ESL Speaking Activities: Two Fun Roleplays

ESL and EFL students often benefit from roleplays: taking on another identity can lessen people’s inhibitions, not to mention be plain old fun. You can also create role plays to practice different kinds of functional language (giving advice, persuading someone, making a request).

A few tips:

  • Make sure to equip your students with clear instructions – which may include functional phrases or just vocabulary they need to understand their roles – before you start.
  • Take your students’ personalities into account when selecting roleplays to do. I once used the first roleplay below – a cheating spouse – with a mixed group which included some rather conservative students; this probably wasn’t the best idea. At the same time, it is a roleplay and it’s okay to have fun and use your imagination.
  • I give different role cards to different students and ask them not to read each others’ cards; keeping their info to themselves keeps it more “real” as they have to react on the spot.
  • Read a few more tips in Speaking Activities.
  • I would probably use the following roleplays with Upper Intermediate level or above.

“Dear Abby”

A: You think your spouse is seeing another man/woman. You found some mysterious emails last week (what did they say?), and there are other signs as well (give some examples). You haven’t mentioned any of this to your spouse – you are especially worried that s/he will be angry that you read his/her email. You want to know if you should mention this to your spouse (if so, how should you bring it up?) or if you should wait til you know more (what will you need to wait for? How will you find out more?)

B: This person is having a problem with his/her spouse Ask questions to find out more about the relationship, what the problem is, and try to help the caller decide what the best solution is to this problem.

“Teenage Dilemmas”

Son/Daughter: You’re going to ask one of your parents (have you asked the other one yet? why or why not?) if you can go on holiday with your friends (where to? for how long?). You really want to go (why?) but you think your parent is going to say no. Explain why s/he should let you go (give an example of something you did recently that shows how responsible you are). Try not to get angry or upset with your parent, but continue trying to persuade him/her.

Parent: Your 17-year-old son/daughter is going to ask if s/he can go on holiday without you (find out the details: where, when, for how long, with who, who is paying?) You love your child and want the best for him/her, but you don’t think s/he should go (why?). Listen to what s/he says, but explain your reasons too (give an example of something s/he did recently that shows that s/he is not really responsible enough yet).

For another excellent roleplay (most likely for Advanced level students, try Political Nightmares from