Русова Ю.В. Role-playing in foreign-language classes as means of future primary school teachers’ gaining fluency in speech and readiness for intercultural communication

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Русова Юлія Володимирівна – студентка Педагогічного інституту Київського університету імені Бориса Грінченка, спеціальність «Початкова освіта», кафедра іноземних мов і методик їх навчання Київського університету імені Бориса Грінченка

Стаття присвячена проблемі використання рольових ігор на заняттях з іноземної мови як засобу оволодіння майбутніми вчителями початкової школи навичками вільного говоріння англійською мовою і готовності до здійснення міжкультурної комунікації. У статті визначено переваги використання рольових ігор на заняттях з іноземної мови; запропоновано декілька ефективних рекомендацій з використання рольових ігор, які викладачі можуть використовувати для формування та розвитку у майбутніх вчителів початкової школи навичок вільного говоріння англійською мовою та їх готовності до здійснення міжкультурної комунікації.

Ключові слова: рольові ігри, вільне говоріння, навички говоріння, міжкультурна комунікація, заняття з іноземної мови, майбутні вчителі початкової школи.

Статья посвящена проблеме использования ролевых игр на занятиях по иностранному языку как средства овладения будущими учителями начальной школы навыками свободного говорения на английском языке и готовности к осуществлению межкультурной коммуникации. В статье определены преимущества использования ролевых игр на занятиях по иностранному языку; предложено несколько эффективных рекомендаций использования ролевых игр, которые преподаватели могут использовать для формирования и развития у будущих учителей начальной школы навыков свободного говорения на английском языке и их готовности к осуществлению межкультурной коммуникации.

Ключевые слова: ролевые игры, свободное говорение, навыки говорения, межкультурная коммуникация, занятия по иностранному языку, будущие учителя начальной школы.

The article is devoted to the problem of using role-playing in foreign-language classes as means of future primary school teachers’ gaining fluency in English speech and readiness for intercultural communication. The benefits of using role-playing in foreign-language classes are outlined; several effective recommendations on role-playing usage which can help teachers form and develop future primary school teachers’ fluency in English speech and their readiness for intercultural communication are proposed in the article.

Key words: role-playing, fluency in speech, speaking skills, intercultural communication, foreign-language classes, future primary school teachers


Relevance of the topic

Nowadays Ukrainian society needs adaptable graduates who can be competitive at the global labour market, can function effectively in social, cultural, and professional environments, and are ready for intercultural communication. Such requirements of modern society affects the educational sphere, the current priority direction of which is to form a new generation of teachers, namely primary school teachers.

As each primary school teacher plays a significant role in pupils’ language acquisition, has motivational influence on students and forms the individuality of a primary school student by means of a foreign language, first he should acquire the ability to speak a foreign language at an independent level and be aware of the cultural background of the country the language of which he is learning. This goal can be achieved, to our mind, with the help of role-playing usage in foreign-language classes.

The analysis of research

Since the 1980s the active methods of teaching foreign language speaking, including role-playing games, has received increased attention of both native and foreign scientists and methodologists. Different aspects of using role-playing in foreign-language classes have been studied so far: educational opportunities of role-playing in language learning (O.A. Kolesnikova, E.I. Passov, E.M. Dianova, D. Nunan, J.C. Richards, Th.S. Rodgers, C. Livingstone), characteristic features of role-playing games (V.A. Artemov, V.M. Filatov, H.V. Yankovska, H.H. Kalaieva, H.A. Kytaihorodska, E.I. Passov, D.B. Elkonin), development of students’ communicative competence by means of role-playing games (H.K. Lozanov, O.V. Palka, L.P. Shevtsova, C. Livingstone, A. Cohen, D. Crookall, S. Savignon), peculiarities of teaching speaking through the use of role-playing (V.A. Artemov, H.A. Kytaihorodska, M.A. Lyusher, E.I. Passov, T.I. Oliinyk, E. Milroy, M.E. Shaw, R.R. Blake, D. Nunan, J.S. Mouton).

The purpose formulation of research

Nowadays Communicative Approach that involves language teaching and learning through students’ active and interactive involvement in simulated communicative situations, has become a prevalent approach in foreign language teaching. Having analysed lots of recent publications, we found out that the problem of using such active method of teaching English as role-playing games is topical and it has been studied by a great deal of linguists and methodologists. It was investigated that successful forming and developing students’ fluency in English speech and their readiness for intercultural communication depends on the context of the role-playing game, development of the game scenario (situation), appropriate level of vocabulary, factual preparation of the game, students’ understanding and awareness of their roles, and quality of games’ debriefing etc.

