Many are the times when with students we study literature or work on songs in English. Little did we know, that with working on the lyrics from Constant Craving we would be led to look at parts of a theatrical play – and some of the students would read the whole thing!
In my language classes, due to time restrictions or goals such as examinations or getting to a specific level by a specific time, unfortunately we do not have the luxury of looking at the whole play, which in my opinion is amazing and I cannot do it justice, I feel.
However, the parts that we do work on are interesting for the students and lead them to converse and also write in English – that is one of the things we want them to do.
So here we go!
Things we usually do with the students before we start working on the text:
- I ask if they have read it in their own language.
- I ask if they have ever heard of the and what it is about.
- What do they think it is about?
- Who do they think will be waiting and who do they think Godot is? – With this question, they can create such lovely imaginary stories, either spoken (they can even prepare them for a few minutes beforehand, or even use as an improvisation technique for more spontaneous speaking) or written, either as homework for the next lesson, or a short paragraph in class, if time and circumstances allow.
When we start working on the text:
Here comes one of my favourite excerpts from the play, with two of the main characters, Vladimir and Estragon:
ESTRAGON: Charming spot. (He turns, advances to front, halts facing auditorium.) Inspiring prospects. (He turns to Vladimir.) Let’s go.
VLADIMIR: We can’t.
ESTRAGON: Why not?
VLADIMIR: We’re waiting for Godot.
ESTRAGON: (despairingly). Ah! (Pause.) You’re sure it was here?
ESTRAGON: That we were to wait.
VLADIMIR: He said by the tree. (They look at the tree.) Do you see any others?
ESTRAGON: What is it?
VLADIMIR: I don’t know. A willow.
ESTRAGON: Where are the leaves?
VLADIMIR: It must be dead.
ESTRAGON: No more weeping.
VLADIMIR: Or perhaps it’s not the season.
ESTRAGON: Looks to me more like a bush.
VLADIMIR: A shrub.
ESTRAGON: A bush.
VLADIMIR: A—. What are you insinuating? That we’ve come to the wrong place?
ESTRAGON: He should be here.
VLADIMIR: He didn’t say for sure he’d come.
ESTRAGON: And if he doesn’t come?
- A great idea I love is have two students read it out loud to the rest of the class – or if it is a one-to-one class, like many of mine are, I can read with the student. The students can set the tone, bring the feelings out and make a nice little play for the rest!
- Why do they suddenly start arguing about the tree, or whether it is a shrub or a bush?
- Who is the greater realist / optimist of the two? why?
- What happens when you are waiting for someone and they are not coming? How do you react, what do you do and what are your feelings?
- Try to continue the dialogue. In your story, does Godot come or not? Who is he? Why has he been late?
- Borrow photos of the play from the internet. What are the characters saying or doing, in your opinion?
There are so many things to do with such a play! This is only a tiny part of what we can do with it. I truly do not do it justice at all.
Here are some more resources about working with this great play:
- Waiting for Godot – tragicomedy in 2 acts, by Samuel Beckett
- Waiting for Godot Quotes from Goodreads – students can use these to discuss, write a piece or story.
- Waiting for Godot Words on Plays [printable PDF], from the American Conservatory Theater for more details and a more comprehensive insight into the play.
- Teacher Resource Pack from the West Yorkshire Playhouse [printable PDF]
And yet another rendition of the amazing k d lang song that gave me the idea to teach this play! Enjoy : )