miércoles, 13 de octubre de 2010

Something to say about: Games in language teaching

A long time ago, I published an online article titled "Using games in TEFL." To my surprise, the article was linked by many foreign web sites including the Taiwan Teachers´ association and the Cataluña English Teachers´web.
You will the original article below, and after that, a link to a short video giving a demostration of how to use games in your classes. The demo is not mine, I have linked it from YouTube (it can be useful sometimes) and comes from
Bridge TEFL .

Using games in TEFL

· What is a game?

Let us take this situation: a little boy is kicking a ball in the house garden. Is this a game? The answer is no, what the boy is doing is play. Now, take this second situation: the little boy is now kicking the ball with the intention of putting it into a goal, his father has told him to use his feet only but never the hands. Is this a game? Yes, it is. What is the difference then? In the first example, the boy played without any given rule. In the second situation, the kicking was ordered by a set of clearly stated rules. Add more players, form teams and give points for successful achievement of the aim and you will have a competitive game.

A game is basically play governed by rules. A language game is exactly the same, but with clear linguistic rules to which all participants in the activity must conform.

· Characteristics of games

A game is governed by rules. Playing just to pass the time will not have the same effect. To make a simple activity into a game just give a couple of rules and that is all.

A game has objectives. One of the rules, and probably the main one, is the achievement of an objective. This objective can be something like making points for correctness or finishing an activity first.

A game is a closed activity. Games must have a beginning and an end. It must be easy for the players, or the teacher, to know who is about to reach the aim.

A game needs less supervision from the teacher. This must be understood as linguistic supervision. Sometimes the game is conducted by the teacher who acts as judge, scorer and/ or referee.

It is easier for students to keep going. Compared with pair or group work, a game has a ludic element that other interaction patterns do not have. This makes the activity more attractive.

· Types of games

Not all games are the same. More than one of the categories listed here may sometimes apply to a game.

Cooperative games. In this type of game, the main action is centred in trying to reach the aim in cooperation. This type of game is excellent to encourage the shy students, since it requires the participation of all the members of a team, group or pair. Some typical activities may include the completion of a drawing, putting things in order, grouping things, finding a pair or finding hidden things. Students are involved in the exchange of information to complete the task and in giving/ following instructions.

Competitive games. As the name indicates, in this type of game there is an overt competiton between teams, or sometimes of an individual against the rest of the class ( as in 20 Questions ). The competition may also be of individuals against other individuals. The object of this type of game is finishing or reaching the end before the other competetitors, making more points, surviving elimination, or avoiding penalties. The rules may require the players to produce correct language as part of the game and force students to draw conclussions more quickly.

Communication games. The main objective in this type of game is getting the message over to the other players and reacting appropriately to their messages. For example when giving instructions, the player giving them must be clear, and the player following them must do exactly what he is required to. The tasks are usually practical, like following instructions, drawing, persuading other players, etc. This means that players will concentrate on the task rather than on the language, besides, students can see the results of their use of language at once which will help to build students`confidence.

Code-control games. This type of game requires that students produce correct language: structures, spelling, pronunciation, etc. The production of correct language will make the players of the team win points.

· Patterns of interaction during games

During games a number of interaction patterns can be caused. Some of them are set up with a leader challenging a group, teams or individual members of the teams. In this pattern, the leader may be asked questions or he may ask questions to the team members. Also, the leader may give directions to perform actions, as in Simon Says. TPR activities are examples of this type of interaction pattern.

Other types of interaction involve pairs, either closed or variable ( as in Find Someone Who ), or groups working simultaneously. In this type of interaction the teacher does not normally participate actively in the game but acts as a consultant or encourager. The teacher must also note recurrent and common errors for delayed correction or remedial work.

· The teacher`s role in games

Depending on the type of interaction pattern caused by the game and the type of game played, the teacher`s roles are very different.

The teacher may be Master of Ceremonies and direct the game, or give that responsibility to a good student, in which case he will become the evaluator of the responses and occasionally the scorer of the game. Also the teacher might play the role of language consultant or informant. Other roles are those of monitor/ corrector and referee.

· Organising games in class

Before a game is played the teacher must make sure that he has all the necessary materials ready: Are worksheets necessary? Role cards? Boards? Dice? Pointers? Score cards?

The game rules must be made clear to the players, most of the times a demostration is the best thing to do. A round of questions about the rules is another good method to check that everything is clear. This is crucial for the success of the activity, so every effort should be made.

After rules are understood, the game itself is to be set up. In competitive games, the formation of the teams is extremely important. The teacher must try and put together groups where there are players with different abilities and levels of competence. In communication games, it is a good idea to write some useful phrases on the board to " signal " the target language.

During the game, the teacher must note down every recurrent mistake without interfering. A way to do this is by classifying the mistakes by vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation and so on. It is also good to try and copy the exact words the student said. This information is to be used in two ways, either as the source for a delayed correction stage after the game is over or as the base for the planning of remedial work in the next lessons.

After the game finishes, a summary must be given. In this summary the teacher should be very careful to encourage students, highlight the good points that ocurred during the game and take the opportunity to motivate his students. Here the teacher might want to correct the mistakes he noted down during the game, but making sure no student is referred to directly as the " mistake maker ". Group corrections must refer only to identified mistakes in general giving corrections for the whole group and not for individuals. In this way all students will benefit from the correction.

Cesar Klauer

Demo class on video

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