ESL/EFL: Best Debates & Role-plays of 2012 (English Class Activity)

Best Debate Topics & Role-plays of 2012 —

Recommendation to Teachers: Download the file, paste the role-plays/debates you find interesting into a blank document and then use that for your class. Do not try to use all of the debates/role-plays found here. Some role-plays/debates will not not be suitable/interesting for your students.


Download: ESL-best-debate-topics-role-play-2012.doc (DOC) (the formatting is better in the Word document than below.)

New Years ESL Lesson Plan: Role-Play

Student A: You are not looking forward to the future. You're depressed and unsure whether life is worth living. You have three major problems: 1) the world is falling apart; 2) your English isn't improving, and 3) (think of one more problem on your own). When ready, Student B, your friend, will talk with you.

Student B: Student A is your friend. Ask him/her “How are you?” and then try to suggest solutions to his/her problems. Cheer him/her up. (Don't start until Student A is ready).

Parenting ESL Lesson Plan: Debate
Background: Many countries now have `baby boxes' where parents can anonymously drop off unwanted children. Imagine that your city is now considering creating such boxes.
(note: each student reads his or her role only)
Student A: You are pro-baby box. Think of reasons to support your argument. When ready, ask your partner what he/she thinks of the baby box idea.

Student B: You are anti-baby box. Think of reasons to support your argument (e.g. children cannot learn who their parents were, parents should use counseling instead, etc). Your partner will start the conversation when you are ready.

Parenting ESL Lesson Plan: Role Play
Student A: You don't want your boy to go to school because it's dangerous. You will teach him yourself at home. Also, you don't want him to play video games or watch TV. Think of reasons to support your choices. Soon, your telephone will ring.

Student B: You are a parent-in-law of Student A. Telephone him/her and ask about your grandson. Ask: 1) if she/he has decided if he will go to a public or private school, and 2) if he wants to come over and watch Harry Potter with you this weekend.

Job Interview ESL Lesson Plan: Job Interview Role-play (Pair work)

1) You and your partner will take turns interviewing. First, decide who will be the first job seeker. Next, choose one of the below jobs to apply for. When you've chosen, read your role below.

Project Manager, IBM
Duties: Manage projects on time and on budget. Responsible for risk management, project tracking & contingency planning.
Required: Bachelors degree, experience in project mgmt, and expertise in MS Office. Must have excellent leadership & interpersonal skills.
English Instructor, ABC Learning.
Duties: Conducting group & private classes in businesses
Requirements: university degree in related field, fluency in English, and teaching experience.
Must be: well-organized, energetic, professional, and legally qualified to work. Pay commensurate with experience.
Head Chef, Antonio's

Duties: delivery of food services

Requirements: Certificate III in Hospitality or similar, and exp. with food prep. and delivery.
Must be: able to work autonomously, well-organized, & knowledgeable about food safety. Pay commensurate with experience.

Student A: You will be interviewed. This is a role-play so you may pretend to have the appropriate background for the position. Take a minute to prepare. Soon, the interview still start.

Student B: Decide how you want to structure the interview and what questions to ask (optional: include an inappropriate question). Also, try to think of a scenario related to the job and ask the interviewee how he/she'd behave in that situation. Take a few minutes to prepare. When ready, begin the interview.

ACTA ESL Lesson Plan: Role-Play #1

Student A: You have just got a job as a scientist for ABC Pharmaceutical, a company that holds the patent for the world's best HIV medication. You are excited and proud of the company you work for. Your friend, Student B, has just returned from Africa. Tell him/her about your new job and ask how his/her trip was.

Student B: You have just returned from Africa. You witnessed much suffering because people do not have access to expensive patented drugs. Thankfully, some cheaper `generic' drugs are available, which would in fact become illegal if ACTA passed. You are against ACTA and greedy pharmaceutical companies. Think of reasons to support your argument. Student A will start the conversation.

ACTA ESL Lesson Plan: Role-Play #2

Student A: You are a member of the rock group Metallica. You are in a taxicab, and the driver puts on some music (using his ipod). To your surprise, you hear a new song from your band's upcoming album that hasn't even been released yet. You are angry. Ask the driver about the song. If you want, try to take the iPod.

Student B: You are a taxi driver. You pick up Student A, a stranger. He looks like he likes rock music and heavy metal, so you put on a new song by your favorite band, Metallica.

Future ESL Lesson Plan: Artificial Intelligence Debate (Pair Work)

Premise 1:                   Humanity is becoming wiser.
Premise 2:                   Wiser humans can develop and utilize AI responsibly.
Conclusion:                 Therefore, AI should be developed.

Student A: You support this argument. Spend 1-2 minutes thinking of reasons to back up the conclusion. When ready, you may start.

Student B: You oppose this argument. Spend 1-2 minutes thinking of reasons to reject the conclusion. Your partner will start when he/she is ready.

CPR Lesson Plan: Role-plays (Pair Work) each student reads his/her role only)

Student A: You are an emergency telephone operator. You are at your desk, waiting to assist the next caller.

Student B: You are out golfing and your partner suddenly grabs his/her chest and falls to the ground. She/he is not breathing. You decide to call the emergency medical service (Student A) for help.


Student A: You are eating lunch with your friend, and she begins choking. You try the Heimlich maneuver, but she becomes limp and unresponsive. You decide to call the emergency medical service (Student B) for help.

Student B: You are an emergency telephone operator. You are at your desk, waiting to assist the next caller.

Travel Lesson Plan ESL: Role-play #1 (note: each student reads only his/her role.)

