Published 25th July 2017

Presentation, practice, production. Game. Presentation, practice, production. Test.

Sound familiar?

It’s very easy to fall into a rut in the EFL classroom, especially if you are teaching similar lessons to a lot of different classes. This is why it’s important to mix it up a bit sometimes and do things a little differently. Incorporating role-play into your lessons allows you to do just that.

What exactly is role-play?

Role-play is a speaking activity which utilises drama. In a role-play scenario, learners adopt characters in order to accomplish a task or act out an imaginary situation.

Why do students enjoy role-play?

To be sure, not everyone is a drama queen so you may find you have a few learners who are hesitant to act in front of their classmates. However, in the language learning classroom there is no need for the learners to act in front of everyone; simply performing the role-play in their groups is sufficient for language practice and production.

Plus, being able to hide behind a character when speaking a foreign language gives learners confidence they might not have otherwise whether they enjoy being dramatic or not. You will probably be surprised by the performances of your usually-shyer students.

How can we use role-play?

Role-play can be used for many different language situations. A role-play can be used as the basis for a debate, in which the learners adopt different attitudes or opinions. It can be used to practise functional language – at the restaurant or a job interview, for example. Or the learners can be given carte blanche to use a role-play to demonstrate the communicative function of a language structure – such as the first conditional for threats and promises.
In order for any role-play to be successful, though, there are a few key things you need to bear in mind.

  • The teacher needs to be invested. This does not necessarily mean the teacher is playing a part in the role-play but rather that the teacher believes in the educational value of the role-play and does not belittle its value.
  • Props are very useful for transforming the usual classroom space into an appropriate scene.
  • Role-plays should be appropriate and useful for the class involved. Make sure the learners are able to see the relevance of the role-play to their everyday lives, or else they won’t see the point in the exercise.
  • It may be necessary to keep a list of useful language clearly visible throughout the exercise so that if learners are stuck they can use it as a reference.
  • Use the opportunity to pick up on mistakes in an error correction session afterwards.

Role-play is a flexible and fun way to practise language in the classroom and a sure way to bring some excitement into your lessons.