Need to drum up some drama in your classroom?
No matter what age you teach, you probably see your fair share of dramatic performances on a daily basis from all those drama queens and kings that grace your classroom.
Why not put all that talent to good use?
Making role play a regular activity in your Spanish classroom is a great way to bank on your students’ love for juicy theatricals.
It’s also a great way to get kids out of their seats and speaking in Spanish. All you need to do is throw out some fun ideas to get their imaginations going, and you’ll have an enjoyable and versatile learning experience.
Let’s take a closer look at this essential and creative Spanish classroom activity.
What Is Role Play?
Role play is a learning activity in which students creatively represent real-life situations by taking on different character roles. Role play is an excellent way to ensure your students are hitting higher-level thinking goals, as this teaching method asks students to explore a certain topic, interpret the information and then reproduce learning.
As students act out different scenarios, they take some ownership over their learning and are much more likely to retain the information acquired.
It’s important to emphasize that role play is not just an activity where students are asked to read a pre-written script (known as “Readers’ Theater”), but instead it’s an activity that challenges students to create their own script to demonstrate mastery over a topic or concept.
While Readers’ Theater activities can be beneficial in their own right, role-playing takes dialogue exercises to a completely different level. Let’s look at a couple of simple examples:
- Your beginner level class is learning how to introduce themselves and ask simple questions to get to know others. Give students some props to get into character (i.e., a fake mustache or a pink wig) and have them create a skit about their characters getting to know one another.
- You need a good speaking fluency activity for your advanced level class. Turn on a few minutes of a Spanish novela (soap opera) and watch a few scenes in order for the students to get the gist of the plot line.
Now turn off the novela, put your students in partners and allow them to come up and act out the next scene in the story. For even more of a challenge, don’t allow the students to confer before they act out their scene, but have them improvise as they act it out.
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The Benefits of Role Play in the Classroom
Role play is beneficial in any educational setting, but role play in the Spanish classroom is priceless. Our goal as language teachers is to get students conversing in another language, so the necessity of practicing that skill daily is kind of a given.
Encourages creativity and camaraderie
With role play, students take what they’ve learned and use their imaginations to create a new scenario, effectively moving from the concrete to the abstract. While collaborating with peers about these new scenarios, students are building social skills and acquiring perspectives by stepping into the shoes of another.
As students participate in the creating and collaborating process, they’re inevitably improving their ability to communicate and express themselves.
Makes learning purposeful
Role play is an authentic activity and meaningful activity. Not only will students be developing language skills, but teachers can use role play as a platform to create meaningful conversations about real-life issues, everyday scenarios and different cultural perspectives.
Rather than just reading a textbook or taking notes about a particular topic, students become participants in their learning and use their imagination to simulate a real-life situation. In turn, students will be more equipped to apply classroom learning to actual experiences.
Meets language objectives
Lastly, role play activities are the whole package when it comes to interactive learning. They’re kind of a holy grail for language classrooms.
When students participate in role play, they’re knocking out all kinds of learning objectives: understanding the information, researching topics for further understanding, collaborating with peers about the topic and putting learning to use by verbally expressing themselves in Spanish and listening as others express themselves.
Such concentrated interaction between students and the information presented to them within the classroom leads to mastery of the subject matter.
Guidelines for Successful Role Play Activities
Role-playing can be about as basic or advanced as you want to make it.
You can use it to fill in an extra 10 minutes of class with some improv skits or create a week-long project that has students researching background information for a conversational presentation.
However you implement role play, here are some helpful guidelines to follow:
- Know your learning goals. What are you trying to accomplish through the activity? You may use role play for a fun verbal fluency activity, or maybe you’ll use it as a way to get students to research and talk about real-world issues in Hispanic cultures. Defining your goal helps you articulate your objectives.
- Establish guidelines for students. Do students need to incorporate certain grammar constructs or vocabulary words in their role play? Do you want them to research a relevant topic and present that info? Be clear about what you expect from the students’ presentation so that they can effectively incorporate these aspects.
- Stock up on some authentic props. While props aren’t essential for role play activities, they can definitely make things more interesting and help students really get into character.
- Critique/feedback session. After students complete their role play, provide space for class discussion. Encourage self-reflection and open conversation about the topic to further ensure understanding and mastery of the topic.
10 Unique Spanish Role Plays to Create Some Drama in Your Classroom
Research and conduct an awesome interview
Suggested learning goal: Students will examine famous Hispanic people, cultures or events in order to further their understanding of important cultural aspects, both past and present.