However, despite the number of investigations on the mentioned problem its practical aspect is paid little attention and needs further development. Thus, the aim of our research is to determine the effective instructional recommendations of successful classroom role-playing games implementation, which lecturers can use in forming and developing future primary school teachers’ fluency in English speech and readiness for intercultural communication.

The main material

There is no universally agreed definition of role-playing in scientific and methodological literature. Different authors have come up with different definitions of role-playing. Nonetheless, there is a general gist that could be understood from looking at different researches and publications.

Firstly, role-playing is one of the techniques that are generally connected to Communicative Language Teaching. Perhaps it could also be argued that role-playing embodies the very principles underlying the Communicative Approach by focusing on the act of communication and the process of making-meaning from spoken language. A. Doff adds that “role-playing is a way of bringing situations from real life into the classroom” [3, p. 120].

Secondly, the technique is seen as a good way of developing students’ interaction skills, particularly social interaction skills. According to A. Cohen, role-playing supposes that students pretend they are in various social contexts and have a variety of social roles. In role-playing activities a lecturer gives information to students such as who they are and what they think or feel. It puts students in situations in which they are required to use and develop language necessary in social relationships and helps them build up their social skills [2, p. 261]. These skills allow students to engage in real communication by helping them to be proficient in sharing information and negotiating meaning. It is also possible that these skills will help students as they try to communicate in the target language outside of the classroom, provided they are motivated enough to do so.

Finally, role-playing is also seen as having a set methodological framework no matter how it is used in the language classroom. According to linguist D. Nunan, role-playing “can be wholly scripted or wholly improvised, students are given choice in what to say and there is a clear aim to be achieved” [8, p. 261]. This given framework could be useful to lecturers as it provides them with a clear structure on how to prepare a useful role-playing activity for a class.

The benefits of using role-playing in foreign-language classes are obvious. We will mention some of them.

Role-playing usage facilitates a match between structure and social functions and can be used for both communicative and focused grammar practice [1, p. 68].

Practicing dialogues using realistic scenarios and role-playing leads to language fluency. Using role-playing will allow them to practice words, phrases, and sentences in a realistic setting – using appropriate response time, inflection, etc.

Role-playing often encourages and inspires students to access resources and language that they may not even know they possess. It also allows students to take on an identity different from their own which may give them a greater sense of freedom and allow them to open up.

Role-playing can be used as an effective assessment tool. When students present their role-playing, it is easy to find out if they have grasped the grammar point, content, vocabulary, or other new information presented to them.

Role-playing is also a great way to teach cultural factors. If you are trying to teach invitations, excuses, or anything that might be cultural sensitive or different, role-playing helps illustrate an appropriate procedure. Then students are able to observe a model and practice for themselves. Thus, when they encounter a similar scenario on their own, they are prepared and culturally aware of the appropriate responses. Christina Maxwell notes: “Language learners can gain a deeper awareness of the target culture by means of experiences in which they role play authentic situations” [7, p. 2].

Using role-playing games in the foreign-language classes increases students’ empathy. When students participate in role-playing activities they are likely to be supportive of their classmates as they understand that putting yourself out there in these types of activities makes you vulnerable.

Role-playing activities give students practice communicating in authentic ways and situations. This will give them more confidence when presented with those scenarios when they are outside of class.

The process students go through when they role-play (making or learning the dialogue, practicing, presenting) helps solidify the new information they are learning. Dramatic activities provide “some of the richest and most memorable experiences (students) have in their struggle with the second language” [1, p. 71].

Role-playing activities can be modified to fit upper and lower level students within the same activity. Lower level students can stick to the previously generated script and upper level students can modify the dialogue or improvise on their own. Students can take on as much or as little spontaneity as they feel comfortable.

Role-playing activities are a curative for the frustration and lagging interest which can often occur during second language learning and provides strong instrumental motivation for learning the language. Role-playing raises self-esteem by demonstrating to second language learners that they are indeed capable of expressing themselves in communicative situations.

It must be also mentioned that successful using of role-playing in foreign-language classes requires six steps: selection of game situation, designing a role-playing, linguistic preparation, factual preparation, distribution of roles, and outcomes assessment of role-playing.

A lecturer should select role-playings that can give students an opportunity to practice their knowledge of English, speaking skills and pedagogical skills. At the same time, they should be interesting for students. One way is to let students choose the situation themselves. They might either suggest themes that intrigue them or select a topic from a list of given ones. A lecturer might make up an effective role-playing based on cultural differences to form students’ readiness for intercultural communication.

