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"Notes" - A Star is Born
by Laurie Ornstein

"A Star is Born" is all the rave these days. The American TV show of this name has given birth to Israeli and Lebanese versions. Perhaps there are more. The glamorous talent shows have viewers glued to their TV screens and cellular phones as they watch and then vote for their favorite singers. Why not adopt and adapt this popular program and take it into the EFL classroom? Organize "A Star is Born" talent show in your school.

You can start small in the classroom and/or go "all the way" and have a school-wide event in which all English pupils can compete and vote. Our pupils are creative and love to sing in English. Karaoke is "in" and can provide "playback"; many kids play guitar, oud, flute, drums and other assorted musical instruments and can form their own bands. Soloists might prefer to accompany themselves.

Where should you start? Tape an English-language version of the program and view it in class. That can be the springboard for discussion. Pupils can also tell about their favorite local singers and report on concerts they have attended. Talk about what makes a good singer and performance. Relate to the choice of songs, too. Don't forget to speak about "competition", in general as well as specifically in reality TV. This may well lead to a lively discussion on the surge of reality TV programs.

This may all be staged over a few weeks, one lesson per week devoted to the project. Pupils can work in groups of various sizes or go solo. Group work leads to sharing and learning to work together. Pupils have to decide on the song, singers, players, costumes, stage managers, etc. Rehearsals can be held in class and also assigned as homework. Pupils must also decide on voting criteria. Class composers and lyricists could be awarded extra points for original "premier" performances. (For more on songwriting, refer to my "Notes" columns in The ETNI Rag, Issue #1, Sept. 2006 and Issue #2, Dec., 2006.) This event lends well to preparing posters advertising the event and the "stars".

As stated above, you can produce the program within the intimacy of your classroom or work together as a team for a school-wide competition and event. If you opt for the first suggestion, invite another class for more audience participation and fun. Prizes would add incentive to the competition.

A possible follow-up to the activity is writing a "concert review. Bring sample reviews from music magazines and the newspaper and discuss the elements that go into writing a review. This is a good time to discuss constructive criticism as well. If you have a school newspaper, some might be printed there. The review could also be prepared for oral presentation as in a radio or TV cultural "review of the week" show.

Although I haven't yet tried this out, I did organize an EFL song fest and hootenanny, American-style, many moons ago. Pupils from my different classes crooned on stage. In addition, I taught some light-footed kids a square-dance and the Virginia Reel, a line-dance, which they performed in traditional dress. A bale of hay was hauled in (I don't remember where I got it, perhaps from a neighboring kibbutz?!) to dress up and set the stage for a most successful and talked about evening.

As I write this article, I'm thinking that this could all lend very well to project work. I'll leave that for someone else to orchestrate!

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