While some teachers may be apprehensive about using drama in ESL lessons, many students enjoy drama lessons because role-plays or "getting out of their skin" helps them overcome shyness. It also boosts their speaking confidence and fluency, giving them real contexts to react to in the safe environment of the class. You can use both scripted and spontaneous drama in your ESL lesson in the form of skits, role-plays, charades and other forms.

Look for situations in your course book where you can have your students role-play instead of just reading. Divide the class into small groups and have them come up with their own role-played versions of the situation, which they can act out in class. The same can be done with news articles or storybooks.

Liven up a quiet class with charades or a puppet theatre, particularly for young or beginning learners. You can involve the students on every level, from creating characters and drawing them to making a "stage." Sites such as KidInco (see Resources) offer free skits, play scripts and role plays that you can adapt to use drama in your ESL class.

Generate fluency using improv. Give your students a loose guide such as a TV interview, a celebrity talk show or a phone call. Give them a few minutes to organize themselves and prepare a "performance," which will require that they think on their feet and in the moment.

Select short scenes from a movie and play it for your students with the sound turned off. Divide your students into groups and have them play-act the scene, inputting words of their own. After the exercise, play the movie with the sound on for them to compare.

Integrate a writing exercise with drama by having students write letters, diary entries or news stories form the point of view of the character or describing events that caused or followed the situation used in the lesson.


  • Not all students are comfortable with role plays. Make sure you analyze the classroom dynamic correctly and if someone isn’t interested, don’t force them to do the activity.