Role plays are one of the most common activities in ESL classes, and rightly so.
They get students thinking quickly, applying grammar and vocabulary, and putting their language knowledge to practical use. Role plays are flexible, too. You can cover just about any subject area in a role play. The following role plays cover a variety of subjects, but they have one thing in common. Each focuses on using the future tenses, and they are sure to get your students talking. So whether you are teaching the simple future or doing a review of all the future tenses, try one of these role-plays with your students and watch their imaginations go wild!
Try These 5 Role Plays for Practicing Future Tenses
Setting up a restaurant role-play is easy. All you need are one or more students sitting, playing the role of the restaurant patrons, and another student playing the role of server. Servers asks guests, “What will you have?” and patrons answer using the simple future and their meal choice. But with a little more work, a restaurant role play can be far more in depth. Have students write their own menus and use them to place an order. You can also host a “restaurant” for your fellow teachers and students. Have three or four dishes that your guests can order, and have your students play the role of server. (Half the class works as servers while the other half run the kitchen. The groups switch places half way through your time block.) Patrons order food and your students fulfill the duties of a server. If you are in an English speaking country, it’s as simple as that. If you are teaching ESL is a non-English speaking country, have servers work in pairs. One person speaks to the guests in English and the second acts as interpreter between server and guests.
I Can See the Future…
Your students will have fun with this role play, which allows them to imagine and invent their classmates’ futures. Gypsies are famous for fortunetelling. Some use crystal balls; others use cards or read palms. Choose one or all of these as part of a role-play set up to practice future tenses. One person acts as the fortuneteller while one or more students act as his/her customers. The customers ask questions about their futures, and the gypsy answers them after referring to his or her magical objects. If you like, give your students advance warning of the role play and encourage them to dress creatively for the fortune telling role!
Though politics may not be your students’ fields, this mock election campaign will challenge them to pretend it is. All candidates make promises when they are running for office. These promises point toward a better future. Depending on what office a person runs for, these promises might be anything from putting vending machines in the cafeteria to changing national laws. Playing the role of an aspiring politician will give your students the opportunity to talk about what they will do once they are in office. First challenge your class to think of an office which they could pursue someday, and then give them a chance to talk about the better futures they imagine. One at a time, have students come to the front of the room and act as a candidate running for office. The rest of the class plays the role of the press, asking the candidate questions. “What will you do about x, y and z?” Encourage an open and honest dialogue between press and candidate and watch as both use future tenses to talk about what they future will hold.
The Bucket List
English is a complicated language, and little is more complicated than idioms. Perhaps that is why ESL students can run into new idioms every day. The expression “kick the bucket” is an idiomatic reference to dying. From that expression we get the relatively new phrase bucket list. A bucket list is the list of all the things you want to do before you die (or kick the bucket). Give your students some time to think about what they want to do before they die, and have them write their own bucket lists. Challenge each person to dream big and list at least ten things they want to do before they die. These bucket lists will be the foundation for this future tense role play. Pairs of students will play the parts of a retiree and a teenager. In the scenario, the teenager is sharing the things he or she will do (the items on the bucket list). The retiree, though, has more life experience and a more realistic expectation to what a person can accomplish. Your students should role-play a conversation between these two people. The teenager is bragging about all the things he will do in his life, and the retiree is correcting him with more realistic expectations. For example, the teenager might say he will climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, but the retiree knows he won’t climb the mountain. He will only climb the stairs to his fourth floor apartment. After the discussion, have students switch roles.
A Baby on the Way
Life certainly changes when a person has a baby. Many of these changes are wonderful – love and cuddles and snuggly smiles from your little one. Other changes are more of a challenge – lack of sleep, dirty diapers and regular crying fits. Your students will argue both sides of life with a baby in this role-play. Put your students in pairs. One person plays the soon to be mother or father. The other person is the longtime parent. The soon to be parent shares about how his or her life will change for the better once the baby comes. The voice of experience will balance the discussion with challenges the parent will encounter; he or she will remind his partner of all the struggles of being a new parent. Have students discuss what is to come after baby comes until both parties can agree on a realistic but hopeful middle ground.
These are just a few of the role plays you can use with your students as you review future tenses.
Stay tuned for part two of ‘Look into the future: Role Plays for Practicing Future Tenses’ for some more creative ways to get your students talking about the future!