Activities for Practice: Role-Plays

(excerpted and adapted from Tutoring ESL: A Handbook for Volunteers)

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Purpose: To practice speaking and listening skills by creating real-life situations in the classroom.

Materials: Appropriate props


Make sure that the subject matter has first been introduced, contextualized, and related to the needs of the students.

Role-play (where students assume a role and act it out with appropriate language) is one way of practicing material before the student moves out of the classroom and tries out the new language and skills “for real.”

It is important that the student understand the context of the situation, and the language to be used. The point of role-playing is to build confidence, so the purpose is not served if the students become embarrassed in the course of the role-play.

It’s a good idea to model a role-play first. If you have the assistance of another native speaker or advanced student, that can be helpful.

If you have a group of students, it may be inhibiting for some or all of the students to “perform” for the others. In that case, have everyone involved in one role-play, or have several small role-plays occurring simultaneously.

Give your student a role or divide a class into groups for the roles. Each role can be described verbally or can be written in braille or large print on a card.


Student 1: You are the sponsor of a refugee.

Student 2: You are a refugee. Telephone your sponsor and invite her to dinner at your home.

Each group or pair has a few minutes to practice or discuss the situation before doing the role-play. While groups are practicing, circulate and give help where it is needed.

Note problems or additions for next time.

After the role-play, discuss what happened. The student can identify what words, phrases and idioms she felt comfortable with and where she needed more help with English words, phrases or idioms.

Examine the social/cultural overtones of the scene, speculate what might happen next. Some possible role-plays are…

buying stamps

asking directions

changing the time of the lesson or class

applying for a job

visiting a doctor or dentist

meeting a neighbor

From Tutoring ESL: A Handbook for Volunteers. Reproduced with permission from the publisher, Tacoma Community House Training Project, Tacoma, WA 98405.

Excerpted and adapted, with permission, by

Kaizen Program
for New English Learners with Visual Limitations
email: kaizen ( at )