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How can Game-Based Learning be Helpful to EFL Students?

How can Game-Based Learning be Helpful to EFL Students? | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Games are a useful tool for teachers of EFL students because they help with motivation, engagement, and graceful failure (Plass 260-261). I will present a successful example of a teacher using games in an adult grammar class from Indonesia. Second, since I plan to teach online EFL students, I will present free digital games online teachers can use in their virtual classrooms.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Christopher C. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

Advantages of the Theory

Many professional articles have been written showing the importance of game-based learning theory for EFL students. Games have an element of ‘play’ in them, and so differ greatly from a deductive teacher lecture. Because of that, they help with student motivation and engagement. The entertainment value of games “has shown to be able to motivate learners to stay engaged over long periods…through incentive structures, such as stars, points, leaderboards, badges and trophies” (Plass 260). Games can also help with students' feelings of failure. The “lowered consequences of failure in games encourage(s) risk-taking, trying new things, and exploration” (Plass 260).

students at the table

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The First Research

A pilot study was done in Indonesia using a group of 30 adult EFL students teaching grammar using the game-based learning theory. The teacher developed three games to use to teach the class. They were Guessing the Word, Board & Dice, and the Run & Guess. Guessing the Word allowed students “to practice their speaking and writing skills while learning new words of different parts of speech” (Fithriani 178). The teacher first created a bunch of categories with vocabulary words that correlated. The students were then divided into groups, clue givers and word guessers, and each group had to select a category. Whatever group guessed all the words first won. The activity was followed up by using those words to construct a paragraph and share it with the group.

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Popular Games

The Board & Dice Game was designed to “make students practice spoken English through a fun competition” (Fithriani 178). Groups were divided into four, and each member took a turn rolling the dice and answering a question. If they got it correct they could stay, if not they had to move back on the board. For example “the teacher wrote verbs on the board and students had to use those verbs in a particular tense or particular type of conditional sentence” (Fithriani 179). The winner was the first to the board finish line.

The Run & Guess game was exciting because it involved physical activity and was completed outside. The teacher wrote questions on cards and placed them a few meters from the students. Students then divided into groups. One person from each group ran and brought back the question. They received a point if the question was answered correctly. Then the next person ran for a question. The group with the most points won. This was also followed up with a writing activity once they were back in the classroom (Fithriani 179).

The students were asked to complete a survey, both before and after the lessons, and their answers were very insightful. In the pre-survey, one student stated, “I don’t like grammar because it is so difficult, just like Mathematics. We have to remember the formulas and make many sentences using those formulas” (Fithriani 181). Another remarked, “I think learning grammar is so boring” (Fithriani 181). The post-survey a student remarked, “I think we played and laughed a lot during the class yet I learned how to make correct sentences” (Fithriani 181). One student added, “I think I speak English more fluently now. I’m not afraid of making mistakes anymore” (Fithriani 181). The student response shows the usefulness of games in the classroom.

adult lesson

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Access to Materials

Second, there are several free open-source digital games teachers of EFL students can use in the classrooms (El Yaafouri). Digital games are an excellent resource “because they foster collaborative problem-solving, [and] these gaming platforms require students to exercise all four language domains—reading, writing, speaking, and listening—in meaningful ways.” (edutopia)

My Choice

I am going to focus on one game titled Stop Disasters, which was designed by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. The game simulates natural disasters such as tsunamis, earthquakes, wildfires, and floods, and provides students options to prepare and mitigate damage. The game “invites players to strategically reduce the impact of these events by carefully managing resources, plan cities, and build defenses to protect their populations. The recommended grade levels for this game are 6-10, and they offer additional teacher resources, fact sheets, and teacher planning tools. For EFL students, these simulations can offer an opportunity to work in groups and practice both listening and speaking skills.

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I have provided examples of games to help student learning in the classroom, and I look forward to implementing some of these games in my teaching.

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