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Dramatic Role Play


What is Dramatic Role Play?

Dramatic Role Play is a strategy which helps students visualize meaning and come to fully appreciate the inner
workings of a literary work. Students are assigned specific characters, scenarios, or events from a reading
selection which they must physically act out. During their enactments, students create interpretations of the text
which not only display their comprehension of the reading material but also their ability to think inferentially.

Why would I teach this strategy?

Dramatic Role Play is highly effective in bolstering student motivation and overall comprehension of complex
texts. Working either individually, with a partner, or in groups, students must create enactments which
accurately coincide with a reading selection. Role playing completely engages students in the learning process,
because it forces them to reexamine the text, make meaning, and formulate connections. In addition, students
must utilize their creativity and critical thinking skills in order to determine the most effective way to bring their
assigned roles to life. Highly kinesthetic in nature, this hands on approach to learning addresses the needs of
diverse learners and makes texts more fun and exciting. Furthermore, the conversation and social interaction
that take place during these enactments deepen students overall understanding of the reading.

How would I teach this strategy?

The following is an example of how Dramatic Role Play may be implemented in a 7th grade ELA classroom.
During this particular activity, entitled Character Charades, students will act out specific characters being
studied in a novel without giving away their assigned characters names. The rest of the class must guess the
identity of the unknown characters, using information provided throughout each enactment.


Step 1: After the class has been separated into groups, each student will be given a charade card which
describes a particular scenario involving a character from a novel being studied in the classroom.
Step 2: Students will be given 8-10 minutes to create a monologue script which accurately portrays their
assigned characters thoughts, feelings, and emotions, while keeping in mind that the characters identity
may not be revealed during the performance.
Step 3: Students will take turns performing their enactments for their group members. Afterwards, each
group will select one student to perform his/her enactment for the entire class.
Step 4: As each chosen student gives his/her final performance, the rest of the class will try to guess who
the character is based on the clues the student provides throughout the enactment. Afterwards, the class
will discuss how these clues enabled it to determine the identity of the unknown character.
Theoretical Framework or Reference for the Strategy

According to author, Jeffrey D. Wilhelm, educators may incorporate the use of enactments to highlight and
teach strategies of reading and learning, and help students create interpretations of text that reverberate with
artistic, aesthetic, and metaphorical meaning (Wilhelm, 2002, p. 11). A versatile educational strategy, role
playing may be carried out before reading, during reading, and after reading to activate students prior
knowledge and assist them in intensely [visualizing] places, situations, actions, and people (Wilhlem, 2002, p.
11). In addition, Wilhelm emphasizes the motivational nature of role playing, along with its ability to promote
students thinking, creativity, and imagining skills (Wilhelm, 2002, p. 11). Furthermore, the social aspects
associated with role playing are crucial in elevating students understanding of texts. As Wilhelm notes,

dramatic role playing requires students to work together, express their opinions, listen to each other, and create
meaning together (Wilhelm, 2002, p.11). Author, Marica L. Tate discusses the benefits of dramatic role
playing, claiming that the strategy not only assists in making abstract concepts more concrete, but also helps
students comprehend and appreciate a story (Tate, 2014, p.117). A nontraditional approach to teaching, role
playing enlivens the reading process, particularly for struggling students who are reluctant to fully engage with
APA References:
Tate, Marcia L. (2014). Reading and language arts worksheets dont grow dendrites: 20 literacy strategies that
engage the brain. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
Wilhelm, Jeffrey D. (2002). Action strategies for deepening comprehension. Broadway, NY: Scholastic, Inc.

Ideas for Further Information:

This strategy can be adapted for any grade level and content area. Along with creating enactments related to
texts being studied in English, students may also dramatize historical figures or scientists currently being
studied in their social studies and science classes. As part of a vocabulary review across all content areas,
including foreign language, students could take part in charade activities by acting out new words for their
classmates to identify. Role playing may even be used in the math classroom to introduce students to new topics
such as comparing and ordering rational numbers. Each student would take the place of a rational number and
groups would have to order themselves from least to greatest.