Following on from Jyh’s post about the play museum, I thought I’d write about how we can use games in language teaching and learning.
As a language teacher in Portugal in the 1990s, there were lots of games I used with my students. One favourite was the grammar auction, where students had an amount of (imaginary!) money and had to bid for sentences. If the sentence was correct, they doubled their money; if it was ungrammatical, they lost their money. Fortunes were made and lost in the space of a lesson!
Another favourite activity was picture pairs, where cards represented pairs of words and pictures. For example, a picture of an umbrella was matched by the word ‘umbrella’ on another card. All the cards started off face down, and students could turn over two cards at a time in order to find a perfect pair. These cards could be difficult for the artistically challenged teacher to make, but fortunately there were several good books of grammar games with photocopiable activities. Two very useful books were Penny Ur’s Grammar Practice Activities and Mario Rinvolucri’s Grammar Games. There were others whose names I’ve forgotten, but perhaps you’d like to share your ideas in the comments box below?
Another game was snakes and ladders, in which students threw a dice to go round a board and answer questions on aspects of English grammar. If they answered wrongly when their counter was on the head of a snake, down they went to the snake’s tail a few rows below. However, if they answered correctly at the foot of a ladder, they could go a long way up the board.
We also played dominoes, with words and definitions, or pictures and written words, on different domino rectangles. And of course, we played a lot of bingo, with numbers and words. A
slightly less lugubrious variation
on the word game hangman was the spelling shark, in which students had a
limited number of opportunities to guess the letters that made up a word. If
they weren’t quick enough, and didn’t guess the word in number of chances
available, the stick figure on the whiteboard walked off a cliff and fell into
the mouth of a hungry shark. The number of chances increased if the teacher was feeling generous!
|photo by Julia Miller|
|photo by Julia Miller|
With very young students, musical colours was a winner. The children danced around to an English song, and when the music stopped they had to stand on a large piece of paper in the colour called out by the teacher. We also did this activity with shapes.
Many games were enjoyed by students of all ages. However, some adult learners and parents of younger students worried that games were not a ‘serious’ learning activity. Their fears were unfounded, as students in my classes were motivated by the games and did well in exams.
Although, as a teacher, I spent a lot of time preparing materials, these games could be used again and again, and brought a lot of pleasure to my students, while at the same time stimulating them in their language learning. Nowadays, of course, there are so many opportunities for online language games too. What are some of the language learning games and websites that you like best?