I recently mentioned the use of role-plays to supplement textbook material. What are role-plays, and how can you best use them?
What are role-plays?
Role-plays are simulations. They are practical tasks where you and/or your students take on different personalities in various situations in order to use new language. Real-life situations are common scenarios, including things such as checking in at a hotel, making a reservation by phone, or debating hot issues.
You could give your students a scenario, a character within that scenario and a goal to reach. How they reach that goal is up to them linguistically. Role cards – a card with a brief description of the situation, and that student’s character and personality – should be handed out before the role-play begins.
Why do they work so well?
Being able to think quickly in English is a vital step for your students. Role-plays give them a chance to practice language in an unpredictable situation – as close to an everyday life scenario as you can get. This forces the student to be adaptable and to use varied sentences. As it is in the classroom environment, however, students feel safe enough to try their best without fearing mistakes – a natural part of the learning process.
I have tried role-plays numerous times in my classes and they are almost always successful. The students enjoy them, and they are of great benefit linguistically.
So, are you going to start using role-plays in your classes too? Here are some tips that I have picked up along the way, and some tips from other more experienced teachers.
1. Prepare well – Although role-plays are random in some ways, you want everyone to be clear on what they are doing. You may also need to teach some necessary vocabulary before the scenario begins.
2. Don’t interrupt – let the role-play run its natural course. That includes letting mistakes slip and giving students time to think. Make corrections after, or allow fellow students to offer corrections in progress.
3. Dramatic – allow your students to use their imagination and get really engaged in the drama. They don’t have to act as themselves in the role-play. A common role-play is that of two angry neighbours “talking” – things get can get quite heated!
4. Pair students appropriately – If the role calls for two students to act, make sure they are well matched. You could match an advanced student with a novice in order to keep a balance.
5. Have fun – role-plays are supposed to make the class lively and engaging. Enjoy it!
Hot topic debates (divide the class into two teams: for and against)
Booking into a hotel
Travel information and reservations
Business meeting situations
And any other real-life situation, or even the not so real…