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Reading in the classroom: role plays

December 03, 2019 by s.nagele

The end of the term is getting closer and you might find that your students need something fun after long months of hard work. Why not seize this opportunity and try our lesson ideas for classroom reading?

Reading in the classroom usually focuses on reading short texts that were written for a specific purpose. Some of these include teaching vocabulary, demonstrating grammar and learning a specific exam strategy, thus making classroom reading sessions tight and task-oriented. There is pressure on the student and the teacher to finish the task in time.

Why can classroom reading feel like such a chore for all? Reading is usually a solitary act that most people like to do in a comfortable chair when they are in the right mood for it. Others like reading while travelling, but first they love to settle down in a comfortable chair to sink into the pages. However, our students have to read in the classroom, surrounded by their peers, following instructions when they might not necessarily feel like it. This is one of the reasons for the gap between pleasure and classroom reading.

Role plays can help students to find connections with the text. I am sure you've been using role plays to consolidate new functional language, to prepare for a real life task and to practise exam situations. Combining reading and role play is an excellent way to activate background knowledge, contextualize the text and to explore the setting. It is a great way to use new vocabulary and have real-life speaking practice. Drama teachers point out how acting and dramatization help students remember certain phrases, passages, situations and ideas for a long time.

Don't worry if it seems hard at the beginning or the class becomes noisy. If everyone has a task and knows their lines, it will work out smoothly. If you have more students than roles, you can also have a director, a choreographer, a scene designer and a playwright.

Here are some ways you can use your readers for role plays.

1 Use a passage or a chapter from a reader.

This works well if you have a double lesson.

In the first part of the lesson you can activate background knowledge, understand the setting, read the chapter together and study the characters. You can highlight phrases that will be important in the role play. It works with young readers as well as adult groups. In the second part of the lesson create the space for the role play, decide about the characters, write the cue cards if needed and have fun.

2 Use the whole reader for role play.

This works well with very short young readers in a small group or higher level students who have just finished a story.

You can replay a scene several times, you can have a rehearsal first after which you can improve the scene or swap roles. If you have a large class, you can do group work and have a scene for each group.

For successful role plays, your students will need to understand the context, the personality of the characters, have a confident understanding of the language and have enough space to rehearse and act. Sometimes we leave the fun part right to the end of the lesson and have to do it in a hurry. Let your students take their time and have fun!

Here is a sample lesson plan with some cue cards.

Role play reading lesson - Teacher's notes


  • Materials: Download a free sample chapter from our website. You can use a chapter from any reader you own. You can either ask students to read the chapters in groups or if you have a projector or an IWB, you can read the chapter together. Download our cue cards based on the sample pages from two readers. You can also use our template to prepare own cue cards.
  • Time: 45 mins
  • Levels: 1-5

Lesson plan

Objective: Read a passage from a book, background knowledge activation, vocabulary practice, controlled speaking practice

1 Introduce the title or the chapter (if you have been reading a book) to your students and tell them that today you will have a different reading session. Give out the reading materials or set up the screen with the sample chapter.

2 It is important to activate background knowledge. Look at the illustrations in the book and discuss clues about the setting, the time, the characters and the storyline. Brainstorm ideas about the title and the illustrations. You can ask if your students have any real-life experiences similar to the topic of the story.

3 If you have a large class, ask your students to form groups. If you are using a screen to read the text, you can work together. In either case, you can form groups for the role play. If you are reading on a screen, you will either have to pay attention to the individual reading speed or you will read the story out loud at a slow pace.

4 When you have read the text, discuss the storyline, interesting or new vocabulary, and talk about the setting and the characters. You can also discuss what is going to happen next.

5 Choose students for each role. Hand out the cue cards. If there are more students than roles, you can add extra roles such as director, costume and scene designer. Alternatively, you can repeat the same scene with different groups.

6 Give enough time to your students to study their roles. Tell them to write their lines and notes on their cue cards. They can memorize their lines, but the cards will be there to help.

Have fun!