TEACHER - 2 - Teacher
If students are asked what they want to do in class, invariably they will suggest playing games, listening to music and watching movies.
Students play a game at the 9th Southeast Asia Mathematics Competition (SEAMC) held at Bangkok Patana School last year. PURICH TRIVITAYAKHUN
While these three activities can play a useful role in class, games need to be thought through carefully and not just added at the last minute when a few minutes are free or students are showing signs of losing interest in the planned lesson.
Use games to motivate, entertain students
Games are fun and can motivate students to try harder, either during the game itself or leading up to a game if students know it is scheduled later in the class.
If carefully selected, games can provide an entertaining and effective opportunity to review material taught and perhaps introduce a few new ideas that will be dealt with in later classes.
Finally, different games allow for the natural use of language and can help to demonstrate how language learned in class can be used in real life.
Games are serious business: Prepare well
Once a game has been selected as an option for a group based on their age, language ability and the time available, other important preparations must be completed.
First, the game and its rules must be easy to explain, understand, follow and monitor. It is the teacher's responsibility to ensure that instructions are clear, goals are set and outcomes explained.
This will, depending on the game selected, require varying English abilities. While it might be possible to present an advanced game to an intermediate group, the time taken to do so and the possible student frustration in not understanding how to play the game in question need to be considered carefully.
Plan ahead for the most effective use of activities
Games should be incorporated into the teacher's lesson plan at various topic stages. Some games are best scheduled to introduce new ideas, others may be employed to encourage acquisition of ideas, either in terms of accuracy or fluency; and finally, some are most appropriate as an immediate or delayed review of taught material.
It is also important to ensure that enough time has been scheduled to: introduce the game, set out the rules and check that the rules are understood, play the game, and to elicit questions and comments during a feedback session, if necessary.
This might include setting a time limit for the game, setting winning goals in terms of points needed to win, along with some backup ideas as to how a game might be extended if it finishes too quickly or how to cut it short if it seems to be running over the allotted time.
Vary and combine available game types
The first step is to decide between a cooperative, competitive or communicative game.
A cooperative game is best when one aim of the game is to have students work together to build teamwork or to enable them to know each other better.
Competitive games are useful when students like to break into set groups, with the competition between groups to finish before others, leading to increased language use.
Finally, communicative games are useful when the aim is to encourage fluency rather than accuracy between students on each team and between members of the other teams.
Games in class can be great fun. However, it is important that all students have the opportunity to win. If one student or group dominates, motivation to play can be lost.
Therefore, care should be taken in either selecting a variety of very different games that will result in a different winner each time, or establish a rule that the winning team from a previous game must be broken up and its members added to the other groups.
In conclusion, while the primary goal behind using games is to practise language, while using our students' often natural desire to compete, it is the teacher's role to make certain all students look forward to the next game with the same chances of winning as their classmates.
Dr Timothy Cornwall has been teaching EFL for 30 years and is part of the Shinawatra University faculty. Co-founder of Thailand Educators Network, he can be reached through thaiednet.org , through his
web site hspeechwork.co.th , at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 081-834-8982.