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Role playing potential staff conflicts


Students will work in small groups to role play preset scenarios to learn how to deal with potential conflicts they might face as members of a publication staff.  They will then create their own scenarios followed by a role playing simulation in front of the class.

In addition to scenarios regarding internal conflict, you might consider having your students address potential ethical situations using the When journalists err ethically lesson plan.


  • Students will work in small groups to act out prepared scenarios and solve conflicts.
  • Students will create their own role playing scenario centered around a publication staff member conflict.
  • Students will participate in a full-class discussion about the decisions that actors make in their presentations.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9-10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products, taking advantage of technology’s capacity to link to other information and to display information flexibly and dynamically.


One 90-minute class or two 50-minute classes


Class set: Handout with pre-made scenarios to act out/role play

Rubric: Role playing presentations

Lesson step-by-step

1. Building background — 10 minutes

Explain to students that today they’ll be looking at scenarios that typically happen on high school publication staffs. In small groups, they will be given a scenario.  Each person in the group will assume a role in the scenario and they will act out the scene, making a concerted effort to find a way to solve the conflict.  During this exercise, we want to examine behaviors that leaders on a publication staff should exhibit.

2. Group work — 20 minutes

Divide the class up into four or five groups based on the size of your class.  Make sure you have at least three or four people in each group.  Allow one group member to draw a scenario out of a hat.  Give the groups 15 minutes to decide how they will act out their scenario and five or so minutes to practice their role-playing.  Allow the groups to practice quietly in the halls so they don’t disrupt each other.  Hopefully all students will have participated in some role playing before so they realize that they can improvise as they perform.

3. Group performances — 20 minutes

Each group should spend three-four minutes acting out its specific scenario.  When each group finishes, the group and the teacher should lead a debriefing session where everyone can discuss how the group chose to handle a situation and why it was appropriate or not.  This is a perfect time to entertain other ways the situation could have been handled as well.

4. Homework – creating your own scenario

 Have every student create a scenario that can be acted out the next day in class.  Warn students that if they are using an actual scenario that has happened on your staff they need to be very careful about how they handle it.  For instance, they should never use real names and if everyone clearly knows the circumstances, they need to adapt it enough so that feelings aren’t hurt.

5. Executing the individually created scenarios (done during a subsequent class period during the grading period)

Directions: Students should get back into their same groups and act out all of the scenarios that were created individually for homework.  This will take the majority of this block.  Make sure debriefing happens after each role-playing event.

Alternative idea: Allow the students to vote for their favorite group performance.  Don’t let them vote for their own so it is fair. Give some type of reward for the group receiving the most votes (small prize, extra credit etc.)

6. Extra fun adaptation of lesson

If you’re having a staff conflict that is just starting to rear its ugly head, but hasn’t gotten too over-the-top just yet, it’s often fun to set aside a few minutes at the end of a class period and create a “ring” in the middle of the room to have a rock ‘em sock ‘em boppers boxing match. It’s a terrific stress reliever and always ends in laughter, especially if the adviser is involved in one of the first rounds.  Take on that student in class who is always challenging you, always talking back, never turning in work…you know that guy. It is worth every penny to invest in the class set of rock ‘em sock ‘em boppers.