help with role-play

<b> Forum for discussing activities and games that work well in the classroom </b>

Moderators: Dimitris, maneki neko2, Lorikeet, Enrico Palazzo, superpeach, cecil2, Mr. Kalgukshi2

Post Reply
Posts: 3
Joined: Sun Mar 08, 2009 9:56 am

help with role-play

Post by twitchingproboscis » Wed Mar 11, 2009 8:45 am

I have always liked the idea of role-plays, but I've never had much success with them. Does anyone have advice about how to set up a succesful role-play?

Posts: 81
Joined: Sat Jan 18, 2003 2:35 am
Location: Taiwan

Post by surrealia » Sat Mar 14, 2009 8:25 am

In Natalie Hess' book Zero Prep there is an interesting role play activity. It goes like this:

1. Set up the role play by writing two roles on the board. You can choose something related to a topic in your coursebook, or something else. It should set up a conflict between two people, A and B.

2. Put the class into 2 groups, group A and group B. Ask each group to write down as many things as they could think of that their character might say. Then ask them to practice in their group saying the things they wrote down. Note: They have not started the role play yet!!!

3. Now call one student from group A and one student from group B to go to opposite corners of the room. They should face the wall and practice muttering all the things their character might say.

4. Put all the students into a "U" shape. Now call the two students to turn around and face each other. They should start their role play now.

5. When they finish, ask students to comment on the role play.

6. Then try again with another A and B...

I really like this format, as it gives students a lot of time to prepare for a role play.

Anyway, here's the ESLflow page of role play related links:

The Teaching English website has a good article on role plays: ... /role-play

Another good article:

Some good ideas here as well: ... cid=146559

Posts: 3
Joined: Sun Mar 08, 2009 9:56 am

Post by twitchingproboscis » Sun Mar 15, 2009 9:52 am

Thanks for the detailed reply. I will certainly take a look at the links.

My problem with the way you set out the main activity here is this: from experience, I would expect the students rehearsing their arguments to face each other, come out with one or two lines each, then say "I can't think of anything else to say."

It also seems to me to limit the freedom of the exercise itself. Ultimately, I want the students, especially at higher levels, to respond to what each other says and generate language spontaneously. THis is the problem I've had with too much preparation. On the other hand, without it they all too often dry up anyway.

I have found, when breaking up the class into smallish groups for discussions (not strictly role-play) that I can get round the "I can't think of anything to say" problem if I go round and systematically stir them up. When someone has come out with their one line opinion, I ask them why they think so. At this point you tend to get much more language, and it tends to get the whole group contributing. BUt it can also be a lot of work. I would like to find ways to motivate students in the way the whole activity is set up. Introducing a competitive element can help, as can giving students a task to achieve, but I can't always come up with a task, or a competitive goal.

Anyway, thanks for the response. I think putting stuff up on the board to set up the role-play sounds like a very good idea. And in general breaking things up into stages always helps with anything moderately complex.

Posts: 111
Joined: Tue Oct 18, 2005 9:32 am
Location: Bangkok, Thailand

Post by Brian » Sat Mar 21, 2009 8:06 am

Someone gave me a great drama activity a few years back - worked very well with my pre-intermediate teens.

There were a selection of fairly simple dialogues. Things like:

I've got something to tell you.
Is it bad news?
Yes. It's bad news.
Really? What is it. Tell me!
You're not going to like it.
That doesn't matter. Just tell me ...

The students had to practice reading them several times, and each time they were given different roles. They would change the way they way they read according to their characters.

The characters included things like:

A boyfriend and girlfriend.
A student and his/her teahcer.
The president of America and his chief of security.
A parent and his/her child.
A boss and his/her employee.

Hope this is useful to you,


COMICS for your students:


Posts: 52
Joined: Fri Jul 21, 2006 7:28 am

Post by shelleyvernon » Sat May 16, 2009 10:36 am

I love that role play idea Brian.

If anyone is looking for role-play ideas for beginners, with repetetive language then I've got 26 plays and skits.

Stop right there if you have a big class though as I designed these for anything from one to fifteen students max. Ages 4 to 12.

The idea behind the simple repetitive language makes it possible for the children to learn their lines without ever seeing the script. First you teach the main target language and vocab through language games and once that is learned you present the play and put it together for ten to fifteen minutes at a time over a few lessons.

The kids love working on something that has a concrete outcome in the vast sea of learning a language. So working towards putting their skit on to another class or to parents or the school at assembly is a real motivator.

Here's is the page and you'll find a free play to download on their to have a go with - again this is for one to one lessons or small groups up to fifteen.

Have fun!

Posts: 3031
Joined: Tue Oct 26, 2004 6:57 pm
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

Post by fluffyhamster » Sun May 17, 2009 2:44 am

I remember following up on my variation* of the 'Gratitude' activity in Davis & Rinvolucri's Dictation by asking the students to pair up** and write out the story in the form of individual scripts that each pair could then perform if they so wished. The principle of establishing a clear plot structure in everyone's minds, of providing a textual basis for the generation/"creation" of personal speech, certainly suits less extroverted or risk-taking learners (e.g. Chinese students), and can be used with a variety of stories; and there is usually still plenty of subtle and interesting variation among the resulting scripts. ... n#PPA13,M1

Don't forget however to also develop activities that encourage fluency in more a direct to reported direction!

*My variation was to simply put the students into groups of three or four, pre-teach/check some of the vocabulary, and then dictate the story to them in a somewhat jumbled sentence order (I would begin with 'The next day, the plane crashed!'), before (I the teacher) establishing/checking the correct sequence of the sentences/sentences' numbers and the actual language of each of those sentences. This all avoided the "need" to board any "dodgy" language that "needed" correcting (I would find it a bit bizarre to board, as the authors suggest, possible student readings such as 'Ze boss asked Peter why', if I knew/could obviously guess what 'Ze' actually meant, and especially if I knew the story (which obviously I would do, as the teacher who'd prepared it!)), or the need for making any paper slips at all (EFL can often appear a bit too much of a big jigsaw reading paperchase! That is, jigsaw texts are overused, I feel), and ensured that everybody would understand the story quicker and more clearly (bearing in mind that my goal was not so much correction etc as Davis & Rinvolucri suggest, but rather a direct-speech scripted roleplay based on the story as more swiftly relayed by me).
**Groups of 3 or 4 students increased the number of ears available to catch my variation on the reading of the jumbled 'Gratitude' activity's sentences (and I'd repeat each sentence twice, by the way), but for the extension activity of script-writing, breaking into pairs seemed to help encourage closer collaboration and creativity. Students sometimes liked to assign (or be told to assign!) themselves/each other/agree upon one or other of the roles before commencing writing, thereby clearly dividing the creative effort and potentially providing a chance to become more familiar with their own lines (in preparation for their possible performance!).
Last edited by fluffyhamster on Mon Jun 22, 2009 11:59 am, edited 1 time in total.

Posts: 81
Joined: Sat Jan 18, 2003 2:35 am
Location: Taiwan

Post by surrealia » Mon Jun 22, 2009 12:51 am

I just found a clever introduction to doing roleplays on the webpages for the Straightforward series of coursebooks. There's an article on doing roleplays, as well as three sample activities: ... leplay.htm

Post Reply