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High School Role Plays: Making It Work for Your Teens

Updated: Feb 7

Curious about adding some role play into your lessons but you're worried your teens won’t really get into it? I get it – your classroom isn’t drama club, and let’s face it, at this age, 'acting out' isn't exactly top of the cool list. But stick with me here. I've seen firsthand how role play can shifts the gear from passive learning to active engagement, from just listening to really experiencing. So, let’s dive into how you can get your students on board with role play and explore the benefits of taking this step in your teaching.


role play drama high school

Breaking Down the Barriers:

Introducing role play to a bunch of skeptical teens can feel daunting. The key? Relatability and relevance. Choose scenarios that resonate with their world – scenarios that touch on issues they face, decisions they grapple with. When it’s about their life, their choices, you’ll see the guard come down and the engagement go up. Don’t just make a roleplay like, “your friend offers you drugs, what do you say?” The students will just brush it off and lose interest. Create a full scenario, give them character cards that explain their needs and fears. This will make it more real and interesting. 



Creating a Safe Space:

A supportive environment is crucial. Lay the groundwork by establishing trust and respect in your classroom. Make it clear that this is a judgment-free zone, where it’s cool to be uncool, and every effort is applauded. Sidenote: I am a total weirdo in my class. Really though, I can laugh at myself when I make mistakes, I can be more myself with my students than with other adults sometimes haha. This builds trust with the students that they can be real just like you. 


The Power of Peer Influence:

Use peer influence to your advantage. When a few students start showing enthusiasm, it’s contagious. Sometimes, all it takes is one or two students to lead by example, and others will follow. I sometimes ask a few courageous students before class if they can lead an activity with me and that ensures engagement. 


role play education high school


Highlighting the Benefits:

Discuss with your students the advantages of role play. Explain how it can help them understand complex health topics, build empathy, and develop critical thinking skills. When they see the value, they’re more likely to buy in. One of my classes I started with, “Who here wants to build lasting and meaningful relationships?” Everyone's hands went up.. “Okay, let me tell you something, if you fully engage in this lesson about empathy and active listening and apply it in your life, I can guarantee you will have more fulfilling relationships.” This seems like a BOLD promise, but it’s true. These SEL role plays help students gain skills that will make a difference in their life! 


Guiding, Not Dictating:

Give your students some control. Let them have a say in the scenarios or the roles they play. When they feel a sense of ownership, their enthusiasm will naturally grow.


Closing Thoughts:

Introducing role play in your health education might require stepping out of your comfort zone – both for you and your students. But the rewards are well worth the effort. It’s about bringing lessons to life and equipping our teens with skills and insights that go beyond the classroom walls.


Are you looking for some role plays / simulations to get started? Here are my top suggestions.



Constructive Criticism Role Play



Talking to Your Friends about Mental Health


This is one is super helpful for teens, I made this during COVID and it really helped the students open up and talk about mental health. 


Talking to friends about mental health Role play



Cultural appropriation 

If you want to get your students thinking and seeing outside from their perspective THIS IS FOR YOU.


Conflict resolution role play


So, give it a go, and let me know how it goes!


Teach On!

Katie 

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