Research Question. How do small group role-plays influence students' engagement in class, attitudes toward learning Spanish and ability to use the language to communicate with both written and oral fluency?
Research Activities. Context: This study took place in an 8th grade Spanish classroom (N=14) in rural Appalachia. Nine focus students were selected for in depth analysis, three at each level of performance: (low, medium and high).
Methods and Data. This intervention occurred over a five-week period and consisted of three five-day lesson cycles in which students worked in groups of 4–5 to complete open-ended role-plays. Role-plays were designed to mimic real-to-life scenarios in a restaurant. Students researched restaurant websites in Spain, wrote, practiced and preformed a different role-play over each of the five-day periods. A home school connection included students practicing role-playing with family members and each other via phone calls.
Results. Student self-efficacy as language speakers greatly improved (from 50% to a 100%), as did their confidence speaking Spanish in both one-on-one situations and in front of the class, with only 2 students feeling hesitant about presenting. Student writing also improved, with students showing an average increase of 8.5 verbs and 6 additional message units. Additionally, students developed greater oral fluency based on a 1–4 rubric, becoming more comprehensible (from 2.4 to 3.3) and more accurate in their use of grammar rules. All students were observed to be highly engaged and excited about practicing and performing role-plays.
Conclusions. Using role-plays in a language classroom improves student confidence, and speaking abilities. Role plays helped students in using Spanish during group work and provided extensive speaking practice. Additionally, students who engage in role-plays improve their writing abilities by including more complex grammar structures.
Grade Level. Eighth Grade
Data Collection Methods. Observational teacher notes, whole-class discussion notes, attitudinal surveys, self-assessments, writing response to prompts, oral teacher evaluations.
Project Descriptors. Middle school, Spanish, role-plays, fluency, engagement, writing, speaking