Teaching Tip: ROTATIONAL ROLE-PLAYS

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I’ve just been looking for tips on creating good role-plays and realised I could share one of my own. This is a flexible low-prep idea which I’ve used with medium-sized groups (12-16 students). I’ve only used it in real-world classrooms, but if you’re working online and confident with using breakout rooms to split the class, then feel free to adapt it.

This plan could work with any age and level, depending on what you use as the subject of the role-plays. I developed it while working with A2-level 13-14 year olds. I’d say it’s particularly suited to rowdy extroverts, and especially useful for less diligent students who have a tendency to produce minimal English. The benefit here is that they get several ‘goes’ at producing a role-play, hopefully improving it each time, but the lesson moves at a snappy pace and there’s plenty of novelty in each round.

Before the lesson

There are three sets of ‘cutty uppies’ you’ll need to prepare:

  • For Round 1: four cards, each with a role-play scenario and brief instructions for the characters. Name these scenarios A, B, C, and D.
  • For Round 3: four cards with more details on each scenario, adding a possible problem. For example, a shop customer has forgotten to bring their wallet; the train to Oxford doesn’t stop at this station, and so on.
  • For Round 4: one card per student with a special identity or characteristic. These can be relatively sensible or completely daft. For example, “you are 4 years old”, “you are extremely fussy”, “you are a special agent”, “you are a K-pop star trying to hide from fans”, or even give them a specific identity like “you are Elvis/ Donald Trump/ the Queen of England”.

Prepare four tables in the corners of the classroom. Stick one of the Round 1 scenario cards to each table, so now you have a table A, table B, table C, and table D. Keep the other cards in your pocket for later.

Round 1

Put the class into 4 equal-sized groups. They stay together as groups for the duration.

Name the groups A, B, C, and D. Direct them to the corresponding table.

They now have 5 minutes to work on their role-play. The rules are that every character must speak. (Give them a longer time if you need to – you know your class!)

When the 5 minutes is up, get each group to perform in front of the class. Give them feedback on things they did well and what they might improve for next time. If possible, get the class involved to elicit better phrases for the things they need to say.

Round 2

The groups rotate so that group A are now at table B, and so on. They ‘take over’ the new scenario from the previous group at that table. Challenge them to improve on the previous performers’ role-play.

Then run Round 1 again, with practice time, performances, and feedback.

Round 3

The groups rotate again, so that group A are now at table C, and so on.

Tell them that you have another card to give them, and hand out the ‘problem cards’. They now have to incorporate these into the role-play, thus changing the story a little bit.

Everything else runs similarly to the previous rounds.

Round 4

The groups rotate a final time, so that each group covers the last scenario they haven’t done.

Give out the ‘identity cards’, one per student. Their challenge now is to run the same little drama as in Round 3, but acting as their new identity. This may change what they say or how they approach the problem, but they still need to act out the storyline.

They might need a slightly longer time to practise this round, so they can get into character and figure out their lines.

Do the final performances and then get feedback from the students: what were the challenges of acting out these stories, and what new language have they learned?

And, because you were interested enough to read this far…

…here’s an example of the ‘cutty-uppies’ I talked about earlier. These are aimed at an A2 level, so I’ve chosen typical ‘survival English’ scenarios. You will need to be on hand to explain some of the vocabulary, especially for the fourth round – or you could make translations into the students’ home language beforehand.

Tailor it as necessary. Oh, and please do add a comment below if you’ve found this idea useful, or if you’ve improved on it with your own classes.

The main photo from this page is from Ivan Samkov, via Pexels.

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