Everyday role plays are essential for our adult ESL students. 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 everyday role plays tailored to your adult ESL students’ needs can help you do all that!
What can everyday role plays teach students?
Role plays are a fantastic way to prepare for various day-to-day life events, big and small. 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 everyday role plays, consider including the following:
- related idioms
- essential vocabulary
- matching exercises that create conversations
- scenario cards
- discussion questions
How to get ideas for everyday role plays
When you plan to create your own role play resources, you can tailor them to be as specifically matched to your students as you want. Forget about using fairytale reader’s theatre or having them practice lines for a conversation they’ll never have. When you are looking for ideas for themes and topics, consider the following:
First, keep your current students in mind.
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 often also our students’ everyday activities.
Second, think back.
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? Answering those questions will help you create the type of everyday role plays your students need for their lives here.
When they first arrive, our students likely want someone with them to smooth the way, but they won’t want someone to hold their hand forever. Help them achieve their independence so that they can rely on themselves.
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, for example, ask a pharmacist (during a slow period, of course) what kind of communication difficulties they’ve had with English learners. Choose locations near your school as your students are more likely to frequent those places.
Before you know it, you’ll have everyday role plays that will engage your students, be meaningful to their lives, and help them practice using English in an authentic way.
Read more about using role plays in adult ESL!
- The Amazing Power of Role Plays in Adult ESL
- 4 Impressive Reasons Role Plays Bring Real-Life English to the Classroom