What are the benefits of games in language teaching?

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What are the benefits of games in language teaching?

Unread postby metman » 12 Oct 2004, 16:15

Dear Auntie,

As someone new to TEFL, please can you tell me the benefits of using games in language teaching. In particular, how they can be used to explain a language point (e.g. grammar, vocab etc), which games are suitable for different levels and ages of students, the best time to use them in a lesson, how one would give instructions and seating arrangements etc. I need to consider Hangman, Tic Tac Toe (Os and Xs) and one other game (e.g. I Spy or Simon Says).

Thanks in anticipation,

Metman.
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Do you have some information about games for a new teacher?

Unread postby Lucy » 22 Oct 2004, 15:45

Dear Metman,

The use of games in the classroom is a vast topic, so I will deal with your questions in two separate answers.

The benefits of using games are: they are memorable, enjoyable and fun. These factors help engage the students and hopefully they will remember more as a result. The disadvantages are that students may not use the language point you had intended to practise. A carefully structured game can solve this problem. Students can also start using their own language if they get too involved. To get around this, you can pre-teach some of the language needed e.g. ‘whose turn is it?’ Not all games activate large chunks of language. You need to consider this when choosing a game. Students can also get excited and may get carried away. You need to consider this in your choice of game and be clear and firm about the students staying focused.

Games are like any other activity and when planning for them you need to consider what your aims and objectives are. Some examples of aims when using games are: reviewing work from the previous lesson, checking what students know before teaching a new language item, practising a new language item you have just presented, as a warmer at the beginning of the lesson, as a filler at the end of a lesson. They are not so useful for explaining language.

You asked when is the best time to use games. Well there is no hard and fast rule here. Ultimately, this will depend on your aim. If you want to practise a new language item, the game should be used shortly after the presentation. If you want to review a language point from a previous lesson, this can be done at any time in the lesson

As for seating, this will depend on the involvement of students. If the game involves the whole class, they need to be seated so everybody can see you or the board. Group and pairwork will be organised differently. You will also need to think about clearing some space if you are using a boardgame or if the game involves movement. Another thing to consider is whether you want to encourage competition or cooperation. If the game involves competition, you might want the students lined up facing each other. Cooperation will involve a different seating arrangement, e.g. students in circles or groups.
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How can I use games in class?

Unread postby Lucy » 30 Oct 2004, 19:58

I'm continuing the topic of games here as it is a vast subject. In fact, whole books have been written on this topic.

You asked about using games for explaining grammar. I don't think they're very useful for explaining; my opinion is that they are more useful for practising and reviewing language. I would say the exception to this is when students deduce the rules from sentences (you can see an example of this in the Anti-Grammar Grammar Book).

When using games, your instructions need to be clear and precise. Otherwise students spend time doing the wrong thing. As with all instructions, you need to do a comprehension check. For example, after explaining what to do you can ask the students to explain the game back to you. Another option is to give a demonstration of the game by playing it yourself with a few of the students while the others watch.

You need to choose the games carefully, giving consideration to the age and level of the students. You've asked about I-spy; I think this can be used up to the age of 13. However, I don't think there's a lot of language practice involved in this game. Vocabulary and the alphabet are the main components. Vocabulary is mostly limited to what students can see in the classroom (unless you use pictures) and if students get competitive, they can get involved in obscure language.

Simon Says is good to use with primary age children for revising instructions and parts of the body. You can involve the students more by asking individuals to give instructions that the rest of the class follow.

Hangman can be used at any level and with any age group. It is good for reviewing the alphabet and for activating vocabulary. However, not a lot of language is used and the game can take a long time to complete.

Noughts and crosses can easily be adapted to use with any level or any age group. It can be used to practise pronunciation, spelling, a grammar point, vocabulary. Basically, it's up to the teacher to prepare questions - two or three for each box - on any topic (s)he wishes to review. With children, pictures of individual items can also be used; the children then name the items they see.

If you have any further questions about games, please get in touch again. As I've already said, it's a vast topic and it's difficult to cover all aspects in a small space.
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