By Barry Bakin, Pacoima Skills Center, Division of Adult and Career Education, Los Angeles Unified School District, USA
I've become a real enthusiast for role-plays derived from reading passages. In one text that I'm using (Townsend Press' "Everyday Heroes") one of the stories relates how a young Mexican boy really wanted to start going to school but his grandmother wouldn't give him permission because she needs him to take care of the farm.
He sneaks off and starts school (at the age of 9) but his grandmother comes looking for him. She finds him at the school after one week and he sees her approaching. He's afraid she'll force him to come home with her, but after a long meeting with the principal of the school, she comes out and says that he can stay, as long as he does all of the chores before coming to class (a two hour walk). The story doesn't say anything else about the discussion between the principal and the grandmother.
The role-play I assigned the class was to recreate the conversation. What did the principal say to the grandmother that caused her to change her mind? What were the grandmother's arguments about why the boy had to come home? I was very pleased with the outcome of the exercises. The arguments for education were so heartfelt, but the understanding of the grandmother's need for him to work on the farm was deep.
The students also did a good job presenting both sides of the argument and then using the right language to talk about reaching a compromise. The students really did great jobs and the best conversations/performances were applauded with real feeling.
If you haven't tried using a reading passage from a newspaper, book, or website as a starting point for a role-play, I'd urge you to try it with your students.