Role Play Activities for ESL Classes

Written by simon fuller
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Role Play Activities for ESL Classes
Role play activities can help ESL students learn specific aspects of language. (Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

ESL classes teach the English language to foreign students and others whose primary language is not English. Role play activities, in which students act out certain everyday situations, such as ordering a taxi or paying at a restaurant, allow participants to practice their English. These activities are useful because they're engaging and present students with a generally free-form environment, which can boost their confidence with the new language.


Some role playing activities place students in fabricated situations in which the participants must explain a particular scenario or otherwise relate a story. These kinds of activities test the students' ability to relay large amounts of information in a short space of time, as well as enabling them to practice the use of past and future tenses. For example, one storytelling activity could find a participant relating the tale of when he met a famous celebrity; others working with that student could then ask questions about the incident.


In an interview role play, one student plays the job interviewer, asking a range of fairly short questions, while her partner plays the interviewee, and must answer the questions in a plausible manner. You can give students an opportunity to decide on the questions being asked beforehand, or allow the interviewer free rein to ask any questions she likes, as long as the questions relate to the job the interview is based around. This type of activity allows students to rehearse job interview skills, while practicing present tense and formal language.

Take a Message

This kind of scenario finds students practicing the kind of message they'd leave on voice mail or in a situation where the particular person they'd like to speak to isn't available. The class teacher should impersonate the individual taking the message, while the student is allowed to speak for a minute or so; the student should be given a short list, containing the important information he needs to get across via the message in bullet point form. This activity can help students master reported speech and concise language.

Asking For...

This kind of role play activity has almost unlimited scope, since the idea is simply that one student takes the part of an individual inquiring about a specific subject, such as the location of the nearest restaurant or shop, or perhaps about the price of drinks at a bar, while her partner answers her questions. The kind of detail that the first student needs to find out can become more complex based on the ability of the class; for example, the scenario might find one student inquiring about a house he'd like to buy. The student would therefore ask for its price, the number of bedrooms it contains and the kind of heating installed, for instance.

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