Playing Games in an ESL Classroom
"Play is our brain's favorite way of learning" â Diane Ackerman.
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This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Danila E. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
I could not agree more with the quote above as playing games in the classroom has many advantages:The main thing needed for a successful process of learning is, of course, motivation. And playing games certainly increases students' interest and their willingness to participate in the class.
However, every teacher must ensure the group's understanding of the game rules and processes before starting the actual game. Incomplete understanding may lead to the opposite effect - some people may get demotivated.
Another great advantage of playing games in the classroom is team-building and overall peer positivity. If the activity went successful, game participants would remember a positive experience of the learning process, which will motivate them to be more engaged in any upcoming activities/lessons. Every teacher, especially the younger students, knows that it is much easier to control a well-bonded group.
Speaking of ages, it is worth remembering that while some of the games are truly suitable for almost all ages and groups of English learners, there are always many aspects of the game that should be kept in mind by the teacher.
For example, a relatively young learner would be more engaged in physical activity. Thus, when preparing for a lesson, teachers should pay their attention to more activity-based games, such as "hot potato," "thumbs up, thumbs down," etc.
While still interested in the physical part of the game, teenagers require it to be more complex and call for a challenge. At this age, students are willing to solve bigger problems playfully. A good example of a game for teenagers would be "Trivia." It's well-known and easy to understand, allows the teacher to have controlled competitiveness in the class.
Adult learners of English prefer more "educational" games than younger learners. An older student would need to constantly feel the process of acquiring new information through the game. Not to mention their general willingness to engage in more serious topics. When we think of good games for adults, there are always a few examples that pop up: "Call My Bluff," "Box of Lies," and others.
When working with a specialized group, such as Business English, it's important to understand that the game must be suitable for the group's general purpose. In other words, it is better to choose a business-related game. Because most of the business students are usually employees of the company that invited a teacher to conduct lessons, it is worth remembering that the knowledge those students acquire in the classroom is expected to be used daily at their work. When choosing a game for a Business English group, a teacher should consider roleplay-related games. Those games create a close-to-reality atmosphere in the classroom and provide students with experience in a controlled environment.
To sum it up, it is necessary to remember that any game's purpose is learning at the end of the day. While some icebreaking games are relatively easy and require a more relaxed approach, every teacher should remember that preparation (i.e., doing a little research on every game he/she wants to use in their classroom) increases the chances of proper and successful implementation of the activity into the lesson.
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