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Teaching Grammar Through Student-Centered Games

Teaching Grammar Through Student-Centered Games | ITTT | TEFL Blog

As a new teacher, grammar was initially very difficult for me to teach. It was difficult to demonstrate grammar patterns succinctly. Luckily, the school that I work for has provided help by having an established curriculum. The key to teaching grammar, however, has been teaching variable inputs in otherwise unchanging structures as part of student-centered games.

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

Strategies on how to teach positive patterns

If I were to teach the pattern, “What does Billy like?/ He likes _____”, then I would have several options. I could read the pattern and have the students listen. This would be ineffective because the students are only practicing listening, not speaking. I could have the students repeat the pattern after me, and cue different inputs (by pointing to different pictures, accompanied by words on the board, for example). This would be better, but still would not be best, because the students are not able to manipulate the language themselves. I believe that this, in most cases, would negatively impact their abilities to pay attention.

On the other hand, if I assigned different words to numbers on a dice, and had students play this game with one another, this would be better yet because each student gets the opportunity to practice the pattern many times, and is more likely to be engaged because they have control over manipulating the language. This also underscores that one of the patterns has a variable input (because the thing Billy likes could be one of any six things), which I believe would help to reinforce the pattern in students' minds. And because the activity is gamified, it’s likely to be more fun, and keep students more interested.

Also Read: Why Japanese Students Struggle with Communicating in English

How to teach negative patterns?

If I were to teach another pattern, involving yes and no inputs, then I could similarly use student-centered games to effectively teach. Let’s say that the next lesson after teaching, “What does Billy like?/He likes _____” I taught, “Does Billy like ______?/Yes, he likes ______” or “Does Billy like ______?/No, he does not like _______.” The thing that Billy likes as input is open-ended, and a great many things could be placed there. Billy may like running (verb), running swiftly (verb, adverb combination), an apple (nouns), apples (plural nouns), sweet apples (adjective, noun combination). There are other possible combinations as well. But regardless of the teaching point, a dice may be appropriate again here, to show that there are various correct inputs, suggesting the changeability of this part of the pattern. On the other hand, the answer, “Yes, Billy likes _____” or “No, Billy does not like ______” Could be determined by a coin toss.

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So, to gamify the pattern, one student may toss a coin to see who will ask the question and who will answer. The other student chooses if he will ask or answer if he wins. The student who asks the question will roll the dice, and ask, “Does Billy like _____.” One of the six inputs will be inserted at the end. And then the second student will flip a coin, with heads indicating that, “Yes, Billy likes _____” and tails indicating that, “No, Billy does not like ______.” The students can play this game in pairs, while the teacher floats to correct pronunciation errors and other errors as they occur.

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