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Role play isn't all airy fairy

The latest reports examined by Reva Klein

When teachers take on key parts in well-planned role-play activities, it can lead to improvements in young children's writing and speaking abilities.

In a study involving two groups of six Reception children and their teachers, the pupils made gains in oral communication, vocabulary, social confidence and co-operativeness, as well as in their ability to write. The report's author concludes that with adult intervention, learning in a play situation is at least as effective as group instruction and could be adopted in the literacy hour.

Scenarios using different genres (narrative, report, argument) were devised and the study's participants ensured they modelled different types of writing, and involved children in their construction.

In one scenario, a mother, plyed by a teacher, was urged to take her child to a clinic for an injection. When she said the child was afraid, the children discussed ways of enticing the child and wrote a persuasive letter to the mother.

The role-plays were followed by shared writing lessons. Children "wrote" the play they had devised, relating each one to the other in the style of a soap opera. In the process the teachers drew attention to language features. Children then drafted, edited, used technical vocabulary and showed they could develop characters and action.

In addition, their vocabulary was better than that of their peers from the previous year.

Writing and Role Play: A case for Inclusion by Margaret Cook of the UK Reading Association is an article which appeared in the organisation's journal, Reading; issue 34 (2)

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