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Points about Role Playing

Researched by Yale

Role playing provides students with a chance to act out, rather than merely talk about, ways to solve problems effectively. Many students find this to be an enjoyable and instructive supplement to class discussions. It also gives teachers the opportunity to provide students with supervised practice in dealing with "real life" problem situations.

Role playing can be an effective way to help children integrate their social problem‑solving skills. Role playing enables students to

(a) practice calming down during a problem situation;

(b) act out solutions in an effective, cooperative way;

(c) observe the consequences of their actions; and

(d) practice persistence and overcoming obstacles. Below are some general guidelines about conducting role plays and some tips about ways to carry them out effectively:

1. When introducing role playing, it is helpful to have the teacher take a part as an actor in the initial role play in order to get things off to a good start.

2. Keep initial role plays short. One or two minutes is generally sufficient for making key points.

3. Initial role plays work best if there are no more than two or three actors.

4. It is very important to structure role plays by clearly defining both the situation and the roles to be played by each actor. A teacher can exercise considerable latitude in how detailed a role play script can be. If students cannot function without complete structure, it may be necessary to write out all lines in a skit from start to finish and to have students read them rather than act them out at first. On the other hand, it is also fine to encourage students to generate their own topics for role plays. When this is the case, it is still critical to provide structure from the outset by

(a) asking students to state clearly their problem and feelings, goal, and solutions to be enacted; and

(b) discussing the situation and roles to be played. Students should be encouraged to be realistic in role plays. It is helpful to tell antagonists in role plays to let the protagonist solve problems if the solutions they enact are effective ones that would work in real life.

5. It is generally instructive to enact a role play more than once. Occasionally, you should ask students to

reverse roles or ask for a new volunteer in the second or third enactment.

6. It is fine for teachers to coach students to portray their roles effectively as the action is going on. This coaching provides students with support and feedback.

7. Expect a considerable amount of excitement, nervous laughter, and noise during role plays. This is fine as long as students are paying attention to the skits. Discontinue specific role plays if:

(a) an actor or the audience begins acting in a silly or off‑task manner;

(b) a student gets aggressive or emotionally upset; or

(c) there is prolonged negative behavior or confusion about where the role play is going.

8. Role plays may begin with a student saying, "Lights, camera, action!" They can be interrupted by the teacher saying, "Freeze!" so that students can discuss or redirect the current scene. To restart or resume a scene, the teacher can say, "Thaw!" They can be ended by the teacher saying, "Cut!"

9. Only volunteers should be asked to role play. No one, especially a shy child, should ever be forced to participate. Additionally, it is best to cast students against their parts. For example, do not assign an aggressive individual to be a bully or an overweight individual to be teased. \

10. Praise all role‑play efforts. Always say what you liked about a role play first. At most, suggest only one thing a student might try differently in a reenactment.

11. It is very important to structure things so‑that the audience is actively involved in a role play. First, it is ideal to arrange desks in a circle or horseshoe around the stage where actors will perform. Secondly, assign audience members to observe specific points such as:

a. Was the person calm when he/she tried the solution?

b. What was the problem, and what feelings did the actors show?

c. Was the solution a cooperative, positive one? Did it make the situation better?

d. How was the person's timing, tone of voice, and body language as he/she carried out the plan?

e. Was there an obstacle to the first solution? If so, how well did the actor handle it?

f. Are there other solutions that could be used to solve the problem even better?

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