The Essence of Educational Games
Educational games are methodical tools for achieving a learning goal. A successful learning game should combine motivating player’s life and interesting learning content. Games should not just be practical gaps fillers in the learning process but also serve to impart certain knowledge and to consolidate skills through exercises.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Toufik Z. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Benefits of Games
Games have a lot of advantages, such as they address sides of students who often lack a predominantly cognitive learning process and the information is taken actively by them, however not intentionally sought but incidentally achieved. Also, games have a positive image which has a primary motivating effect for students, therefore they are especially suitable for students who find learning harder at school and need the illustration, action and exercise orientation, the practically oriented lessons or steps are more likely to succeed. Games can be used to promote internal differentiation and self-directed learning and they are suitable for all learning and teaching phases (recording, consolidating, applying, repeating), and maybe suitable for motivating a specific learning situation; besides this, it can be used in all social forms and media-supported (CD-ROM, video, Internet).
Educational games can not only offer a great variety of methods and exercises but also help to intensify the students' activities and be used for open and free teaching design. Body awareness, motor skills, gestures, and facial expressions are included in most of the games; that allows the players to perceive and express their feelings nonverbally or verbally in addition to fostering their imagination, creativity, and ingenuity.
If we look at educational games, we find that they can achieve several objectives as they develop not only individual skills (listening, speaking, reading, writing, translating) but also Individual parts of the linguistic system (phonetics, phonology, lexico-semantics, morpho-syntax) in addition to developing a positive attitude to the foreign language teaching and learning. Furthermore, they allow the learners experience real communication trying out in role-plays with alternative courses of action and new learning and communication strategies, additionally, they teach students self-employment, self- control and cooperation in addition to cultural knowledge.
How to Use Games Effectively
In order to make educational games work for the teacher’s and the students favor, we need to take some points to consider, for example: the game must be adapted to the age, skill level and size of the students in the class and support the achievement of learning objectives and it has to have real playtime, not just study time.
Goals, Rules, and Procedures must be clear in advance (for example, play by rehearsal), that’s why the teacher has to explain the game briefly and succinctly before start playing. The game should not have a compulsory character but the teacher should invite and encourage the students to play and not over-regulate the game but give the group a space for fun that allows creativity and possible rule changes (learning objective). We need also to consider variation, alternatives, and methods of group division and plan spatial requirements and seating arrangements. There are also things that we should avoid, like avoiding linguistic corrections except if game dynamics are not disturbed; and avoid grading the games because they are free of sanction.
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When can we use educational games to take benefit from them in English classes?
First, at the beginning of a lesson because they take everyday stress, ensure readiness to learn and motivation. Second, to introduce either a new learning unit or a new topic. Third, between two blocks of content to loosen up. Fourth, for practice and repetition of a learned unit, or to practice and apply special competences (speaking, reading, listening, writing). Fifth, to expand vocabulary and recovery of concentration and attention in addition to reduce speech impediments. Sixth, to improve group dynamics (do something together, have fun, get to know each other better) and finally, to relax.
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We can conclude that the teachers need to consider which games to use, when to use them, how to link them up with the syllabus, textbook or program and how, more specifically, different games will benefit students in different ways. The key to a successful language game is that the rules are clear, the ultimate goal is well defined and the game must be fun.
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