Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Role of Role Playing in Teaching

When I teach World Literature, I like to involve the students as much as possible.  My students are placed in teams, and the teams compete on their own Amazing Race, trying to defeat each other in the weekly opening quiz.  Teams also take charge of teaching various aspects of the text.  One of the learning activities my students enjoy most is the mock trial.  After reading and discussing Antigone, a Greek tragic play by Sophocles, my students take the role of prosecutor of Creon, defense for Creon, prosecutor of Antigone, defense for Antigone, judge, jury and defendants. 

While my students may know the text, and answer the questions I pose during discussion, during the trial they almost 'become' their roles.  It is uncanny how quickly they embrace their given roles, and become quite passionate about their innocence, or the other student's guilt.  It reminds me of the Stanford Prison Experiment, conducted over 25 years ago with a set of volunteers at Stanford University.  One set of volunteers became the prisoners and the other set were the guards.  After a few days the 'experiment' had to be terminated because the guards were actually becoming abusive and the prisoners were becoming depressed.  It is amazing how quickly one assumes the role one is playing.  When done well, role playing can be a very effective tool, and it causes students to remember the material better than any lecture.

Click on this link to see my students enacting the Trial of Creon!

Then they had even more fun conducting interviews afterward - totally their own idea!

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