Thursday, May 04, 2006

Teaching Speaking (9)


Role play is perhaps the liveliest form to get the class involved in speaking. Role play brings situations from real life into the classroom. Students imagine and assume roles. They create a pretend situation, and they pretend to be some different persons.
Once they assume a role the students are forced to improvise and to produce words and sentences appropriate to the situation as well as to the roles they have assumed. Teachers should select the roles beforehand so that the roles to be assumed are familiar and are within the linguistic competence attained until then by the students.
Roles such as friends, brothers, sisters, parents, teachers, shopkeepers, police officers, characters from the textbook and popular television programs have been suggested by Doff (1988) and others. Everyday life situations such as shopping, holidays, camps, local journeys, fables and folktales, etc., have been found very useful. Interviews are yet another excellent situation for role play.
As Doff (1988) points out, role play increases motivation. Always talking about real life can become very dull, and the chance to imagine different situations adds interest to a lesson. In addition, role play gives a chance to use language in new contexts and for new topics.
Students may have difficulty composing their thoughts in English or expressing them coherently, using appropriate grammatical structures and words. Teachers should give prompts wherever necessary, which would encourage students to guess and produce utterances appropriately. Role plays help reduce the common reluctance found among the second language learners in using English because of fear of committing errors in English. Teachers can improve structure practice by encouraging students to give a variety of responses, rather than the usual set responses a situation and a role may demand. The focus of practice should be on producing a text of related sentences suitable for the role and the situation, rather than on the production and practice of single sentences.
Role-play involves several students at once and holds the attention of the class, even as it enables students to be original and produce utterances often on their own. Begin first with the contexts of familiar stories. Go to local contexts including market situations, and then to contexts that may be peculiar to the native English speakers. I would recommend this activity for all classes. Try to include a role-play for every lesson you teach.


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