Paired role plays with Extempore: Student-centered in-class practice

If you read our blog, you’ve probably noticed that we talk a lot here about using Extempore for regular speaking practice at home as a way to reinforce skills learned in the classroom, to build fluency, and to develop confidence.

Although those are undeniable benefits of our app, students and teachers can also use Extempore in the classroom to promote speaking competency. A good way to do this is through paired role play activities. The benefits of role play for language learning are numerous:

  • Role play is intrinsically student centered, thus requiring students to put their knowledge to work to complete a task or address a problem, and in turn they take ownership of their learning.
  • It mimics real life communication and reinforces the importance (and fun!) of learning another language.
  • Students are given freedom to create spontaneously, thus providing a snapshot of their true abilities at any given moment.
  • Students will likely engage in peer scaffolding and correction.
  • It’s challenging, but fun!

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Here’s how you might consider setting up a role play activity via Extempore.

  • First, be sure to provide your students with a real-life scenario with concrete roles to play. This may be a mechanic shop (shop owner and client), a restaurant (waiter and diner), or a job interview (boss and potential employee).
  • Create a problem that they must address or a goal that they must achieve throughout the role play scenario. This may flow naturally from the scenario that you select, but don’t be afraid to get creative.
  • For beginning or intermediate learners, it may be a good idea to offer them some structure up front. For example, before they begin practicing, tell your students to hit certain milestones throughout the conversation, such as “be sure to ask about the price of the repairs” (if you’re at an auto shop) or “explain why your factory benefits the region” (if you’re a corporate executive defending your company to an environmentalist). It will reassure your students, but will also encourage them to use the vocabulary and grammar that you’ve covered in class.
  • Give them some time in class to take a couple of practice runs through the conversation (without Extempore), but encourage them to do so without writing anything down. Sure, we all know how hard it can be to speak without a script in front of us, but it will benefit their abilities tremendously.
  • Lastly, ask them record a “video response” in class and then submit it to you for review. If your school permits this, allow some pairs to find a quiet spot to record, such as the hallway or a corner of the library.
  • As for feedback, consider first whether you’re using this activity as a form of formative or summative assessment. If it’s the former, maybe it’s best to assess only on the quality and quantity of information. If it’s the latter, you might consider creating a more detailed rubric in the Extempore assignment parameters and communicate clearly to your students what you hope to see in their role play.

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