Games: A Strong Tool for ESL TeachersStudents of all ages enjoy playing games in the classroom. It is easy to assume games are a useful way of filling time, but in actual practice playing games in the classroom is one of the strongest tools teachers have to get students
to learn and retain new vocabulary and concepts.
Games give students
the opportunity to practice all skill areas: receptive (listening and reading) and productive (speaking and writing). In the game ?Simon Says,? students
practice speaking and listening. They practice speaking by giving commands, and they practice listening by following them. There is also a physical action involved in playing this game which reinforces the language taught. While doing a crossword puzzle, students
practice writing and reading. The teacher can also put a secondary objective in the puzzle, such as a hidden message, or a clue to a grander objective. The students
will gain a sense of accomplishment when there is an achievement to be had.
Teachers can use games at any stage of a lesson. Guessing games or scrambled pictures can be an engaging way to begin a lesson. A quick round of a game played from the last lesson can help remind the students
what had been taught before. It can also be used to tie in what they had already learned into the next lesson. Presenting new vocabulary can be fun if used as part of a hangman or a matching game. It may seem strange to consider using games as part of the study stage, but turning it into a game can often stimulate learning for students
that learn best through less traditional methods of study. The more interactive the game is, the more potential it will have to improve a student
?s language abilities. The more inclusive the games are of all the learning styles (such as visual, auditory, tactile, read/write), the more likely the students
will be able to learn what has been taught.
There is a greater purpose to games that goes beyond just learning a foreign language. Firstly, students
learn the importance of cooperation with others. There are many times when it is necessary for students
to rely on each other to achieve a goal. In the game ?chinese
Whispers,? where a line of students
whisper a word or phrase from one end of the line to the other, they each depend on each other?s abilities to win. Secondly, competition is a truly motivating factor for many students
. It fosters the students
? ambition and drive to succeed in the classroom and in life. Lastly, games can be a platform from where students
can see the practical, or the real world uses of the language. The lesson is given a sense of meaning, as so the students
can feel the importance of what is being taught.
When choosing a game, in order to ensure that the game is effective in the students
? learning of the material, teachers needs to keep several things in mind. They need to think about the appropriacy of the game: to the lesson, to the age of the students
and to the skill levels of the students
. They need to make sure the game has a goal or an objective that coincides with the aim of the class. If it is important that the students
focus on phonics, then the objective of the game must involve phonics. When the lesson is over teachers have guidelines for which to evaluate the game and thus make changes or alterations for a more effective game the next time.
When the game is effective and has clear goals, it becomes more than just filler. It becomes a fun and valuable way to learn for students
of all ages. With correct planning and a solid understanding of the importance of games, teachers will find that it is one of the strongest tools at their disposal.