Games in the classroom“There is a common perception that all learning should be serious and solemn in nature, and that if one is having fun and there is hilarity and laughter, then it is not really learning. This is a misconception. It is possible to learn a language as well as enjoy oneself at the same time. One of the best ways of doing this is through games.”
Games help teachers create contexts that make learning more meaningful and motivate students to be part of the learning experience. Research has shown that games benefit cognitive aspects of learning, improve cooperative group dynamics, create a relaxed atmosphere for learning and add variation to a lesson. “If they (students) are amused, angered, intrigued, or surprised, the content is clearly meaningful to them. Thus, the meaning of the language they listen to, read, speak, and write will be more vividly experienced and, therefore, better remembered.”
When learning is relaxed, real learning happens. Games have the potential to provide a natural way to learn english
where students are not necessarily aware they are studying. Students focus on use and not on the language itself. Games bring a real world context into the classroom and “enhance students” use of english
in a natural, flexible, and communicative way. For example, in a monolingual classroom in non-english
speaking countries where the student is not surrounded by the sounds of english
in the many daily interactions s/he may encounter, games can bring a more natural context & real learning situation to the lesson.
Games should be amusing and challenging at the same time. A game must be more than just fun and should involve:
• Friendly competition
• Whole group participation (gives shy & reluctant students reason to join in)
• Building community & encouraging cooperation
• Bringing meaningful practice & reinforcement of acquired skills
• Different learning styles
Games should be part of a teacher’s repertoire and used in conjunction with other teaching tools – books, visual or audio aids, authentic materials, worksheets, etc. to provide a fun, stimulating, exciting and meaningful classroom experience.
In choosing suitable games to bring into the lesson, a teacher must consider the number of students, their proficiency level, the cultural context, the topic and the timing a game is used. There are a few potential pitfalls researchers have noted. One pitfall, the possible lack of cooperation between students can jeopardize the success of the game. The game becomes an issue of management and the learning is somewhat compromised. However, like many skills, continual practice & experience in cooperation skills can mitigate that problem, a lesson in & of itself. If rules, tasks and roles are not explained very clearly, the aim of the game becomes confusing. Explanations must be concise and clear, followed by a demonstration to ensure understanding. Another potential problem is for students to revert back to their native language instead of using english
. One possible solution is to incorporate points into the game – teams receive extra points if the group only speaks english
Games are very flexible and fit into any of the lesson plan phases – engage, study or activate. A teacher can use board games, television/radio show simulations, crossword puzzles, card games, charades, Simon Says, relay races, etc. to create a learning challenge and incorporate any language skill into the lesson. S/he just needs to bring some imagination, creativity, and understanding of what might interest their students to be motivated and responsible for their own learning.
Some interesting games a teacher might use in the classroom:
Aim: To understand grammar rules (I.e.: how to formulate comparison or superlative adjectives)
Form 2 teams and have them stand in 2 lines. One student from each line, chalk in hand runs to the blackboard, fills in the correct form (change word to a superlative or comparative adjective), runs back to his/her line, hands the chalk to the next player, and goes to the back of the line. The game continues until all words are filled in. The teacher corrects the answers on the board and the winning team (most correct answers and fastest) gets a small prize. (youtube- teaching grammar rules w/ board games)
Steal the Show:
Aim: To improve and practice oral communication skills such as describing, narrating, expressing points of view, agreeing or disagreeing. This activity can be used for pre-writing or reading lesson.
Divide the class into groups and give each group a name. The objective of the game is to get as many points as possible. One player from a group speaks about a topic for 1 minute. The competitive group tries to steal the topic away from the speaking player. They can do it in 3 ways - if the speaker pauses/hesitates for too long, repeats what s/he said or digresses from the topic. The speaker, who has the floor when the 1-minute bell goes off, wins 10 points.
(L. Su Kim, Creative Games for the language class)
Aim: To practice idiomatic, colloquial english
Teacher creates several puzzles (rectangular shapes). One side contains idiomatic expressions (one word to one puzzle piece); the other side is of a landscape (or any picture). Working in pairs, students put together the puzzle pieces. Students can check if they have finished correctly by turning pieces over and seeing a completed landscape picture.
Extension – Define what the expressions mean. Possible expressions (The Penguin Dictionary of Idioms): To hold one’s tongue – to be discrete. To have a sweet tooth – to like sweet food.
(Rodney E. Tyson, Serious Fun. Daejiin University, August 1998.)