Role-play is an excellent way of getting your students to practice their English. They simulate real-life situations and allow them to act out what they would do in a real situation. But don't get stuck on the same tired ideas.
Ordering food at a restaurant. Asking for directions. What about discussing the weather. These are tried and true role-play scenarios that have a lot of practical merit but are not necessarily very fun or memorable for students. That's why we've pulled together a wealth of tips, ideas, and resources to make your next role-play lesson fun and interesting!
The first thing you need to decide is which of the two role-playing categories you're going to work with: scripted and non-scripted. With a scripted role-play, the teacher might use an example in a textbook. This is a good idea for a warm-up exercise, by getting everyone to split up into pairs and allow them to speak to their partner while taking on different roles. Non-scripted ones are when students are given a role each and must use whatever knowledge they have in order to speak with that partner.
There's loads of scope to shake things up. You can either choose bizarre and wacky situations or have more practical role-play ideas but give each of the students an interesting or funny personality that they should portray. This is a particularly useful tip if you have shy students in your classroom who can benefit from channeling an imaginary character rather than being themselves.
Below is a list of ideas for a general English class. This can be adapted to suit a situation.
Try These Fun and Fresh Role Play Activities With Your Class
Speaking on the phone is different from a face-to-face conversation because one relies solely on language to communicate. Get the students who are practicing to sit back to back in order for this to work properly. There is a whole range of ideas that one can use to act this out. Examples include: phoning to make a complaint, speaking to a friend or inquiring about a job position. Other ideas can include speaking to a customer support agent about a broken time machine, or being trapped in an elevator with your favorite celebrity and you're phoning your friend to tell them.
Going to the Shop
A great one for younger learners as it will teach them the basics of interacting with people. Children generally rely on their parents to buy things for them, therefore, this will boost their overall general confidence in buying. It can be as simple or as complex as one wishes, depending on the situation. Key phrases are often important here, such as “I would like…” “How much are…” “Good morning…” and so forth. For some extra fun, Santa now has a telephone number and you're calling to tell him how good you've been and what you'd like for Christmas. You can shake up the kind of shop your students visit, for example You've traveled 1,000 years into the future and visit a corner store. What will you buy?
Booking a Hotel
This will allow students to practice a specific type of language. Usually this will be formal language as it is a business conversation. This can also be done in the format of a telephone conversation, or it could be someone approaching a text. There is a wide range of opportunity here for the students to learn new forms of vocabulary. Our favorite unexpected twists on this topic are to book a room at a space station hotel, or you want to book the honeymoon suite in the underwater hotel.
Choose a topic that everyone appears to be interested in. Get the students to pair up and give them a list of questions to follow (for example, see our ‘130 Topics for Discussion (more than 2000 questions) For Any Level’). This will allow them to come up with their own phrases and use language in a much more practical way.
Work is usually a good topic to begin with when teaching adults. Many are learning English in order to improve their career prospects. As a result, a job interview role play is an excellent way to get the class learning that all important material. Again, this can be scripted or non-scripted. A good idea would be to have the interviewer have a list of set questions, and the students can take it from there. For fun variations of this, have your students interview for weird or unusual positions such as an astronaut, the weather reader on a news channel, or a snake handler at a zoo to name some.
Getting Everyone to Speak
A traditional method is to ask the class to pair off. Of course, one cannot monitor every student, particularly if the class is quite large. Therefore, it is important to make sure everyone is speaking and getting the most out of the language they know. If one has time, have each individual group come up to the top of the class and speak in front of everyone else. This will allow people to use their language more creatively.
Argument Between Neighbours
Again, this is a new opportunity for learning different types of vocabulary. This could be between two neighbours who are having an argument. Perhaps one plays music too loudly in the middle of the night and is disturbing the rest of the apartment block. This can be as absurd or ridiculous as the students’ want, as long as they are speaking and using the language correctly. Some of the situations thought up can be quite amusing. See some suggested situations here: “Neighbour Problems Role Play”.
Body language is just as important as spoken language, so in their role plays try and let the students get into the role. Of course, one does not have to be an expert at acting but it is important for them to get a feel of the flow of the conversation. Using body language effectively will allow them to become a lot more in tune with the language they are using.
Debates are a brilliant way of encouraging language use. This is because they can become somewhat heated, and many new words can come up. It is important to choose a topic which might not be too controversial to some students. Remember to be sensitive to their age group and the general attitude of the particular country. Divide the class into two sides and give them each a side of an argument to defend.
When it comes to role plays, it is all about the creative use of language. The student must put what they know to the test. This doesn’t mean they have to list off a boring dialogue. Allow them to be as creative as they can. Put them into challenging situations, and this will allow them to think of new ways of saying things.
Role plays can work as a great ice breaker for the beginning of the class.
Always remember to be sensitive to any particular issues at the time, however, and be wary of the students’ age. Usually, the likes of filing a complaint will not really be of interest to children. Once the students are having fun and speaking English, there are no limits to their own learning!
P.S. If you enjoyed this article, please help spread it by clicking one of those sharing buttons below. And if you are interested in more, you should follow our Facebook page where we share more about creative, non-boring ways to teach English.