Has the title of this article gone ‘whoosh’ right over your head?
Don’t worry, the same thing happened to me when I first heard the concept of a ‘Whoosh!’ exercise.
Imagine you are teaching students a text, whether it be a film, novel, short story, poem or piece of music.
This activity is an interactive and engaging method of making sure your students understand the main parts of the story they just learned.
The Whoosh! was first created by the Royal Shakespeare Company. It is a creative means of storytelling, often used in drama class.
However, you don’t need to be studying Shakespeare or teaching drama to use this activity to your advantage.
Okay genius, so how does it work?
So, the Whoosh! typically happens AFTER you have studied a text.
There is, however, no rule stating it can’t happen before, which could very well engage student interest. I won’t tell the Whoosh! Police if you don’t!
You need a good deal of space to run this activity. Start by moving all of the tables and chairs out of the way.
In some classrooms in China the tables are, quite literally, bolted to the floor. So you may need to find a different space or take the class outside.
Having found or created said space, all students are to stand in a circle. The teacher is part of the circle.
As the teacher, you will need to have created a summary of the main events of the text, in chronological order.
Yes, this does require you to reinvent the wheel, and will be time consuming, but I promise you, it will pay off!
Doing the Whoosh! activity in your classroom will pay off.
The teacher will read aloud the summary they created. As they do, the teacher will randomly pick students to come into the middle of the circle, and act out parts of the story.
Students will be required to play as anything, from characters to set pieces, and even parts of the environment.
The summary will be divided into segments. After each segment is complete, the teacher will shout ‘Whoosh!’ resulting in all students leaving the circle and returning to their original places, before it begins all over again.
This in turn allows all students the opportunity to participate.
An example of Whoosh!
A section of a Whoosh! as an example, is demonstrated below:
Sampson and Gregory Capulet walk down the streets of Verona. They talk about how skilled they are in fighting.
Sampson is clearly the stronger fighter. He hates the Montagues, a rival family living in Verona.
By chance, Abram and Balthasar from the house of Montague are walking towards them.
The Capulets decide to start a fight. Gregory says ‘I will frown as I pass by.’
Sampson says ‘I will bite my thumb at them’, which he does.
Abram takes this as an insult.
Gregory asks ‘do you quarrel?’ Abram says he does not, just as Benvolio Montague enters.
He watches as Gregory, Sampson, Abram and Balthasar draw their weapons and begin to fight.
Benvolio, knowing there is a strict rule against fighting, steps between them. ‘Part fools!’ knocking their swords away with his own.
Tyblat Capulet enters. ‘Turn thee Benvolio’ he says, look upon thy death.’
‘I do but keep the peace’ says Benvolio.
Tybalt laughs. ‘Peace? I hate the word, all Montagues and thee.’
Suddenly, he lunges at Benvolio, all six men erupting into a fight.
As shown above, all acted roles, whether they be characters or set pieces, are highlighted. These indicate when the teacher is to select another participant to become involved.
Those portraying characters will occasionally be required to speak dialogue. When this happens, the teacher will first read it, and ask the student to repeat.
The benefits of Whoosh!
All students are required to participate, and it is expected they demonstrate their amazing acting abilities.
Of course, there are always those who are embarrassed at the thought of jumping up and playing as someone in front of their peers. So as long as students try to become involved, that’s all we can ask.
As some Chinese students are particularly shy, you can ease them into Whoosh! by introducing brief acting parts into small-group activities. Over time, make the groups larger.
Your Chinese students can benefit from a Whoosh! activity.
After every Whoosh! I have successfully tried, students have had a much greater knowledge of the text we were studying. Often, students used the Whoosh! as a means of remembering quotes, or major events.
The Whoosh! was first created to help students make sense of Shakespearean text, which, let’s face it, is no easy feat.
Therefore, it can be equally used to help students studying English as an additional language understand the texts they study.
To test student knowledge after a Whoosh! has been completed, questions can be prepared for students to complete individually, or as a class.
Often, I attempt a Whoosh! towards the end of an area of study, not long before students are expected to complete a task, whether it be a report, essay or exam.
This way, the pivotal information they will require to fulfil the expectations of the task will be provided to them.
Whoosh! works in China
In China, the teaching style is to spoon feed information to students, which they record. They will then be required to show their knowledge and understanding of what they were taught on their exams.
This activity is a similar strategy, the exception being that it is interactive and dramatic. This exercise not only breaks up the often monotonous teacher-centred lessons, but also utilises the adage ‘people learn best by doing’.
This activity will provide students with an experience that will make the learning relevant for them, increasing the chance they will retain it for later.
Much like some of the previous activities I have showcased on this blog (such as using a Guttman chart), Whoosh! will require you to put in extra work.
However, the payoff is well worth the effort. At the end of the day, that is what matters most.
What do you think of the Whoosh! activity? Would you use it in your classroom in China?