After choosing a context for a role-playing, the next step is to come up with ideas on how this situation may develop. It is important to take into consideration students’ level of language proficiency. If role-playing requires more profound linguistic competence than students possess, it would probably be better to simplify it or to leave it until appropriate. On low intermediate and more advanced levels, role-playings with problems or conflicts in them work very well because they motivate the characters to talk [4, p. 38].

Once a lecturer has selected a suitable role-playing, he should predict the language needed for it. At the beginning level, the language needed is almost completely predictable. The higher the level of students the more difficult it is to prefigure accurately what language students will need, but some prediction is possible anyway. It is recommended to introduce any new vocabulary before the role-playing.

Factual preparation implies providing students with concrete information and clear role descriptions so that they could play their roles with confidence.

Here are some examples of role-playing situations. 1. Studying Abroad. Requires two students. Student A is the student from Hargeisa (Somali Republic). Student B is Student A’s professor. Student A goes to talk to the professor about opportunities for studying abroad (in Ukraine) and asks for help regarding exchange programs, scholarships, costs, calculating grades, work-study information, etc.

2. New Roommate. Requires two students. One student acts as the English university student. The other student acts as a new international student moving into the same dorm room. The two should begin with the usual introductions including: finding out each other’s names, giving a quick tour of the room and nearby amenities, and asking questions about each other’s university courses.

In a more advanced class and in a more elaborate situation include on a cue card a fictitious name, status, age, personality, and fictitious interests and desires as it is shown below.

1. Accepting a job overseas Situation: John’s university has offered him a teaching job in Paris. The salary is excellent and there are a lot of perks. However, he has not accepted yet. He discusses the matter with his wife, Susan, and their eighteen-year old daughter, Kate.


SUSAN. You have a shop in Edinburgh and do not speak any foreign languages. You look after your aging and sick mother, 80. Going to live abroad would mean giving up everything you do and starting over, not to mention that you would have to take your mother with you, because your sister Edith is very careless and you do not trust she will look after her properly.

KATE. You are about to finish secondary school and would like to study abroad and see the world.

JOHN. This is a wonderful opportunity and you trust that your family will follow you. However, you do not want to make them unhappy and will try to please them as much as possible.

Next stage is the distribution of role-playing game roles between students. Some lecturers ask for volunteers to act out a role-playing in front of the class, though it might be a good idea to plan in advance what roles to assign to which students. At the beginning level a lecturer can take one of the roles and act it out as a model. Sometimes, students have role-playing exercises for the home task. They learn new words and expressions, think about what they can say and then act out the role play in the next language class.

In the role-playing games can be one or several role-playing groups. If the whole class represents one role-playing group, it is necessary to keep some minor roles which can be taken away if there are less people in class than expected. With several role-playing groups, when deciding on their composition, both the abilities and the personalities of students should be taken into consideration. For example, a group consisting only of the shyest students will not be a success. Very often, optimum interaction can be reached by letting students work in one group with their friends [4, p. 40-41].

Whether taking any part in role-playing or not, the role of a lecturer is to be as unobtrusive as possible. He should listen for students’ errors making notes. Mistakes noted during the role-playing will provide him with feedback for further practice and revision. [6, p. 76] It is recommended to tolerate students’ grammatical errors and correct them later, not during their speech because it can discourage speakers.

When role-playing is finished, a lecturer should spend some time on debriefing. This does not mean pointing out and correcting mistakes. After role-playing, students are satisfied with themselves, they feel that they have used their knowledge of the language for something concrete and useful. This feeling of satisfaction will disappear if every mistake is analyzed. It might also make the students less confident and less willing to do the other role-playings [6, p. 102].

Debriefing means asking every student’s opinion about role-playing and welcoming their comments. In addition to group discussion an evaluation questionnaire can be used.

From our point of view, the use of all these recommendations can make students more active at English practical classes, help improve their fluency in English, form their readiness for intercultural communication and at the same time make their learning more meaningful and fun.


Thus, we are of the opinion that fluent speaking is the main aim of second language learning in the higher pedagogical institution. We are sure that role-playing is an excellent means of improving future primary school teachers’ speaking skills and foreign language fluency in a range of simulated situations. In the context of intercultural communication, role-playing games help train intercultural awareness by choosing role descriptions which include different cultural heritages and by including players who come from different countries. Therefore, language lecturers should pay great attention to role-playing games usage in teaching English, remembering six steps for successful classroom implementation.

The next step of our research is to study the effectiveness of using role-playing in teaching English grammar.


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