Role-Playing and Debates

Role-playing and debates can be highly effective forms of teaching. When students participate in these types of activities, they are fully engaged. In role-playing, students pretend to be other people and interact as these new persons. In debates, students argue two or more sides of an issue by bringing up facts and important points. If used correctly, these methods can create educational memories that will last a lifetime.

Controlling the Situation

Role-playing and debates can get out of hand if you as a teacher are not in control. You need to have strict rules for each of the activities, and you must enforce them fairly and consistently. When students begin talking at the same time or making fun of each other, you need to stop them immediately.

Role-playing puts students in a vulnerable position in which they may be open to ridicule. It is important that you stress proper respect and treatment for those students participating. Even one incident can cause students to avoid participating in future role-playing activities.

Tips and Techniques

It can be challenging to have all students participate in some activities. For example, having a debate with 15 students on each side is unmanageable. A great technique for debates is to create teams of four or five students each and then have the rest of the class be the audience. Because the debating team has to do a lot of research and work before and during the debate, you need to make sure that the audience does a comparable amount of work.

Therefore, you should require audience members to also do some research before the debate begins and come up with questions that they wish to ask the debating teams at the conclusion of the debate. You could have them take notes during the debate. Finally, you could have these students “judge” which side won the debate.

Role-playing requires a lot of preparation on the part of the teacher before the activity even begins. You must have a clear purpose and understanding of what you wish to accomplish through this technique.

If the students are to take on the role of historical figures, they should be responsible for studying that person. You may ask them to research their historical figure, or you may choose to provide them with clues to help them make the characters more realistic. You can even offer extra credit to those who bring costumes.

When a role-playing lesson is finished, students need to be debriefed. There are several methods for debriefing students. You can have them create a reflection journal or answer questions stressing the information you feel was most important. Sometimes, students will really enjoy role-playing and even debating, but they will not necessarily understand what information they need to remember for future exams. End-of-the-lesson review can be very effective at focusing student learning.

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