September 25, 2019 | #EarlyLang

Role Play in the #Earlylang Setting
from September 25, 2019

On September, language teachers from grades K-8, and beyond, met for the biweekly EarlyLang chat. Participants discussed how they use role play and its value in their classrooms. They also gave ideas to prepare students for role plays and activities that would encourage spontaneous role play. Finally, they looked at the relationship between assessment and role play.

Q1: What does role play look like in your context?

Participants mentioned different forms of role play. Sometimes, it is organized in advance in preparation for reading or conversational activities. Other times it can be spontaneous when students are interested in a particular topic. If planned, vocabulary and sentence starters help novices to write scripts that they can refer to. Props such as puppets are also helpful in providing students with something to use when acting out a story.


Q2: What do you see as the value of role plays in the #earlylang classroom?

Participants agreed that role play is very valuable in the #earlylang classroom. Imaginary play is such an important way that children learn that incorporating role plays will help students acquire language in a more authentic way. Role play can allow students to “experience” life situations and places that they might not be able to otherwise. As a result, they will have more confidence in improvising. Role play also gives students more ownership and encourages more engagement.

Q3: How do you use role play to support comprehensible input / integrate with comprehensible input?

            Scaffolding and some preparation before the role play are key. Participants recommended clear and simple directions. Acting out a scene from a book makes it more real and helps students understand it better. Young children love to pretend, role play taps into that and encourages them to improvise with language. Choosing texts such as picture books or graphic novels, along with puppets or other props give the supports needed for students to practice using language in new and fun ways.

Q4: How do you prepare students for role play? What structures and activities can best prepare them to freestyle?

@kellycondon, “There is a lot of teaching and coaching going on before role play…students need to learn vocabulary, practice creating language with the vocabulary on their own, and then build confidence in doing so. Thennnn they *might* be ready for role play.”

@AnnaDalman, “I start with me using puppets. Then I have kids be the actors, but I talk for them (and sometimes move their arms/etc) then I let them do it on their own with their own flair. Lots of scaffolding!”

@MundodePepita, “I like to provide talking bubble cut outs they can use “behind the scenes” at the puppet theater, they help scaffold & provide ideas for kids to at least start from.”

@TWSteacher, “For me is key to have a relaxed atmosphere in class. Sense of humor is one of my ‘musts’ in class. Now that I think about it. We perform@all the time. We use@Tarrodeidiomas cards as “dilo como” to practice words that are difficult to pronounce. We have a blast!”

@MdCRistinaRV, “My 1st graders have a stick puppet of themselves inside a pocket attached to their notebooks. It is readily available for fun interactions with others!”

Q5: What(if any)relationship is there between assessment and role play?

Role plays can range from a simple observation of the student and their class participation to a more formal oral proficiency assessment. Or they can be a simple observation tool rather than an assessment. For some teachers, it is a means to get students comfortable with using language in new ways and is about the experience instead of a grade. Other teachers use role play as a means to see how well a student might do in a country where the TL is spoken. Others do use role play as an assessment.

Reflaction (Reflection+Action)

Most participants want to find ways to intentionally incorporate role play in the classroom as it makes for more fun and more meaningful learning.Along with this, more time with students–what teacher doesn’t want this, right?– and adding more opportunities for older students and those with higher proficiency to add their own language to role plays.

Thank you to all who participated in this #EarlyLang chat! Thank you to our lead moderator, Valerie Shull (@windycitysenora), and our co-moderator, M Cristina Rdz-Villa (@MaCristinaRV), for helping to guide the conversation. Thanks also to EMC School (@EMCSCHOOL) for sponsoring tonight’s chat.

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