Role cards and tension

Published on 13th January, 2011 in Teaching Tips by Frances Watkins

Last week’s tip looked at the ingredients of successful role cards and at the notion of inherent tension. In practical terms, this means that you need to give your role cards some sort of hitch, problem or emotional conflict. The second pair of cards below does this, as well as incorporating some of the other elements discussed last week.

Type one
A: You are a shop assistant. You work in a local clothes shop. You have a new customer so try to be as helpful as possible.

B: You are a customer. You want to buy some new clothes. Look around and choose some items.

Type two
A: You are a shop assistant in a local boutique called XXX. You are new to the job but you enjoy it. However, sometimes the customers can be annoying. Your boss has told you to be polite at all times, even if this is difficult!
You start: Hello, can I help?

B: You are a customer at a small local shop called XXX. You are looking for something to wear to a relative’s wedding. You have a clear idea of what you want but you are feeling desperate as you can’t find anything. This shop is your last hope. The shop assistant seems young and inexperienced, so you don’t feel too hopeful …

Of course some students may respond well to the freedom offered in type one. However, the details in Type two are likely to stimulate most learners’ imaginations. Tension is present in different ways:

•  There is a sense of urgency and desperation to the customer (the last hope).
•  The assistant seems inexperienced to the customer – the card suggests disappointment, even irritation for the customer.
•  Theassistant knows they should maintain politeness, even with annoying customers!
•  The details and leader dots (…) give the sense of a narrative – a story to be continued.