Interactive Games and Activities for Language Learning

Lydia Schrandt looks at a new ebook containing communicative activities that don’t even require pencil or paper.
Reviewed for Teflnet by Lydia Schrandt

We’ve all been there. It’s Sunday night and you sit down to plan your lessons for the week. You open up the textbook to find a less-than-compelling lesson on past tense grammar rules. Yuck! To make matters worse, there is NOTHING communicative about the book’s activities at all. It’s late, you’re tired, and you simply don’t have it in you to stay up all night preparing materials for some grand lesson to make up for a lackluster curriculum. What do you do?

Interactive Games and Activities for Language Learning by Mastertalker contains 39 communicative and interactive activities that don’t even require a pencil or paper! While the focus of the activities is on successful communication rather than set linguistic goals, students must draw on previously learned grammar points to successfully complete the tasks. As such, it is a great companion to a standard textbook curriculum. Instead of using some rote drill to practice the past tense, why not play a game of Cops and Robbers, with students constructing alibis of what they did the previous night. Your students will be putting the language into practice in a creative, spontaneous, and natural context.

Each game in this book includes a brief set of easy-to-understand instructions as well as directions on how a winner or loser is chosen, notes on what to expect from your students during the activity, example topics, and variations to extend, modify, or recycle an activity. While many of these games are not new to the ESL classroom, the suggestions for further use breathe new life into old favorites. For example, we are all familiar with playing ‘Two Truths and a Lie’ for introductory lessons; why not change the topic to ‘future plans’ and get your students practicing the grammar of future tenses? Because many of these activities are very versatile and adaptable, no levels are recommended; with a little tweaking, each game is appropriate for beginning to advanced students.

One of the best things this book offers (that many other activity books in the field do not) are games requiring no preparation or materials. Like many of my colleagues, I work at a large school where I teach hundreds of students a week, and there’s nothing I hate more than having to make 500 copies of a worksheet that half of my students will throw away. With these lessons, I can show up without a thing and rest assured that quality language production would occur.

Having said this, Interactive Games and Activities for Language Learning is best suited for a smaller class (fewer than 20 students). Many of the activities call for a class split in two groups, and students in large classes may lose out on some of the interaction time in such a setting. Additionally, many of the activities offer natural channels for your students to get to know one another, so a smaller class of students who are not familiar with each other will benefit greatly from such activities.

Because the games call for very spontaneous interaction, this book would be best in a class with either a high level of internal motivation; students without this level of motivation (for example large public school classes) are more likely to slip back into their first language if not monitored. The exception is international classes where first language communication is not possible.

Reviewed by Lydia Schrandt for Teflnet September 2009


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