This is an activity in which learners take on roles (characters) and act them out in a situation. It is used to practise language, often as a free practice activity. It is also used to help students to explore ideas and issues. A role play is different from a simulation. In a simulation, learners are put in a situation in which there is some problem to resolve. They are not given specific roles.
In role plays, learners are often given role cards to guide what they need to say, do or discuss. An example of a role play would be putting students into groups of four with one of them each as head teacher, parent, local shopkeeper or student representative, and then to hold a group discussion in their roles on design plans for rebuilding the school. Role plays can also be used to prompt writing, reading and listening, for example, when learners are given different roles in which to receive and react to information from a text.
"Some of my students really enjoy doing role plays – they like the freedom that comes with pretending to be someone else, but others just get shy and embarrassed, so I have to think carefully about how often I do role plays and whether they can be done as pair work rather than in front of lots of other students."
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