Role work involves students and/or teachers taking on the role of a character different from themselves.
Teacher-in-role often means the teacher with put on a costume piece and transform into a facilitator who will help guide the action and intention of the lesson. For example, a teacher might tell the students “In a moment I am going to put on this hat and when I do, I’ll become Maryanne, the assistant to the mayor.” The teacher will then put on the hat, go into role and facilitate as that character. This allows teachers the opportunity to engage with their students in role while still leading the class and ensuring the instructional goals are met.
Student-in-role involves the students stepping into roles that creates a space for them to take on multiple perspectives outside of their own. Students might go into role as either the Patriots or the Loyalists to debate the events leading up to the Boston Tea party. See the Boston Tea Party lesson plan for an excellent example. See also Mantle of the Expert Strategy. While students are in role they act as that character. They make choices as that character.
PREPARING FOR ROLE WORK:
It is important to gage student's prior knowledge before doing role work. They need to know enough information about the role you are asking them to play in order for rigorous learning to occur during role work. Often we precede role work with an active discussion starter or game as metaphor to help students begin to think about the topic and explore/express their own ideas about it. Always consider your instructional goal, the context of the class, and scaffolding risk when using role play in your class. Watch the Role Play video for further ideas about role play in your classroom!
Always reflect after doing role work, Relate your reflection questions to the instructional goal or focus questions of the lesson.
What did we just do? How did it feel to play a character that wasn't yourself?
How did your character feel about (the problem presented in the role play)? Why?
McCaslin, Nellie. Creative Drama in the Classroom and Beyond. 8th ed. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc., 2006. Print.
Wilhelm, Jeffrey D. Action Strategies for Deepening Comprehension. New York: Scholastic Inc., 2002.