Let's Go to San Diego! Improving ESL Fluency with Role Play

Submitted by Lawrence Pesta on

In my ESL Informal Conversation class, students were introduced to 12 new slang phrases regarding "taking a vacation." I tested students on their ability to use those words by providing a "fill-in the blank activity."  I was not happy with the results.

Students were then put in groups and told to imagine that they were in a car traveling together to San Diego for the weekend.  They then wrote a dialogue using as many words from among the new slang phrases as possible and practiced this dialogue seeking correction of pronunciation and grammar.  They then created a digital film of their group speaking this dialogue in a car in the college parking lot (complete with props) pretending that they were actually traveling to San Diego.  

They were then re-tested with the same "fill-in the blank activity" to see if their ability to use the words had increased.  It did by 99% and demonstrated that film projects are not only fun but add to language fluency.

The films were shown in class for more fun and additional practice.

Completed Full Cycle
Course Number
ESL 061
Assessment of the Month
Average: 4.6 (10 votes)


Heather Muns Wed, 04/09/2014 - 10:34pm

This is great, Larry.  I really like this activity and can see how other instructors could easily adapt it and use role playing to help students master content vocabulary.  I especially see this being very useful in Language courses.  ESL is quite challenging, and even though your students didn’t master the quiz, they doubled the number of answers that they got correct, and that is quite an accomplishment!  I am looking forward to seeing how this activity paired with other practice activites will help further increase scores.  

Kelly Loucy Thu, 04/10/2014 - 9:19am

I love this role play idea, Larry, and especially the added element of the student creating the digital film. That was a great way to have the students "rehearse" and implement the vocabulary in a meaningful way.

Steven Peist Mon, 04/14/2014 - 1:03pm

This is creative and covers so many different modalities.  

Peter Turner Mon, 04/14/2014 - 2:50pm

What a great way to teach language acquisition, Larry! And I like that this all came about because you were dissatisfied with initial results and you resolved to address the issue through a innovative practices. The creation of dialogue, the acting out of scenarios, and the creation of a film all provided your students with rich, life-connected activities, and your results show this!

Polly Miller Tue, 04/15/2014 - 1:40pm


What a great experiential lesson that supports Knowles' Andragogy Theory. Great to see students having so much fun while they learn.

Erik Huntsinger Tue, 04/15/2014 - 2:09pm

Larry, this demonstrates active learning and allows the brain to learn in ways more deeply than traditional methods, and the results certainly provide evidence of that!

Jamie Lopez Sat, 09/13/2014 - 11:11am

Larry-  I can only imagine the student engagement and learning that took place throughout this activity.  Will you continue to use the activity in future semesters?