I love role plays! If it’s well done, it brings a little bit of the feeling and the excitement of immersion to the classroom. No matter the age range, from primary to secondary school, it always works. But before I tell you about my top three role plays, here are a few things to help you get it right in your language class!
Top tips for the perfect role play
Know your vocabulary – The role play should be the perfect activity to end a lesson. Make sure to start it on strong base, and teach the vocabulary context that could be used in the role play.
Watch other do it – I sometime use film from other groups or other year to show my student what the final product could look like. I also like to show those slightly corny old language film available online.
Pick a partner – To make the teams, I write the names of the students and I put it a hat. The kids don’t know who their partner will be before the role play itself, making it very hard to memorise lines in advance.
Trick your partner – Especially with older students, I ask the participants in the role play to trick their partner, to give them the chance to solve a problem, to say something about a situation, to make it a little bit harder for them. It’s sometimes incredible what these problematic situations will produce.
Say it differently – Student get sometimes stuck on a word in a role play. When that happens, I always tell them to try to say it in a different way, to use gesture or, as a very final resources, to use the English word. The important thing is to get the conversation flowing.
Now, from the classic to the bold, here is my top three favourite role plays!…
1. The Restaurant
Situation: Two clients walk in a restaurant. They are welcomed by the waiter who sits them at a table, before taking their order. While he’s gone, what do they talk about ? The waiters brings them their meal, ask them if everything is OK, if they want desert and eventually bring them the bill. After they paid, the clients leave the restaurant.
Why I like it: It’s a great classic and I’ve done it for years. With the younger kids, you can bring props, like plastic (or real) food. With the older ones, paying the bill could create all kinds of interesting problem. And there’s alway the relationship between the clients. What are they saying to one another?
The video: Un gars, une fille – Au restaurant. Avec Jean Dujardin…
2. The Clothing Store
Situation: A client walks in a clothing store, welcomed by the clerk. The clients is looking for different kinds of clothing items (shirt, dress, hat, shoes…) and what the clerk suggest never seems to fit, or is the wrong size, or the wrong color. When the client finally buys something, the clerk presents the bills and suggest a method of payment. Then the client leaves.
Why I like it: So many problems can be created here by both the client and the clerk: the clothes don’t fit, they don’t have the right size in store, and so on… Also, the method of payment can bring an interesting twist in the end. This role play can also be done by three students. I recently had three kids inventing a love story between client and clerk!
The video: This is a rather old and kitsch video of a store in France, but the student love it (and it has French subtitles)!
3. The Tourism Office
Situation: A tourist is lost in a foreign country. He at the local tourist shop where a clerks suggest activities to do in town and around. The tourist also need to book a hotel room for the night, a reservation at a restaurant and a bus tour and the clerk helps him with it.
Why I like it: It’s a great opportunity to mix many elements: cultural – with the touristic visit of a place; organisational – with the booking of the hotel and the restaurant; and interpersonal – the relationship between the tourist and the clerk.
The video: Maybe not the most inspiring video, but it still establish the context and vocabulary.