I’ve been investigating role plays as part of my Delta reflection. I rarely use them because I never enjoyed them as a language student, but I think some students would respond to them very well.
Today I adapted an activity from Role Play by Gillian Porter Ladousse, called ‘Picture role plays’, with pre-intermediate (A2+) students.
- I put a few pictures from eltpics around the room. Each picture showed a minimum of two people, and it was relatively easy to imagine that they were having a conversation. First, students walked around in pairs discussing what they could see. To prompt them, I had the question words Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? written on the board.
- Each pair chose their favourite picture and took it back to their desk.
- They chose one person in their picture to write a mini biography of.
- These were quite short, so I then asked students to read all the biographies and add one question under each.
- The students then had to ‘inhabit’ the person they wrote a biography of and have a conversation with the other person in their photo.
- Finally, they wrote out the conversation.
Did it work?
Yes and no. The quieter students were very creative in the biography, and added lots of extra details. My favourite was ‘My grandmother loves playing chess and is the world champion.’ However, when it came to the roleplay, the conversation was quite stilted. They did ‘inhabit’ the role a little, but for the quieter students this was very difficult. The more confident students really seemed to enjoy it, and were arguing quite a lot about the correct language to use.
We had been practising indirect questions during the week, and one or two of the quieter students got them into their conversations. However, I didn’t have a particularly clear aim for the activity. It was very much a ‘Friday afternoon’ activity.
Doing it again
With role plays, you definitely need some kind of clear aim. Why do the students need to imagine the conversations between the people in the photos?
Most of the language work I did with the students was in their pairs. It would be useful to work more with the language and build on it further.
We didn’t have time to repeat the role play, and this is definitely something the students would benefit from.
Do you have any other advice?