Our Senior teacher Annette Sievert, recommends using role play as the perfect way to get beginner level students using language….
Role-play is any speaking activity when you act out an imaginary situation. Real life language can be activated and practiced, for example; ‘at the restaurant’, ‘checking in at the airport’, booking a holiday or short conversations at student night. Students are given a chance to rehearse their English in a safe environment. Real situations are created and students can benefit from the practice. Mistakes can be made with no drastic consequences.
Using role-play adds variety, a change of pace and opportunities for a lot of language production. It is fun and gives quieter students the chance to speak in a ‘safe’ environment. Of course the teacher has to believe that the activity will work and be quite prepared to ‘act the clown.
At beginner level students need to be thoroughly prepared. Provide the language the students will need and make sure this language has been presented and practiced. Students may need the extra support of having the language on the board or even on cue cards. It is important to drill beforehand so that when the role-play begins the students have all the appropriate language.
The teacher may need to be:
Facilitator – feeding in new language
Spectator – watching and offering comments and advice
Participant – getting involved and playing a part
Realia and props can really bring a role-play to life. A suitcase or a simple sign with RECEPTION written on it can make the whole process more fun and memorable for the class. Rearranging the furniture can also help. If you are imagining you are at the tourist information office or at the doctor’s surgery try to make it as real as you can. Students can even leave the room and make an entrance by knocking on the door.
As students practice the role-play they might find that they are stuck for words and phrases. In the practice stage the teacher has a chance to ‘feed-in’ the appropriate language. This may need the teacher to act as a sort of ‘walking dictionary’, monitoring the class and offering assistance as and when necessary.
By doing so, students learn new vocabulary and structure in a natural and memorable environment. It is a chance to use real and natural language.
There are many ways to correct mistakes when using role-play. Don’t jump in and correct every mistake as this is demotivating! Correct the language straight after a role-play while it is still fresh in their minds. Sentences with errors can be written on the board for the group to correct together. Fellow students may be able to correct some mistakes made by their peers. Students could be asked to listen out for both great bits of language they’d like to use themselves, and some mistakes they hear. Be careful to keep peer-correction a positive and profitable experience for all involved. Making a note of common mistakes yourself and dealing with them in future classes ensures that the students don’t lose motivation by being corrected on the spot or straight after the role-play. Negotiate with students and ask them how they would like to be corrected. Happy Role Play everyone!
Pictured: Nadia, Alexandre and Hyeongjun acting out a holiday 🙂