This activity is an essential part of the ESL teacher’s toolkit. Improvisation and role play are great ways to get ESL learners to practice English in a semi-naturalistic setting. Vary the settings and number of participants for optimal immersion.
Objective(s) of activity:
The primary objective is to immerse your ESL students into naturalistic settings that they are familiar with so that they can practice using the nuances of the English language.
Specific directions and notes:
1) Be prepared before class and think of a number of scenarios beforehand with the requisite number of people. Have different scenarios for different numbers of participants.
Some possible scenarios involving two individuals are the following:
a) An interaction between a superhero and the villain
b) A retail interaction (eg. a fish monger and a customer)
c) A parent and child
d) Teacher and student
e) Policeman and interrogated criminal
2) You have to make sure that there is an objective for each interaction that is known to all participants in the role play. Eg. the objective of a retail transaction is to successfully exchange the right amount of money for a certain produce/ service.
3) Intervene as little as possible, except to prompt students to stay on objective for that role play.
4) If students are stuck on certain phrases, allow the use of their native language. The aim (at least in the beginning) is to provide students an opportunity to practice code switching with ease. Of course, you do not want students to use their native languages predominantly.
5) Encourage your students to speak in full sentences. Do not worry about whether the sentences are grammatical.
6) You can make the activity more fun by using different voices for different characters. (eg. deeper voice for the villain)
Notes for scaling up difficulty:
As the students become more proficient, you can come up with scenarios involving more individuals.
This will give your students more practice with turn taking, looking for discourse cues and so on.
You can have individuals enter and leave the role play as well. For example, while two individuals are speaking, you can have a third individual interject with a delivery.
You can build complexity to your scenarios this way.
Share with me your scenarios and how your students did!