6 Steps to Successful Role-Play In The Classroom...
One question I'm often asked is how do you get children to to stay on topic during their role-play? So in this post I've put together a few of my favourite tips I use to help encourage children to dig deep into their imagination during their role-play.
Step 1 - Build their vocabulary
Flashcards above from Twinkl
Vocabulary is key to successful play. Apart from developing their literacy skills it will give them the knowledge and language to play on topic. Every time I start a new topic I drill the language associated with that topic during discrete lesson time. Using flashcard I model the language using a sentence and have the children repeat it back. We repeat this activity and build on it daily (it only takes a few minutes and makes a good lesson transition).
And so their language develops. You can add connectives, adverbs etc. This lesson may seem old school but it works. It is the repetition of this drill that imbeds good language structure into their speech. Make sure teacher holds up the flashcard picture (with words if children are reading) throughout the whole drill. This method of teaching new language can also be used for tricky words, Irish vocabulary etc. Grab your free copy of the above lesson here!
Step 2 - Read lots of stories around the theme
Get Epic is my go to for stories that fit into my topic... whatever the topic, whatever the genre! Not only does it reinforce the language you want them to use in their play but it also fuels the imagination by giving them ideas to roleplay.
Step 3 - Practice the role-play procedure
This is probably the best way to get children to role-play on topic. Imagine if someone asked you to role-play the circus if you had never been or never read a story about it. Well chances are more than one of the children in your class haven't been. So watching role-play online (google it before class ?) is a good idea and you'll find plenty of videos where children are role-playing.
When we reviewed this video as a class, we discussed what went well and what we could improve on (self-assessment of language here!). The children notice that they were missing important greetings and pleasantries (hello, good afternoon, please and thank you!). I didn't pick up on this until we watched the video back. One child even noted that the customer only says "10" and forgot to say "10 cent"!
So even though this was a discrete maths lesson it forms the foundations for their language role-play during Aistear.
Step 4 - Same Skills, Different Theme!
There are certain play scenarios that lend themselves to most play topics, while incorporating subject areas and curriculum objectives. The children will become well practiced at playing them with repeated practice.
Step 5 - Creating the environment for role-play
In the photos below the children move from the ticket office, to the ticket collector, who directs the customer to the seating area in front of the is the circus stage. The children over the other side of the room are making flyers for the circus. We utilise every inch of the whole classroom. Children can move around as much as their imagination desires!
Step 6 - All play is ok!
If children go off topic don't sweat it! All play is massively educational and I guarantee you they are learning during every minute of it! In Junior infants I am so relaxed with the children and allow them the time they need to develop good playing skills. In senior infants I expect them to stay on topic a little more but it still ok if their play developes into something completely different. The social and emotional benefits of play alone are what makes happy, healthy children!
"We need to nourish this kind of imagination not suppress it!"
Everytime I ask him this question (which he's well used to by now!) he always has some logical answer of how his dinosaurs fit into the topic. That is clever! We need to nourish this kind of imagination not suppress it!
3 O'Clock Show - Dinosaur Joins the Circus!
Overcome your fear of play!
The biggest worry many teachers have is a fear of another teacher (or God forbid an inspector!) walking in their class during Aistear play. I often hear teachers say "I hate when someone comes into my class during Aistear!" If you're like every other teacher you've probably at some stage though this when a teacher walks into your room.
"Oh God... does it look like we're just playing and having fun?"
So here my view on that...
All play is learning. Chances are a teacher who's just walked into your room while the children are engrossed in play has no idea just how much hard work you've all done that day! This is the children's time to enjoy some fun, child-led learning.
Yes it's Noisy (YES NOISY) because it's play, not mime! (and I'm not endorsing children shout but come on, they're going to be excited, animated and chatty) putting to use all that language I taught them!
Yes, if you walk into my room when I'm just introducing a new topic it won't be perfectly kitted out and on topic. The topic develops as the children's understanding of it does.
Know that there will always be teachers who just don’t get play, no matter how many times you try and explain it to them. Sadly, through no fault of their own they just don’t see the value of play. Maybe no one ever let them play when they were small? perhaps you could invite them to join in a play session!? Only kidding... they’d rather lie on a bed of nails!
And finally... sometimes we're just having fun and that's ok too!