Published 20th November 2018

Role plays

Role plays are a staple in the EFL classroom. They are a great way to bring an element of drama into the classroom with the added bonus of getting your students out of their seats. Students usually enjoy role plays and they are a welcome break from the coursebook. But are role plays in the EFL classroom actually effective? Absolutely, and here’s why.

Role plays mimic real life

In today’s world, it is likely that your students will need English to be able to communicate face-to-face with other people. What’s more, this face-to-face interaction is likely to be with other non-native speakers. Role plays in the EFL classroom, then, provide an authentic opportunity for our learners to practise their communication skills with authentic communication partners.

What’s more, if you choose your role plays appropriately, they will be an accurate reflection of our students’ lives. For example, if your students are living in an English-speaking environment, role playing an exchange with a shop assistant might well be an experience your students will encounter. Or perhaps your students are studying for IELTS, in which case role playing an interview might pre-empt their university admissions experience. By practising real-life scenarios you are giving your students confidence to communicate in the real situation when it arises naturally.

Role plays provide authentic language practice

Most of the grammar production in our classrooms are in isolated sentences at worst, and contrived theoretical situations at best. We manipulate the activity so that a particular language structure is hopefully utilised, though there is never any guarantee that our students will use the language we want them to. Role playing takes the focus away from the grammar and put it instead on the communication. In this way, the grammar production is more natural and real, which will make it more memorable.

 Role plays allow our students freedom

Speaking English can cause anxiety for our students, especially so when they are required to speak in front of their classmates. Role plays provide a way for our students to overcome their shyness and fear by giving them parameters for their productions. Because they are put in a particular situation, they do not need to worry about what they are saying. Role playing can be as real or as ridiculous as they like.

Role plays give our students confidence

What’s more, role plays give our students the chance to adopt new personae. Hiding behind a character is a great way to get over shyness and inhibitions. Being more confident in this way will allow your students to forget about focusing on the language but play a more natural part in the scenario. You might find yourself surprised at how outgoing some of your more shy students are at role playing.

These are just a few reasons role plays are a useful tool in the EFL classroom.