Have students create a role play in which they conduct an interview after learning more about a specific person, place or situation.
For example, if your class is studying the Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire, three students may want to imagine a joint interview of the Spanish expedition leader, Hernán Cortés, and the Aztec ruler, Montezuma.
Students can have a little fun with this by playing up assumed character traits and giving accounts of occurrences from their character’s point of view—all while presenting information learned through research about the conflict.
Stage a friendly debate
Suggested learning goal: Students will investigate a current issue within the Hispanic community, determine a position and then justify their stance in a debate with facts.
More than likely, a discussion of current events in the Hispanic community comes up in your classroom. After one of these discussions, why not let students delve deeper by looking at one such hot-topic issue from different perspectives?
With this role play activity, they’ll need to present two different points of view and support their opinions with facts. For example, two students may decide to hash out the implications of immigration into the United States.
While a true debate may be for advanced classes only, you could have beginner/younger students debate simpler concepts, such as whether cats or dogs make the best pet.
Be participants in a dating show
Suggested learning goal: Students will demonstrate competency in forming questions and answering them accordingly.
This is a way to get students asking and responding to questions about themselves. Choose three students of each gender and separate them with a divider.
Have students establish a certain persona and encourage them to stick to their roles as they ask each other questions and try to find the most suitable candidate. This activity is sure to bring a lot of laughs to your students.
Present a quirky newscast
Suggested learning goal: Students will research a topic or current event and present three to five facts to demonstrate understanding of the subject matter.
Rather than students giving a simple presentation, have them take on the role of a newscaster. Whether they’re pretending to be a meteorologist in the midst of a hurricane or an anchor recounting a developing story, students will be encouraged to play the part. They may even make a video of themselves and bring that in for the class to watch.
Act out wild, inventive scenarios
Suggested learning goal: Students will improve Spanish speaking fluency through responding with to invented scenarios using appropriate vocabulary and sentence structure.
I love this one. Give students a note card and ask them to write down a funny or random scenario (i.e., What would you do (and say) if three lions ran into the room right now?). Mix up the cards and have students draw from the pile. Ask a group of students to act out their response to the scenario and have the rest of the class try to guess what the note card said.
Become a master teacher
Suggested learning goal: Students will show mastery of new grammar rules by instructing others in the new concept.
It’s no secret that one of the best ways to learn and truly demonstrate mastery over a new concept is to be able to instruct others in said concept.
Ensure understanding and test student mastery by having them take on the role of the teacher. Your students might even surprise you and find a way to explain things better to their classmates than you might have.
Suggested learning goal: Students will come to a deeper understanding of Hispanic culture and places through implementation of authentic materials.
This is a great role play option to help students study different cultures, countries or cities. Have students take on the role of a tour guide who leads the class through a new place.
Something to talk about
Suggested learning goal: Students will investigate and explore new Spanish themes and topics.
Sometimes you just need to get your students talking about a specific topic, like holidays or cultural customs. In these cases, challenge the students to create a conversation that summarizes the topic. For example, a pair of students may choose to discuss the Mexican tradition of Christmas posadas, the typical community celebration that begins nine days before Christmas.
Have students act as friends who are discussing the activities that take place during the festivities. They’ll need to research the activities conducted by Mexicans during this time, as well as communicate their learning to the class through their role play—which means everyone is learning this Mexican custom.
Be a slick salesman
Suggested learning goal: Students will practice the use of adjectives and persuasive language by inventing and advertising a new product in the target language.
Have students choose or invent different products and ask them to create a sales pitch for their classmates. They can create an infomercial in which they advertise their product and work to convince others to buy it as well.
One fun idea is to have other students in the class fill out a sheet that rates how effective the “infomercial” was. If several students present different products, the class can discuss which product interested them the most.
Investigate a crime scene
Suggested learning goal: Students will formulate questions and answers in complete sentences using appropriate vocabulary and sentence structure.
Create a crime scene in your classroom that has several different clues about what might have happened there. Then have students come up in pairs and conduct an investigation.
Have them practice by asking questions and answering in complete sentences. Ask the pair to decide what happened and “solve” the case. Finally, ask the class to vote on which pair came up with the best explanation of the crime scene.
The next time your students start laying the drama on thick, just sit back and enjoy the show!
You can rest in the fact that role play activities are helping students meet your learning goals while keeping class fresh and entertaining. That should definitely leave you feeling happily ever after.
Tricia Wegman Contreras has spent the last seven years in Costa Rica working as a bilingual learning specialist with students of all ages. She enjoys using her background as an intervention specialist to help all types of language learners succeed.
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