I have never used course books in my classes, so games have always been part of my lessons and, to tell the truth, they have turned to be an extremely successful teaching strategy.
Why are games so successful when it comes to teaching and learning?
Games provide access to another world, one that is typically safe from the consequences of the “real” world. They allow players freedom and control to create new identities and interact with both the environment and other people in novel and surprising ways. They can also create a sense of fun and enjoyment, removing some of the stresses and pressures that are often associated with formal education, and allowing learners to engage with the game activities in a relaxed and light-hearted manner. Moreover, game-wise, making mistakes is not only seen as an intrinsic aspect of many games, but it is also part of the progress from novice to expert player.
Games and fun activities benefit adult English learners as much as they do younger age groups.Games and playful activities will help to build up class cohesion, raise energy levels and most importantly, provide a framework in which learners are motivated to produce target language.
In which stages of the lesson should we use games?
- Warmer/Ice-breaker: “Language learning is hard work”. (Games for language learning) Our task as teachers is to make the effort of our learners easier to undertake.
- Drilling: “Many games provide the key features of drill with the added opportunity to sense the working of language as living communication. Games involve the emotions, and the meaning of the language is thus more vividly experienced. It is, for this reason, probably better absorbed than learning based on mechanical drills”. (Games for language learning)
- Assessment: “Games also allow the formative assessment element. Students are in the position to monitor their own progress and understanding of the subject in a non-invasive manner. Games provide instant feedback for students and guidance in terms where to focus their learning effort and time. Teachers are able to see clearly where learning gaps exist and allow this to inform their next class or revision session”. (Games for language learning)
- Review-Revision: “Practice makes it perfect”. Games are an extremely amusing way to help solidify the language learnt.
There is a myth that game-based learning works for young learners only. Why shouldn’t adults be banned from playing games?
- Games are a source of relaxation and stimulation and make the brain work less.
- They include better mutual group dynamics and encourage whole class participation.
- They encourage active speaking/listening.
- They are a fun way of practice and recalling vocabulary and phrases.
- They add variety and energise.
- They are a method of self-assessment.
Which are the factors we should take into accounts when we decide which game to play?
When it comes to choosing a game for a lesson there are three aspects I always take into account:
- Age and level of the students
- Target language (grammar structure, vocabulary, functional language, etc.)
- Stage of learning (teaching, reviewing, assessment)
I usually adapt board games, party games, quizzes and word games for my students’ needs.
How we should introduce a game?
- Explain the rules by using simple sentences and numbering them.
- Write on the board key language and/or important instructions.
- Ask each learner to repeat one rule.
- Ask for the translation of some rules to be sure that all the students have understood.
- Try out the game with one or two learners.
Winners or Losers?
- Play more team games than individual ones.
- Don’t pair/group up learners randomly.
- Promote fair play.
- Reward your learners.
Using games in the English classroom is not only for fun. In my opinion, “game for game’s sake” is nonsense. Games represent a form of fun whose aim is creating a pleasant, enjoyable learning environment. Games have rules and goals; thus, they give learners structure and motivation. The outcome and feedback of games represent real learning. Finally, my students are eager to play games because of the playful atmosphere, the adrenaline of the competition and the interaction with the other students.