One of the Most Versatile ESL Activities I Know

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This is a great activity that I developed over time after becoming inspired by a book (Discussion Starters) I read that had an exercise in it. There was a problem with a house having too many Christmas lights and the whole neighborhood became crowded and noisy every winter. One of the exercises was to have students roleplay different people in town: the neighbors, the policeman who had to work overtime, a local business owner who was making a bundle off all the extra people, the people who lived at the house with the lights, the Mayor of the town and maybe a few more.

I decided to adapt this ESL roleplay to a whole bunch of situations. Depending on what chapter we were on or what we were studying I would change the parts. I even started to give homework out so students would think about the parts before they came to class.

Can Humans Be Replaced By Robots? (The Set-Up)

This topic, of course, is just one of many ways you can adapt this ESL roleplay activity. Depending on the students or the way my class is situated I may give them all different tasks ahead of time, I had a rather large class so I broke them up into 5 groups.

  • Factory Workers
  • Teachers
  • Doctors
  • Police Officers
  • Pilots

Each group then had to write or discuss whether the occupation assigned to their class could be replaced by robots.

After They Had Time to Discuss Their Group’s Ideas We Had a RolePlay

ESL ActivityI would take the members of each group and mix them up so they were all with different groups. Then in that new group, they would argue whether or not they could be replaced by robots. It is kind of a mini-debate but with roles that might not necessarily be their own. The other team members, for example, would try to explain why factory workers could be replaced but the factory worker doesn’t want to be replaced so he or she would argue the opposite idea.

Next, We Would Discuss the Topic as a Class

The groups have now all had time to discuss and trade ideas so they can more easily contribute to the class as a whole. I normally would take a representative from each group and have them explain what conclusion the group came to about the different jobs. I would also try and play devil’s advocate and take up the contrary position if the other members of the class didn’t do so.

The idea though is to get the students to do all the talking and debating and I just facilitate. This works well if you have a rambunctious class but you might need to coax them or even feed them lines if they are shy.

Adapt and Overcome

ESL Roleplay ActivityThe beautiful thing about the concept of this ESL lesson is that you can take hot topics in news or subjects in whatever book you are teaching and you can create something like this.  Just try to think of 3 to 5 different points of view or people that might be involved in a story or idea. Another example is violent video games. What do parents think? What about Police? Teachers? Children or teenagers? Adult gamers?  Get the picture? Almost any controversial subject you can find people who will have varying opinions.

Always Be Looking for New ESL Activities for Your Class

The best part of creating new classes is that the more you do it, the more creative you will get. I remember that I used to carry my computer or a notebook with me when I first started teaching because I was constantly coming up with ideas. Try and read a variety of books, and it fills up your creative well.

If you have any questions or ideas of your own, be sure to leave it in the comment section down below. That’s all for now. Remember teaching English is fun, so go have fun!


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