Classroom Activities for Various Groups of Students
I love the use of games for learning. I have utilized board games, card games, and role-playing games in teaching for the past 3 years. I am currently using them to connect with students at the high school, to talk about some important and serious issues, with the pretense of game mechanics. I use games as a warmer for a Bible study I conduct with other students before school. Using the game as the introduction to the lesson we will learn about that morning, to try to get them to relate the game, in a simplified way, to real-world lessons. I have also, since having children, always been on the lookout for short games, that do require long term strategies or hours of gameplay, because my wife or I may be pulled away to take care of our young children. I have been finding games that would be great as warmers before class, have been thinking and planning on making them applicable lessons that will fit right in with teaching English. Games are a wonderful aid in the classroom setting because they are a great way to engage students and improve rapport, they can teach vocabulary, as well as ideas, and are a practical means to help students become more fluent in English in a practical way.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Jedediah I. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Games are, first and foremost, a great way to engage students in the classroom.
Old and young alike can enjoy games of all ages. Games can set them an alright tone of play in the classroom, instead of the most boring and strict teaching environments. If you come from a dull, repetitious, and serious business world for the last 8 hours, games can change your attitude to help you be a more receptive and comfortable learner. The dynamics of a group of people rallying to one cause, to beat a game, or to try to outwit your opponents also brings relationships together in the classroom; allegiances are forged, help can come from people you wouldn’t normally talk to, the bonding that happens as we celebrate and as we suffer a defeat are unique bonding experiences. That, coupled with the nature of helping other people learn the game to share their knowledge and help the slower, newer players, induces a communicative experience. Where each player wants to play the game, and they need to help others play the game so they can get to their turn. I think we love to share our knowledge and experience with those that are struggling, which will prompt conversations and help relationships at the table/into the classroom. A few drawbacks are class size limits the experience and when students don’t want to participate in the game. A creative teacher can handle these two issues by having large groups be in smaller teams, and rotating the students occasionally and there is some convincing that must happen on a one-on-one level with the reluctant student. Teaching is about being flexible and sensitive to the needs of the classroom.
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Next, games are a superb way to reinforce basic vocabulary and to teach new vocabulary.
In my journey to learn Japanese, I have been utilizing UNO™ to teach my young children numbers, and colors. The repetition of counting out cards, calling the number and color as you play it has been a great tool to get the kids to work and think about things in Japanese. It can be used for teaching English as well, doing the same thing for the non-native English speakers to start a class with some very simple basic vocabulary. It helps me as well start to think about what else needs to be added to our vocabulary, “it’s your turn”, “you can’t do that”, “I win/you win”, “good job”, as well as others to add to our vernacular. The games help me to start thinking about the words I don’t have that I need to seek out. For students in the classroom, it would be a good game to slowly build on basic vocabulary, first colors, then numbers, then verbs, and sentences. The stronger students will more easily be able to help correct or guide the less comfortable students with the right words and pronunciation. There are some limiting factors a teacher will have to be creative to keep pushing past the basics, or always seeking new games to build upon the previously known vocabulary, but once mastered, it would be a good game to transition the students from their native tongue to English.
Finally, games are a practical means to help students become more fluent in English in a practical way.
Humans learn through repetition, and even though the game changes, the vocabulary for each game would stay relatively the same game after game. Students will mentally rehearse saying what they need to say before speaking. The time between turns will allow them this practice time, but also, a last-minute change of play can be normal if the person before you play something that changes your strategy. This will help students think on their toes and start making them think about English under pressure. As practicing the words in the bubble that is school or practice is not as stressful as staring at someone that doesn’t understand your native tongue and trying to produce the words you need to be understood.
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I have found games to be a helpful teaching tool and aid in breaking the ice with students. Games in the classroom have limitations, but I think with a thoughtful teacher, there is a lot of progress that can be made when used to help rapport, in conjunction with language lessons, and with helping students become comfortable to aid in fluency.
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