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How Games Help Students to Learn in an ESL Classroom

How Games Help Students to Learn in an ESL Classroom | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Games play an essential role in students' language acquisition regardless of other numerous sources they can be exposed to. Other sources include pictures, stories, poems, flashcards, videos and so on and so forth. Flashcards, for example, serve the purpose of a visual stimulus and aim to help visual learners in particular. The visual learning style often refers to a way of learning in which a person acquires language when information is associated with images. What about other learning styles? This essay aims to emphasize the importance of games in the classroom context and how beneficial they are for language acquisition.

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

The Importance of Games

Games encourage students to use both aural and visual channels to activate language production and, eventually, physical movements. Students are fond of games and thus participate with eagerness and enthusiasm. Nevertheless, games are sometimes considered to be a waste of time. Some teachers fail to recognize the effectiveness and importance of playing games in the classroom by pointing out that they create an uncontrolled, noisy and almost chaotic atmosphere. Complete dependence on the textbooks, in my opinion, will be like watching the grass grow as students generally have short attention spans and get demotivated easily. Students, particularly younger age groups, are genuinely curious, and thus eager to learn when they are active. When learning takes place in an entertaining, encouraging and engaging way, children wholeheartedly dedicate themselves to it.

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Moreover, regarding diverse learning styles, students find games as an active way of acquiring language. What's more, if a teacher properly designs a game, gives clear and simple instructions and tackles possible problems that may arise, games can turn into an essential way of learning a language. The more effort we make when it comes to our teaching, the more likely we are to meet the needs of all types of learners. Teachers should strive to introduce a variety of exciting and relevant activities if they want their students to understand how language functions. Games in the classroom are activities with rules which make students willing to complete the task. On one hand, games have an element of fun, while on the other hand, they make students tackle possible challenges. Furthermore, when playing games, students use English unconsciously and learn at the same time. What's more, games help teachers create a context in which children's attention is focused on the completion of a task without realizing that language items are being practiced. This is the way students learn due to direct exposure and relation to language.

Games can also be perceived as a challenge students are to fulfill. This is the way we keep them motivated and satisfied with making progress in acquiring language. However, teachers should always bear in mind the interests and needs of learners. Moreover, purposeful and carefully chosen games can help learners practice and revise language and therefore enrich their vocabulary. Apart from all the aforementioned facts, games help students learn a variety of skills which include critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, etc. To support all the facts, I will share one of the games I use with my students.

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Example Game: Pictionary

  • Class description: 12 students, eight-year-olds, primary school
  • Lesson objective: To revise vocabulary students learned during the first semester
  • Procedure: Teacher divides students into two groups. There are two boards, as well as two board markers. Two students from each team are to come to the teacher to check the flashcard he/she shows. Other students are supposed to close their eyes. When the teacher says: ''Open your eyes!'', each student of each team runs and starts drawing the object/thing shown on the flashcard. To make it more challenging, I allowed my students to say a word three times. This makes them collaborate more, think and wait. The first student who guesses the word from the flashcard correctly wins the point.

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In a nutshell, every creative teacher should strive to implement as many fun activities as possible to keep children/students motivated and engaged in their lessons. Since we are dealing with a very demanding profession, we should always look forward to new, entertaining and different ways to improve our teaching skills. Our profession lets us spice things up and help students love foreign language. On the other hand, games help students get out of their shells and feel comfortable. This is the way we create an atmosphere of trust and, eventually, language acquisition is guaranteed.

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