Alice Savage

Drama in ESL: Using monologues for big picture pronunciation

IMG_6278.jpgA monologue is a short speech given by a character in a play. Sometimes the character is alone in a room, but not always. Because a monologue is designed to be spoken, not read, it is an ideal text for working on pronunciation and intonation in meaning-driven ways. In this fun activity, students support each other in developing and performing a set of monologues around the theme of Hurricane Harvey.

First, students work in teams to identify stress, linking and intonation patterns that will make their short speech come to life. Then they perform with their team for other teams, making the experience a gentle segue into other sorts of public speaking and performance.

Harvey Monologues

Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas Gulf Coast in the fall of 2017. It then dumped a trillion gallons of rain on Houston and the surrounding area. These monologues individually and together tell about the human experience. 


Copy a set of monologues (below), so that each student has one to work with. It is fine if two students have the same monologue, but they should not be on the same team.


1. Distribute the monologues, one monologue for each person.

2. Instruct each student to create a backstory for their monologue.

  • What is their name?
  • How old are they?
  • Where do they live?
  • Do they live alone or with people? Who?
  • What kind of personality do they have? (confident, strong, gentle, fearful, clueless, annoyed)

3. Guide the students in marking pronunciation points such as thought groups or sentence/syllable stress. This stage can be stepped out as a whole class pronunciation lesson. For example, raise awareness of how function words that start with vowels or have the same consonant sound as the last sound of the preceding word link to the word they follow as in

  • but_it
  • came_over
  • found_out
  • put_tape

4. Next, create teams of 5 to 10 speakers. Make sure that each person has a different monologue. Speakers then take turns reading their monologue aloud to practice. They also decide who will go first, second, third, and so on.

5. Gather the whole class together. Then have each team do a readers’ theater style performance. The team stands in a line with each speaker facing the audience. Then the first person steps forward and delivers his/her monologue. Then that speaker steps back into the line, and the next person steps forward to speak. This continues until all the monologues have been read.

6.(Optional) Lead a discussion on what the monologues reveal about humans in a crises.

(This same template can be used with monlogues around other themes, and students can also be encouraged to write their own.)


1: The last time there was a hurricane, it was kind of fun. The whole city shut down for a couple of weeks, and we got to hang out at home with our families. Every night we got together with the neighbors and barbecued the meat from our freezers. So, I hate to admit it, but I was kind of looking forward to that happening again.

2: I was new in Houston, so Harvey was my first hurricane. I didn’t know what to expect, but I did what they said on the news. I got some water, batteries and candles, and I put tape over the windows. My friends came over because we didn’t want to be alone, and we just played cards. We had no idea what was about to happen!

3: The rain was coming down, and it was coming down hard. My family and I were safe, but I couldn’t help thinking about all those people out there who were not. And finally, I had to do something, so I volunteered to be an operator for the emergency rescue teams.

4: We live in Mississippi. Do you know where that is? It’s on the Gulf Coast, on the way to Florida. It’s a long way from Houston, but when I heard that the people up there were in trouble, I called my buddies, and we all hooked up our boat trailers and headed over there.

5: My husband and I didn’t think anything was going to happen, so we went to bed. Can you imagine?  Suddenly the neighbors rang the doorbell. When I got out of bed to answer the door, the water was up to my knees.

6: As soon as I found out the city was flooding, I called my grandmother. I just knew her house was going to flood. I could tell by her voice that she was scared, so I made a decision right there. No matter what, I couldn’t just leave her by herself. I had to find a way to get to her.

7: It was dark, and the rain was crashing. I mean crashing down. I looked out the window, and I could see all this dark water rising up around my apartment building. It looked so weird. Normally, there’s a pool and furniture, but all I could see was this huge black lake.

8: I will never forget that night. I was sick, and I’d gone to bed early. Then my friend called. I almost didn’t answer the phone. In fact, I didn’t the first time, but thank God, she called back. I pick up, and she sounds all panicky and she says, “We’ve got to get you out of there.”

9: The dispatchers were heroes! They connected the people with boats with the victims of the flood. It took the army, the local police, and thousands of volunteers. They worked through the night to help people, and they saved, many, many lives.

10: I’ve always been a proud Houstonian, but I have never been prouder of my city than I was after Harvey. When the storm was over, everyone was in shock. But it only lasted for only for about three minutes. As soon as it was safe, people got busy. They set up shelters, donated food, and started the cleanup. H-town, till I drown!

For more ideas and material, please check out the series of short plays here: Alphabet Publishing Books The scripts work well as sources of plot driven, interesting conversations that can be used as texts for reading skills, spoken lexical chunks, and pronunciation, contexts for grammar, and even produced for a multimodal embodied learning experience.

Also check out  The Drama Book . It has additional monologues as well as sketches and a short play as well as additional activities for pronunciation and other skills.


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