Role Play

One of our teachers, Alice Copello, gave an illuminating presentation yesterday on a novel way of incorporating role play into lessons, especially Business English lessons – have the students write them themselves. Here she is, in full swing:

alice-2 alice1

The procedure is simple enough – each student in a group designs a role-play of a meeting (usually) which reflects their own business requirements; then the group plays them out one by one, each taking a designated role.

It’s a fascinating idea, with advantages of relevance and personal investment for the students, and a good illustration of how co-operative group learning is more than the sum of its parts (not a quarter as useful, for example, as an hour of tutorial lesson).

And Alice’s presentation, as it happens, was a model of its kind: succinct, clear, relaxed and informative.


It sometimes strikes me as surprising that role play draws out the best in most students – surprising, because it is manifestly a form of play, the sort of thing ambitious business people leave behind aged 11, you would imagine. But not so. Very few students won’t throw themselves in, with just a little encouragement. In part, I think, this is because there is often a competitive edge to a role play on a Business English course. You have to negotiate a better price, win more of your agenda. We talk about ‘win-win’, and, oddly, while that may be a real goal in the real world, in the world of role play it is often rapidly put to one side.

Another reason of course is that it is, to repeat, a form of play. Ultimately, everything that happens in a language classroom, virtually every exchange, is a form of play. People are here to play. In the best cases, the experience of being away from home and the office is not just generally liberating, or relaxing, or whatever it is; it is an indulgence of the play instinct. When you play, you are relaxed, imaginative, engaged.

And every teacher knows how important that is.


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