Whenever I work on social skills I frequently incorporate role-play. Role-playing is a fun way to help build social skills and learn about social rules. The kids always love these activities (whether watching or acting) and their attention increases. I wanted to share some of my ideas for making role-play fun and effective in your speech room:
Demonstrate the role-play
Introduce the role-play with a demonstration, preferably between you and another adult. I’ve gotten very resourceful in coercing my coworkers into these quick demonstrations! And beware the unsuspecting person who interrupts my session or happens to be passing in the hall! Most times the adults are happy to participate, and it serves as a great collaborative opportunity.
I also like to demonstrate how varying body language and facial expression can completely change the interaction. For example, using the words “We’re having meatloaf again for dinner tonight” can be portrayed with anger, happiness, disgust and confusion. Ask your students to identify the correct emotions.
As a backup/extension, Everyday Speech Social Skills Videos are a great resource. For a monthly fee, they have an expanding library of real-life social skill videos. I love that there are also worksheets that can be downloaded and used however you decide. Another resource are the videos put out by Model Me Kids and TDSocial Skills. I’ve been using all these resources for many years with great success!
Sequence the target skill
Break the skill into clear steps and write them where they can be seen for reference. I like to have the children discover the steps themselves, with a generous dose of SLP prompting as needed. For example, we were recently working on greeting a friend at a playdate (Frank is at home waiting for his friend Dylan to arrive). After demonstrating, the ladder to discovery went something like this:
What was the first thing Frank did when he heard the doorbell? (Opened the door)
Who said hello first? (Frank)
What happened next? (Dylan said hello)
What did the boys do with their eyes? What did they do with their shoulders?
What happened after Dylan said hello? (Frank invited Dylan inside)
It’s a good idea to demonstrate the role-play again. This is when videos are helpful, especially if you don’t have the assistance of another adult. Another solution is to make a quick video ahead of time that can be shown on your tablet or phone.
Give clear instructions
While the children are seated, clearly explain what is expected. Define the situation, roles and problems. Decide if the role-play will be acted out with all members of the group participating or in small roles with observers. Also determine if you are going to use any props or costumes.
I like to keep the role-play brief since attention spans are limited. When the students have completed the role-play, have observers decide if the important skills in the sequence were completed (i.e., Did they look at each other? Did they face each other?).
Sometimes I like to “freeze” the action and have observers identify emotions, facial expressions and body language clues they see. Have students reverse roles. Consider recording the role-play, then review the tape and identify context clues, skill sequence, body language and emotions.
It’s not uncommon for some students to get “stuck” during role-play interactions, not knowing what to say or how to proceed. In these cases, prompting and plenty of processing time usually does the trick! This “control” over the pace of the interaction is a strength of role-play activities. For example, if students are practicing how to join others in play, role-play provides time to organize thoughts and language — something that is unlikely to happen in real-life situations!
When they are finished, I let the “actors” choose the next students to participate. This is especially effective with large groups or when conducting a lesson in the classroom.
Repeat and increase complexity
Repetition is a key aspect or role-play. When introducing a new skill, I typically have the students repeat the role-play scenario several times. Speed and proficiency should gradually increase and you can add difficulty as students become more fluent. This could be anything from reducing prompts, adding other players to the role-play or combining skills (i.e., greetings and leave-takings).
A few other points…..
It’s important to encourage students to apply skills learned through role-play to real-life situations. This can be accomplished by selecting scenarios that students are likely to encounter on a frequent basis, or rehearsing skills prior to using them in natural environments.
Finally, keep the role-play fun! Let students select scenarios they would like to practice as well as assigning roles. For example, when practicing how to ask a teacher for help, my students LOVE the opportunity to play the role of the adult (what student wouldn’t?).
Do you have any tips for effectively using role play in your sessions? Please comment and share your experiences below!