Using role-play in English language teaching

Using role-play in English language teaching

English language teachers have been in high demand for years now, as spoken and written English is a key skill in the global job market. It can be a great career option for those who want to earn some extra money, but aren’t looking for full-time work, like stay-at-home mums. All you need is a university degree in any subject or a TEFL qualification.

Learning through Interaction

As children, we all learnt our first language through interaction with other people, as it’s the most natural and effective way to learn. No parent is giving their children vocabulary books to get them to say their first word… hopefully. So, why would it be any different when we learn an additional language?

Learning a language through interaction is fun for both teacher and student, but more importantly, it’ll help the student to retain more knowledge. One of the best ways to teach through interaction is to use role-playing activities that can help the student see the real-world applications of what they’re learning.

This is a quick guide for English language teachers, particularly those who teach outside of a school environment, who want to know how and when to use role-playing as a teaching technique.

How to teach English via role-playing

The most important aspect of a role-playing activity is that it must engage the student and make them want to learn more, so each role-play will differ based on the student’s interests, ability, and age. This allows the student to use the vocabulary that they have learnt, highlight areas where they need improvement, and help them to envisage using the language in real life.

Make it Accessible

If your student is a beginner, then it’s better to use basic language that would come up in everyday conversation (“How much is this top?”), rather than more complex or obscure words (“How much does this halter neck cost?”). This will help the student get their point across more efficiently.

Make it Relevant

If you’re role-playing with an older teenager, you might want to base the role-play around buying a car or directions to a nightclub, but for pre-teens, you probably want to focus on buying comic books or asking where the local music store is.

Make it Fun

In order to allow the students to fully immerse themselves in the role-play, you may want to introduce props into the situation. These needn’t be expensive and may often be something you have at home anyway.

If your role-play is about buying an ice cream on the beach, you could have your student wear a pair of sunglasses and then give them their treat of choice if they were able to order it correctly. If it’s about what to wear in the rain, you could lay out a coat, an umbrella, and Wellington boots.

When to use role-plays

There are many different times to use role-playing when teaching English, but they work particularly well between pairs of students at the end of a lesson to assess how well they’ve absorbed what you taught or to evaluate progress at the end of a term/year/etc.


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