Activity 7: Short Roleplays

▶ Duration:  10–15 min
▶ Aim:  Oral fluency practice
▶ Summary:  Role play according to instructions on roleplay card.

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Basically any activity where students pretend to be a certain character, or in a certain situation (and usually both) can be called a roleplay. A simple but effective way to manage a roleplay is to provide each student in the pair or group with a different sheet explaining their role.

With a little bit of imagination, short roleplays can be devised to suit the content of the lesson: either to practise recently learnt language or to take advantage of ideas or interest generated by a previous activity.

Roleplays for beginner students might need to give quite explicit instructions, but at higher levels a roleplay that leaves room for adlibbing will provide the best opportunity for oral fluency practice. Some ways of doing this include:

On the other hand, the instructions should be clear enough so that the students understand the situation and know what they have to do. Knowing how to start can sometimes be the most difficult thing, so it can be helpful to print the first sentence of the dialogue on one of the roleplay cards.

Some examples are given in the Resources section. Since the roleplays typically only require a few minutes each, often two or three can be included on one sheet. The students do each roleplay one after the other. The roleplay card can either be written in simple english, or the students' mother tongue.

Photocopy enough cards so that each student gets one. The sheets can be collected after the activity and used again with a different group of students.

Before handing out the roleplay cards, remind the students not to show their cards to each other. If there is more than one roleplay on the cards, explain that the students should do each roleplay in turn. Check:


Office Roleplay

Here are three situations set in an office, for pairs to roleplay: office_rp.doc (html preview). You may need to pre-teach "overtime", and possibly "project" in this context.

Study Choices

study_choices_rp.doc (html preview): This set of three short roleplays can be used after "college majors" vocabulary has been introduced: science, social science, humanities, business, accounting, philosophy, etc. Each roleplay is a discussion between a parent and a teacher, where they try to agree on what the child in question should study at college. There is no one "correct" answer, so at the end of the activity you can ask different pairs what they agreed on, to see what ideas have emerged.

This activity worked reasonably well, but not as well as the "Office Roleplays" activity described above. The difference is that this activity is more of a discussion than a roleplay, and most pairs just began by reading the information on their card to each other. (This is something to keep in mind when designing your own roleplays).
Rating: 4 stars

Although they require a little bit of thinking to prepare, roleplays are easy to run and offer lots of opportunity for talking.