Instigating speaking through role-plays

If you don’t you know how to vary your lessons or you are out of new ideas and lack speaking practice, then why don’t you try role-plays with your teens?  While teaching teenagers, a teacher might have to shake up their students and put them into work. In this article, one can find practical recommendations for integrating role-plays in classes.

Why role-plays?

Role-plays can be used as a productive stage of the lesson. They provide means to demonstrate the knowledge students gained and possess a better grasp of the language. They allow students to remember and practice functional language. Moreover, students are able to take on any role they want, which can also help to overcome shyness. In addition, teenagers appear in any possible situation staying within the classroom. The “deepness” of immersion in a certain situation depends only on the imagination and creativity of the teacher.

General Recommendations

  • Pre-teach the language the students might need. In course books, there are usually sections with functional language. If there is none, elicit ideas from students, use tapescripts, and write useful words and phrases on the blackboard. You can also use materials from books, such as ESL Role Plays: 50 Engaging Role Plays for ESL and EFL Classes, and use ready-made role-play cards, such as Social Skills Role Play Cards. It is recommended to listen and to read the sample dialogues first to get the idea of what they need to do and to practice intonation and sentence stress. Then teens can make dialogues on their own just using phrases from the blackboard.
  • By using role plays you can manage your students’ STT (student talking time) in a certain way: if you have a really chatty teen, give them a role of a shy person or any other role where they are not supposed to talk too much, and vice versa. This can keep their speaking time balanced.
  • To have more fun, create an engaging environment. Even one tiny detail can change the mood and encourage involvement in the activity. In case you role-play the situation “In a shop”, hang up a piece of paper with the text “Supermarket”. Give to a student, who plays the role of a shop assistant, a badge “seller”, use some fake money from “Monopoly” or other boardgames  – it will definitely enhance students’ interest. If you don’t have realia, use flashcards with products or print the names of products on cards.
  • Don’t forget to watch your students’ work, comment on it, and stay involved. On a certain stage, you will probably work as a dictionary or phrasebook for your students. If you don’t want to, offer students to think of necessary words and look them up in a dictionary. Probably, they will need to do this at the rehearsal stage.

Best-working role-plays

  • Teens are planning a party (or a dinner out). They all have different personalities and different preferences in food and pastime. They have to discuss their options and come to one conclusion that will satisfy everyone.
  • A murder story where somebody has been killed, some students are suspects, some are the police and they have to come up with their alibi, explain how they are connected to the victim and so on.
  • Your students represent two people who don’t like each other or have absolutely different personalities. These two are trapped in a confined area and have some kind of conflict (say, they are in an elevator and one of them has pressed the wrong button). They have to make a dialogue and try to do how to get out.
  • A date with a weird person/a famous blogger/a crazy computer geek, etc.
  • Role-play the students’ favourite song. If you work with students for a while, you are supposed to know what they like. If you don’t, just ask them. Teens will appreciate your interest. In the video below, you can see the teens making a parody to the Taylor Swift song, which can be done on a small-scale in class.

Teens make a parody to the song:

  • Role-play the poem. First, you might like the idea of a running dictation and make your teens concentrate on the form, spelling and punctuation. Teens can read the poem aloud in pairs or act it out. You can read more about how to work with poems here.

Error-correction during role-plays

While participating role-plays, the following ways of error correction are possible.

Self-correction. Students’ role-plays can be recorded (a usual voice recorder on the smartphone can be used) and teens reflect on the pros and cons of their dialogue and write out the mistakes they’ve done.

Peer correction. In case the role-play of a pair or group of students is demonstrated in front of a class, the classmates can correct the errors made. It helps not only in the context of analyzing mistakes for those who have made them but also from the point of view attracting other students’ attention to what their mates say and concentrating on the activity.

Delayed correction. A teacher can take notes of the mistakes the students make, and after the role-plays write them out on the blackboard and suggest the class to correct the mistakes on their own.

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