The Ideal ESL Role Play In 5 Easy Steps

The Ideal ESL Role Play In 5 Easy Steps

Picture this.

You just spent 40 minutes presenting and practicing a bunch of new vocabulary to your students. They seem to have understood and can answer questions using these new words. But, how can you know for certain? At this stage it would be important for them to prove they are comfortable with this new material, and the best way to do this is with some type of activity. This is where role plays come in handy Why, you might ask? Take a look.

OK, so we now know why they are useful, but as we all know, anything worth doing is worth doing well. We need a good procedure for setting up a role-play, after all we can't just throw a role card at our students and say: “OK, you are Role Card A, and you are Role Card B. Go!” A well set up role play makes students feel safe and facilitates the process. Take a look at these awesome steps that can help you set up your role play.

Make Sure You Follow These 5 Steps to Outstanding Roleplay

  1. 1


    Most activities in the ESL classroom require some type of warm up. To prepare students, you can use illustrations, flashcards, photos, pictures and even graphs and charts in the case of business students. The images you are using should be related to the situation in the role play. Your students describe what they see in the pictures and then have a brief discussion. It is a good idea to review or teach useful vocabulary, grammar and phrases at this point, so that your students have all the necessary tools to engage in an amazing fluency based activity without trouble.

  2. 2

    Enactment 1

    So, now it's time for your students to act out the role play. To help them, you need to create the scene and assign the roles to each of the students. Give them a few minutes to gather their thoughts and plan ahead. If the group is able to handle it, you can even add some kind of ‘conflict’ or ‘complication’. Since students should focus more on fluency at this moment, it is advisable for teachers to take notes on mistakes made by students. These mistakes will be addressed later, during the feedback session but not during the role play. Students should not be interrupted for corrections during the enactment.

    It is important to mention that role plays can include more than two students. If it is a group course, you can even involve the whole class. Those types of role plays are actually much more fun but remember to keep it organized. There are different ways in which a class can participate together. You can either create different roles for each student in the same situation, or while two students are interacting, the teacher can instruct others to whisper information to them or even to stop the role play and ask another student to take over one of the roles.

  3. 3

    Feedback 1

    Keep in mind that any kind of feedback should always be positive and constructive. In order to encourage self-correction you can write incorrect phrases on the board and they can reconsider their choices.

  4. 4

    Enactment 2

    After reviewing and analyzing what they have done during enactment 1, a second enactment is often a great choice. That way students have a second chance to officially change the choices they made in the beginning. Also, since they will feel more comfortable, you can have your students switch roles or if there were more than two roles, reassign them among the students. It is possible to make other changes that might suit their needs as well.

  5. 5

    Feedback 2 and Follow Up

    Once again, students analyze their performance and the teacher adds comments and necessary corrections. Now is a good time for follow up work. Homework or some type of follow up activity is ideal here since it is a great way to reinforce any loose ends detected during enactments. These activities can focus on specific areas or if nothing specific needs to be addressed, it can be a general closing exercise.

Role plays are a great way to get your students talking.

By using the language they will be in better shape to retain what they are learning. Keep in mind we all learn by doing. Use role plays in your classroom and prepare your students to go out into the real world.

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