this idea. Perhaps you could send me particular questions you have and I can try to respond to each one. Andrew

  3. 4 ava November 16, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    i luv ur write up.neva knew thr ws a different angle to this

  4. 6 Yesim December 9, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    You are great .I ‘ve just found you site and all the questions in my mind has almost disappeared.These techniques are exellent.You can be sure that I’ll be following you from now on.I taught my students Past Tense.They were unwilling to participate because they are young.What can I do to make them active in class? Second question They sometimes lose control.How can I prevent them?

    • 7 Andrew Wright December 10, 2011 at 11:25 pm

      who are you? who do you teach? Age? Level?

      I am delighted you find my work useful.

      When you answer my questions I will try to help you if I can. Andrew

  5. 8 tim January 17, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    I love soaps!

  6. 9 adult toys May 18, 2013 at 1:42 am

    I every time used to read paragraph in news papers
    but now as I am a user of internet so from now I am using net for posts, thanks to web.

  7. 11 linux hosting August 5, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    I was more than happy to discover this website. I wanted to thank you for ones time for this fantastic read!! I definitely loved every little bit of it and i also have you book marked to check out new stuff in your website.|

  8. 13 henry opemi August 29, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    i appreciate your work…..i really needed ways to write a soap opera…..thanks a lot

    • 14 Andrew Wright August 31, 2013 at 7:20 am

      Glad to be of help! Andrew

      • 15 joni lu morlin December 4, 2013 at 5:06 am

        I love soap operas all my life for 45 years way are you doing this is not fair to are fans around the globe we need soap net to stay on the air for a long timewe don’t want them to leave US we need them to tell their story’s that can relate to are family’s so please don’t take them way from they need US as much they do I love all the people they work with on the shows

      • 16 joni lu morlin December 4, 2013 at 5:19 am

        If you agree to leave them on the air all of the fans will appreciate it for all the reasons way i am saying this to put Ryan’s hope and Dallas and dynasty and sun set beach and passions and oltl and amc where we left them and night shift and the old port Charles and knotslanding to if you do this for a requirement I am very concerned about this and we don’t watch want to lose them

      • 17 joni lu morlin December 4, 2013 at 5:23 am

        We need soap net to stay on the air on tv along with days of our lives all so please let people, know that soap operas are good to watch them every day and night

  9. 18 joni lu morlin December 5, 2013 at 3:58 am

    This is my opinion all of are soap operas are good to watch every day and night and I hope you can reconsider are agreement all of are fans and around the globe and a round the wa Washington area are watching as well we need soap net to stay on the air on tv if you can do this keep me posted on this so we can keep are shows on soap net don’t let it go off we need soap net to stay for good on tv take off the newer shows off and leave are shows on I am going to send a letter to soap operas and I hope you will under stand want we are saying

    • 19 joni lu morlin December 7, 2013 at 2:05 am

      Leave are soap net on the air we are fighting for it to stay on for a long time come we need to have soap net so we can watch them to catch up on ate shows we need them so it can relate to are family’s as well we the fans and around the globe and the Washington area if you can agree on to let d7sney have their own channel not ares we support are soap operas and soap net to give US a chance to redeem are shows we need them to stay on for every and if you deny are request and I will go to are president and higher person to take are side

  10. 21 June 25, 2014 at 3:35 am

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  11. 22 Joel August 26, 2014 at 3:53 pm

    I like the valuable information you provide in your articles.

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  12. 23 Anna Crane-davis August 31, 2015 at 10:07 am

    I think I may have got the wrong site, but I’m so mad that my favorite soap would be cancelled! But then I hear another soap would have some of my favorite one’s would be on another one, I was happy! But it didn’t last long. Two of my favorite one’s are gone and one is probably going. I really miss “ONE LIFE TO LIVE!” I do love “General Hospital” but if they loose the other person from oltl I’m done with the other. Thanks

  13. 24 Scott Meckley May 23, 2016 at 9:29 pm

    I miss the days when daytime was filled with game shows and soap operas. There were just so many great soap operas and interesting stories on so many of the greatest daytime serials. Daytime soaps Passions, Days Of Our Lives, Santa Barbara, Search For Tomorrow, Guiding Light, As The World Turns, The Young And The Restless, Sunset Beach, Ryan’s Hope, All My Children, General Hospital, One Live to Life. Primetime to me the best soap ever if Knots Landing.

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