When I attended a funeral recently, I occupied the quieter part of the room so that I could think of the departed in silence and not be part of the inane chatter of the people who had come to offer their respects. As a spectator, you witness people coming in, you don’t hear their words but what you see is how they move, how they use their body…in essence, body language. It then struck me how as teachers we have failed to infuse any sense of body language in ourselves; the facial expressions of 90 percent of the people were neither sympathetic nor solemn. Some had an embarrassed smile plastered on their faces even as they said, “I am sorry….” When they were leaving, there was still that smile lingering on their faces which was in stark contrast to the expressions of the immediate family. Even young people had the same mismatched expressions on their faces. Their bodies were lax or relaxed and not stiff and respectful, as it ought to be. So when we are teaching role-plays in school, what are we teaching? Are we still looking at grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation like the textbooks, or are we looking at other and perhaps more important aspects of language? Is role-playing then only another aspect of the syllabus that has to be dealt with or should it be a more exhaustive analysis of how one is perceived when communicating, especially in real life situations?
There is a plethora of resources on the Internet aimed at different levels, so finding a topic or a situation is simple. http://socialskillscentral.com/free-samples/ is a website that helps develop social skills through role-playing.
http://busyteacher.org/7824-top-10-role-plays-for-your-speaking-class.html is a site that looks at everyday situations to help students master their language skills, and more importantly, their social skills.
The author is a teacher educator and language trainer based in Hyderabad. She can be reached at email@example.com.