Student A: You want to take your wife/husband on a trip this weekend. First, decide where you want to go. Then, phone your travel agent to reserve a plane ticket and hotel. Also, ask for recommendations of things to do there.

Student B: You are a travel agent. Student A will soon phone you. Try to sell him/her one of the below travel packages. (He/she will tell you the destination.)

Option 1: round-trip, first class, $950. Hotel: Hilton, $250/night, *****
Option 2: round-trip, economy class, $310. Hotel: Doug's Inn, $99/night, ***

Travel Lesson Plan ESL: Role-play #2

Student A: You have just arrived at your hotel. Go to reception. Tell them you: 1) you have a reservation, 2) you want breakfast in the morning, and 3) you need to be woken up at 7 a.m.

Student B: You are a hotel receptionist. Welcome the guest to your hotel. Kindly tell him/her that there is a problem: you cannot find his/her reservation because of a computer system problem.

Cyberwarfare ESL Lesson Plan: BLACK OUT! (Role-play - Pair Work)

Situation: A worm has taken down the national electrical power grid. The entire country is covered in darkness. Mobile phones, however, are still functioning. Role-play the below 3 scenarios with a partner.

Student A: You are on your way to visit your friend who is a nurse. You are in his/her building's elevator when the lights go out. You are stuck between floors. There is a pregnant woman in the elevator and her water has just broke. Call your friend and get advice on what to do.

Student B: You are a nurse. Your friend is coming to visit your apartment. Soon, he/she will phone you.


Student A: You are walking with your friend (Student B) on the street. Both of you are in desperate need of money and you think the black out is a great opportunity. Try to convince your friend to commit a crime (e.g. a robbery at a bank) with you.

Student B: You are walking with your friend (Student A) on the street. Both of you a very poor. There is a citywide blackout. Your friend says he/she has an idea.

Student A: You are your country's president. You are relaxing on the beach in Hawaii, half-drunk. Your phone will soon ring.

Student B: You are the national security advisor to the president. A nationwide blackout has happened and is causing massive problems. People are looting; cities are on fire, etc. Call the president (Student A) and get instruction on how to manage the situation.

High School ESL Lesson Plan: Debate: The Case of Lynden Dorval

Ross Sheppard High School in Edmonton, Canada, has a `no zero' policy. If a student does not do an assignment, the teacher must try to arrange with the student for the assignment to be completed later. If that method fails, the student gets a code of “not completed” on his/her school record instead of a zero.

In early June, physics teacher Lynden Dorval was fired from the school for giving zeros to students who did not complete assignments.

Student A: You agree with the decision to fire Lynden Dorval. Think of reasons to support your position. (One reason given by the school: “just giving students a zero does not help them learn anything.”) Think of other reasons. You will start the debate when ready.

Student B: You disagree with the decision to fire Lynden Dorval. Think of reasons to support your argument. Your partner will start the debate when ready.

Olympics ESL Lesson Plan: Debate (Pair Work)

Situation: The IOC has awarded your city the next Olympics.

Student A: You are a political activist. You are strongly against both the Olympics being held in your city and the Olympics themselves. Spend two minutes thinking of reasons why: 1) your city shouldn't host the Olympics (and if you'd like to go further 2) why the Olympics should be canceled permanently). You will go first.

Student B: You are pro-Olympics. You are happy your city will host the next games. Spend 2 minutes thinking of reasons why the Olympics are a great event for humanity and your city. The other student (Student A) will go first.

Family ESL Lesson Plan: Role-play

Student A: Your parent (Student B) is 98 years old and lives with your family. He/she is completely dependent on you. This is having a bad affect on your personal life and career. He/she never goes out. You have decided to put him/her in a retirement home, where he/she can be with other seniors and get the care he/she needs. Tell him/her your plan.

Student B: You live with Student A, who is your daughter/son, in a house you built with your own hands in 1930. You are old now. Your daughter/son says she/he wants to speak with you about something.

Darwin Awards ESL Lesson Plan: Role-Play Activity (Pair Work)
(Note: each student reads his/her role only.)

Student A: You are young, single, and looking forward to a great life ahead of you. Yesterday, you took a free IQ test at the mall. The test organizers said they would contact you today about the results. You are at your house now, having a sandwich and enjoying a beer.

Student B: You are a government agent. The government has started a program to sterilize people with low IQs. Yesterday, you received the IQ test scores of Student A. They were too low. You have driven to his/her house. Please knock on his/her door, and explain that he/she must be sterilized because his/her genes are not useful to society.

Christmas Lesson Plan (ESL): Role-play 1

Student A: You gave a sweater to your friend (Student B) for Christmas. You bought it from a nice old lady when you were on a recent holiday. Now you are having coffee with your friend. You notice that he/she is not wearing the sweater. Comment on this.

Student B: For Christmas, your friend, Student A, gave you a sweater. Not only is it ugly, but it also has a strange smell. You know you'll never wear it. Ask your friend if you can have the receipt so you can return it.

Christmas Lesson Plan (ESL): Role-play 2

Student A: You are at home. Despite the bad economy, you were able to buy presents for everyone in your family this year. You are about to eat Christmas dinner. Soon, someone will knock on your door.

Student B: You are raising money for a charity (think of a charity name). You are visiting houses in a rich area to get donations. Knock on Student A's door and try to get a donation.

Related: Best Debates & Role-plays of 2011, Role-Play Cards Set 1 (General), Role-Play Cards Set 2 (Telephone)


Debate topics & role-plays copyright Matthew Barton of

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