Week 4, Fall 2009 – Redeeming the Role-play

Tuesday, 9am-10:50am, Intermediate Level, 20 students, freshmen, mostly natural science and nursing students – My first class of the week

I have to say, this is a stellar group of students. They all came through with the role-play assignment. When I assigned it last week without it being my initial intention, I was concerned that they wouldn’t do it. 

 After doing a quick review of the language being addressed (adverbs of frequency), some students needed some time to edit their role-plays. This gave students a chance to practice. It also gave me the chance to help pairs who had questions, and also check out what the created. I was pleased to see that the had pairs creatively and properly used the adverbs. The scenarios ranged from a patient and doctor discussing unhealthy habits to Snow White contemplating her beauty with the Magic Mirror. I was concerned when I noticed that in some occasions one member of the pair took the responsibility to write the whole role-play. I assumed this fact because the other student had nothing in their notebook. I guess it is possible that they had met at some point during the week and one student had taken the responsibility of being the scribe.

I asked the students to perform their role-play in front of the class so everyone could listen and watch. I had thought about putting them into smaller groups, but I didn’t want to spend the time forming groups. I decided to see how this would work out. One team at a time, they came up front. Before they started, I asked them about their scenario and told the other students. Most of the students read off their sheets. They spoke loudly. The audience was attentive, and laughed when a line was funny. We all clapped when each pair was done.

This role-play activity was for practicing language.  It focused on accuracy, not fluency. I could have asked the students to remember the lines, but that isn’t authentic and still wouldn’t display fluency.  I could also have asked them to be spontaneous, but that wasn’t how I had set up the assignment.  In order to make it spontaneous, and therefore check for fluency, I could create the scene for the students and hand them lines to build on.  For example, I could hand a pair a piece of paper with the line “You never clean your room!”, and ask them to work from there without writing anything. This seems to be an activity for higher levels, and I’m still not sure if this group is at that level.  I know some could, but not all.

The way this role-play activity turned out, gave me insight into the class’ ability. Their sentence structure was better than expected. However, the fact that some students in the pairs wrote the whole role-play makes me wonder if the other students aren’t capable, or if they just did it that way out of ease.  I also learned that they aren’t shy to perform in front of their peers. This means that I could use drama for future activities.

Although, the fiasco turned out not to be so bad, I won’t assign a role-play as homework again. I want the main activity of the lesson to focus on fluency, not accuracy. I also want to get a better understanding of the ability of every student. What I will keep doing however is use role-plays for language practice. In order to spice up the role-plays found in the textbook, I will give each pair a scenario, or ask them to create their own scenario. Since I know this class is up to performing, they will perform these scenarios in small groups as a way to promote repetition and noticing of the language.