Once you start teaching ESL Business English classes, you soon realize that grammar explanations and simple activities aren’t enough to satisfy the needs of your students. I learned this very quickly when meeting face to face with advanced students. To create an interactive atmosphere that is student centered, you need to create scenarios where students are required to speak much more than you. Role plays are one of the best ways to accomplish this.

This role play is best for either teaching a small group of students or by setting up your classroom so that group work is easy enough for each student to hear each other.

The Scenario:

Barbara owns a small home goods boutique that has been open for several years. Soon, she won’t be able to spend as much time in the shop because of family concerns. Now she must choose between her top 3 associates to take on a new role as a manager.

The Roles:

The 4 roles required for this are The Shop Owner, The Well Known Designer, The Top Salesperson, and The Former Shop Manager. Print out each of the following role cards and give them to members of the group.

The Well Known Designer:

You are a well known interior designer with many high profile clients. You believe you should be the manager because you have more connections than any of the other associates. These connections can bring more business into the shop.

The Top Salesperson:

Since the first day the shop has been open, you have been the top salesperson. You have shown that you have the ability to work well with customers. You believe that you can train the other associates to sell as good as you can.

The Former Shop Manager:

You are the newest employee in the shop but you also have the most experience in the home goods industry. In the past, you worked for a direct competitor of the shop as a store manager. You believe your previous experience should be the main reason to choose you as the manager.

The Shop Owner:

Make a list of 3-5 questions to ask each associate. Listen carefully and take notes while each person is speaking. After asking each person the questions, you must decide which person will be the best for the manager’s position. You will be required to explain your choice to the group. There is no wrong or right answer.

Teacher’s Role:

As the teacher, your role is to direct and observe this role play. Be sure to take notes of any errors and mistakes that arise. Also, because this is a higher level activity with students that are more advanced, pay attention to speech that is awkward that could be said more easily in another way. This can be a great way to delve deeper into the activity or to plan future lessons. Encourage students to think on the spot even if the answer to the shop owner’s questions aren’t written down on their role card.

Follow Up Questions:

  1. What do you think matters most; personal connections, sales achievement, or previous experience?
  2. If you had to choose someone other than yourself to take the manager position, who would you choose?
  3. What was the most important factor in choosing the manager?
  4. How do you think most promotion decisions are made?
  5. What was the most difficult question that the store owner asked? Why was it difficult?

There’s so many ways you can add to this activity. For example, students can prepare Powerpoint presentations on qualities of a good manager or an organized persuasive speech on which of the candidates would be most qualified to run the shop. It can also be a jumping off point for creating classroom debates where you discuss issues like sales performance versus previous experience. Please comment below if you need any clarifications, help making this work in your classroom, or your experience using this role play.