There is nothing that engages children more than teaching English through play. Indeed a bored class will take in less than half of what a teacher says and retain none of it. Whereas an attentive, interested and involved class, learning through fun English Language games, will take in 100% of the lesson and retain up to 80% of it. Using language games in class has got to be one of the most exciting ways to teach children English.
It is well documented that English language games enhance learning and with children are one of the most effective classroom tools. Nguyen Thi Thanh Huyen and Khuat Thi Thu Nga, authors of Learning Vocabulary Through Games: The Effectiveness of Learning Through Games, report that ‘The interviewed teacher reported that their students seemed to learn new vocabulary more quickly and retain it better when it was applied in a relaxed and comfortable environment such as while playing games’. Words, as we all know, are the very building blocks of language. If a child can rapidly learn and retain significant amounts of new vocabulary using games, then no wonder teachers are seeking to use English language games more and more in their classrooms all over the world.
That is why it is shocking to see comments on forums where teachers suggesting that teaching with games is frivolous or not really productive. This is an outdated perception and these teachers would benefit from being shown some of the new language games used in English classrooms today. These games are effective and are guaranteed to obtain better results than traditional teaching methods.
Teachers will also ask ‘Can one teach all the time with English language games, or does one use them for a few minutes at the end of the lesson as a reward?’ Now if you think about this question its absurdity may become apparent to you. Why would you deny children the learning experience they prefer? Furthermore, why would you ration out the use of a great learning tool to a few minutes at the end?
Would you not want, instead, to maximize your time using the most effective teaching method, and the one which your students enjoy the most. Do you think your pupils prefer to sit there passively while little Susie reads stumblingly through paragraph one, or do you think the class would prefer to be involved in an exciting language game where everyone has the chance to use the words in paragraph one? Surely the method where the whole class is actively involved in hearing and using English is going to be the winner as far as capturing interest and encouraging language retention.
Importantly English language games give students a reason to communicate, and a context for speaking practise. Repetition is the mother of skill but constant, meaningless parrot-fashion repetition is not going to go down well with your pupils. Therefore the repetition needed for language to stick can be attractively packaged in a game and pass unnoticed as students focus on the process of the game itself, all the while using the language in a relaxed and above all fun environment.
As competition can be a part of English games, but does not need to be, it is one way of enhancing interest and motivation in class, as Karen deBord points out in the Asian EFL Journal (December 2003). DeBord, an Extension Specialist for Rural Child Care at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University-Blacksburg, explains how competition can help students learn more. ‘As long as no one is forced to participate, competition can be positive and encourage player discovery, examination and learning.’ Creating the right type of language games can foster this healthy, beneficial competition in the classroom.
Last but by no means least is the bond you will create with your pupils when teaching with ESL games. This is surely the most fulfilling part of being a teacher. Disseminating knowledge is a privilege, but to disseminate love AND knowledge has got to be even better.
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