Teaching adult ESL, especially in an Intensive English Program, means teaching more than the four language domains and more than the culture of the country your students are studying English in. It means teaching them how to do life tasks such as getting an apartment, which encompasses culture and language. Using role plays tailored to your adult ESL students’ needs can help you do all that!
Role plays are a fantastic way to prepare them for such an undertaking. Theme-based role plays expose them to the vocabulary they’ll need and the situations they might find themselves in. Your classroom provides them the safe environment they want so that they can practice their English for a very specific purpose, whether it’s going to the dentist, going shopping, or getting an apartment.
When creating your own role play resources tailored for use with your adult ESL students, consider including the following:
- related idioms
- essential vocabulary
- matching exercises that create conversations
- scenario cards
- discussion questions
How to get ideas for role plays:
Choose topics/themes that are relevant to your students’ ages and needs. Just listening to them talk about their struggles outside the classroom will likely give you excellent topic ideas that will be meaningful to them. Think about everything you would need to do if you moved to an apartment in another city or state. How would you handle a meeting with your child’s teacher when you don’t share a common language? What if you need to see a doctor? Our everyday activities are also our students’ everyday activities.
If you have ever lived outside your own country, draw upon your own experience–what was challenging? What seemed overwhelming? Think about what you did to handle it and if you wish you had taken a different approach. What do you wish you had known about ___ before you tried to do it? What kind of vocabulary and expressions would have helped you the most?
Then, go into your community and ASK the people your students will need to communicate with. If you plan to make a role play about getting something at a pharmacy, ask a pharmacist (during a slow period, of course) what kind of communications difficulties they’ve had with English learners.
Before you know it, you’ll have a role play resource that will engage your students, be meaningful to their lives, and help them practice using English in an authentic way.
Not sure why adult ESL students need to do role plays? I can give you four reasons.