The superhero speed dating game: Using role-playing to spark authentic communication

Sean H. Toland, Ritsumeikan University

Quick guide

  • Keywords: Role-play, writing, speaking, listening
  • Learner English level: Pre-intermediate to advanced
  • Learner maturity: High school to adult
  • Preparation time: 20 minutes 
  • Activity time: 60 to 90 minutes
  • Materials: Lesson handouts, tape, stopwatch


EFL educators in Japan are constantly searching for innovative lesson ideas that will inspire learners and improve their communicative abilities. One strategy that can facilitate oral communication and inject authentic language situations into a classroom is role-playing activities. The lesson plan that follows requires students to imagine that they are a caped crusader attending a party with other superheroes. The learners create an original profile for their character and discuss this information in a speed dating session. During the activity, the students will have 10 dates with 10 different superheroes. Each date lasts three minutes. At the end of the event, the learners will select a suitable match for their character and make a brief report to their classmates.



Step 1: Before the class, print out the lesson handouts (Appendix A – Appendix D).  

Step 2: Reconfigure the desks in the classroom into a long line. The male superheroes will sit on one side and the female characters on the other.

Step 3: Create MALE and FEMALE cards. (e.g., 30 students—15 male & 15 female cards)



Step 1: Divide the class into small groups. Provide each group with two superhero cards (see Appendix A). The groups must identify the superheroes and their special powers. The teams tape their cards to the board and brainstorm two more superheroes. 

Step 2: Bring the groups together. Each team will make a brief report to their classmates.  

Step 3: Explain that the students must create an ORIGINAL superhero character. They cannot use any of the characters on the board.

Step 4: Provide the students with a copy of the ‘Thunderbolt Woman’ profile card (see Appendix B). Select student volunteers to read the items on the profile card. Review difficult vocabulary (e.g., marital status).

Step 5: The learners select a MALE or FEMALE card from a bag (Note: If a female student selects a MALE card, she must create a male character). 

Step 6: Give the students a profile card template (see Appendix C). The learners have 20 minutes to complete their profile cards. They must also sketch a picture of their superhero after the information on the profile card is completed. 

Step 7: Provide the students with the ‘Speed Dating Activity’ handout (see Appendix D). This will help the students remember their dates and select a partner when the activity is finished.  

Step 8: Explain the rules of the game. Each date is three minutes. Remind them that they are the superheroes (i.e., use first person).  The participants shake hands, introduce themselves, ask and answer questions. At exactly three minutes, the instructor will signal it’s time to change. The male superheroes stand up and go to their next date. The females remain seated.

Step 9: Before the activity commences, the instructor will model a speed date with a student volunteer. Emphasize that this is a communicative role-play activity and NOT a reading exercise.

Step 10: When the activity is finished, the participants write their character’s preferred date on the board. The learners get back into their original group and make a report that highlights the best match for their character. 



This activity can be modified for different proficiency levels. Lower level learners might need more time to complete their character profile cards. This task can be assigned for homework and the speed dating game can take place during the next class. The superhero speed dating activity not only brings excitement into the classroom, but it also introduces new vocabulary and enhances the students’ writing skills. Most importantly, however, it allows learners to utilize authentic language in a realistic context.



The appendices are available below.