"Best Game"


#1

Hi all,

In a search for some more fun learning games I found the following:

http://callpost.net/call_for_jets/bestgame-comments.htm

I introduced the basic process of the game yesterday to my two early intermediate level classes (8 to 11 and 9 to 13), and it was great!!

It does require a bit of preparation, and it is not cheap on the photocopying, but I had the children running, reading, writing, speaking and problem solving within 10 minutes, at the same time they were also experiencing a very new concept, “Team Work.”


#2

What is this games bullshit for teaching? Are we talking about amusing four-year-olds? Then it’s not really teaching. If we are talking about language instruction to older children, teen-agers or adults then games have no place and are a total waste of time.
Games are an excuse for the teacher to get out of teaching. When I was in school, games were never a part of my instruction in English, Spanish physics, management, sociology and so on.
I never used games in class and my students gave me feedback that said that they appreciated my no-nonsense approach. They liked the fact that I worked on language acquisition skills, not some convoluted version of Pin the Tail on the Donkey for ESL students.


#3

Grrrr!

Ok some teachers do use games as a crutch, some show too many movies and some are VERY BORING! Even worse, some teachers do not take into consideration that there are several types of learners. Games can be an effective learning tool. You cannot ignore your kinesthetic,spacial learners and teach only to aural, visual learners. This goes for any age, including adults. Games also make a great anticipatory set provided that they are not overused and become too predictable. The stimulation and hormones released during a fun activity or even a competative one help with memory/retention. I am not saying it should all be fun and games. The important issue is balance and attention given to the learning preferences of all types of students no matter the age. By the way I’m not really angry, just passionate!


#4

So, Wolf, when did you get your education degree? Are you saying that kindergarten teachers aren’t teachers?

I have to disagree with you on the “games” issue. Yes, games CAN be a way to get out of teaching. But play can be an important part of learning, from infancy through adulthood. For a personal example, in 4th grade I went from the lowest reading group in the class to the highest after the teacher started a competition to see who understood the assigments best. In fact, some of my most memorable learning experiences involved games.

Some kids thrive on competition, and some just need something a little different to help focus their attention. Some people can learn from boring teachers, and others can’t.

Even as an adult learner, I enjoyed the occasional competition offered my some of our more enthusiastic professors.


#5
quote:
Originally posted by Jeff: So, Wolf, when did you get your education degree? Are you saying that kindergarten teachers aren't teachers?

Now we get into language issues… In Germany, there are no “kindergarten teachers”. Our kindergartens are just that, not schools and the adults caring for the children are called “Erzieher”, which would be something like “Educator” in English. The US English is using the terms “student” and “teacher” quite liberal and so does Taiwan, but in a language like German there are clear distinctions. There are games in german kindergartens, but no games at school during the classes. However, while we have homework, textbooks and notebooks at school, there is no such thing in a kindergarten.
I agree there are games that can help practice or deepen a language, even at university we made use of some - after the classes. Judging from what Wolf wrote (including previous articles), I think we share the same view about a few education/teaching issues. Many buxiban (correct me if a kindergarten in Taiwan is NOT just a buxiban for children) bosses (and teachers) seam to be on a neverending quest for the ultimate game that will let their students (again, the children in a german kindergarten are NOT called “students”…) at once remember all the vocabulary and grammar. Looks like a holy grail…
No, I am not saying you should use university methods for first graders, but “teaching methods” used in a “class” are something else than playing “games” in a “group”.

Olaf


#6

A little healthy competition never hurt anyone, even wee wee preschoolers. John was being helpful by posting a link to a classroom game which means he cares about teaching and sharing his ideas with other teachers. Let’s not interpret that as the only methodology he applies in his classes. Thanks John, for the input.
I feel there must be loads of language recycling used in classroom games and wouldn’t deem them time wasters.
In fact, they’re probably a lot more fun than listening to some teacher like Wolf drone on and on about language acquistion.

Ya?


#7

Thanks moderator for your impartial insight.
Let me ask all you good Chinese speakers who acquired their skills here in Taiwan or China – how many games did you play at school to learn to speak? My understanding is none, and I know plenty of very good speakers of the language who learned without those ‘fun games.’
Learning a language is a discipline like any other and while learning should be as positive an experience as possible, the bottom line is that it is hard work, period. Games may take your eye off the ball for a bit, but ultimately you have to knuckle down and do the work.


#8

Oh Wolfie, you’re so ironical.
To be honest, I’m not a big one on games in class either-- unless I get them all hunched over a scrabble board (an amazing thing to watch, actually)But if you teach kids, depending on agelevels, it’s something that’s pretty common, right? I mean, don’t they get rather sick of sitting in chairs all day listening to teachers? If you can get them up and moving around a bit, they may find the language classroom more motivational to attend. And as far as I know, motivation is what really makes people learn.


#9

Penny Ur in “A Course in Language Teaching : Practice and Theory” (Cambridge Teacher Training and Development) makes the distinction between “game like learning activities” and “games”.

I would classify this game as the first, once you have looked at the game you will be able to understand the variety of language uses that are involved.

If a teachers spend an entire lesson playing “Hangman” or “Typhoon,” then I would agree that this teacher is being lazy.

However, if a teacher uses a variety of games (or should I say “game like learning activities”) to spice up a, what can be boring, vocabulary revision task, then this teacher is doing his/her students a big favour.

I am ashamed to say that for a long time I also used wolf’s approach to language teaching , and I feel sorry for the ordeals I put my students through.

I have however learned a great deal in the last few years, and I am now exploring the many ways in which I can change and improve my teaching methodologies.

There is a need for balance in the classroom, especially when teaching younger students (and I mean elementary, not kindergarten). A combination of the “Socratic” and “Confucian” styles that Wolf and Olaf advocate and some fun can only imrove a lesson.

My seal of approval comes from the total involvement and excitement of the students, the willingness of my Taiwanese co-teachers to get totally involved in managing the game, and the books of clip-art and pictures my manager put on my desk so that I can make more “Best Game” templates.

If anyone is brave enough to try this game I would appreciate your feedback.

And please, don’t let Wolf’s attitude stop anyone else from sharing their tried and tested “game like learning activities” here.


#10

Learning or teaching a language the confucian style will not bring you anywhere, the English classes at Taiwan schools and universities are the proof. For a language you need interaction, which the confucian style does not favour: There is always the oneway road from the teacher (talking all the time) to the student (being a nice student by listening carefully, making notes and not interrupting). You can (also depending on the teachers, but the “confucian style” ones definitely do so) learn English here at school for many years up to university without having spoken a single sentence in English…
And “fun” is not restricted to games. And not every game is really funny, especially if you have to play it.

Alien: A german kindergarten (btw, that’s the place where the word comes from) is not a place whithout any system. Actually, children are learning things there, its just that the way they do it is different from that at a school. Taiwan kindergartens (at least most of them) however are only cram schools specialised in children and they stand in a clear contradiction to the idea behind the word “kindergarten”. When a child tells me “Tomorrow I must go ‘shang ke’ again” when talking about their kindergarten, then something is wrong…

Olaf


#11

Wolf,
We played ‘games’ about 3 times int he year I studied Chinese class. they were great and they really helped. I wish we’d played more.

Why play games? (I’m talking about teaching kids here)
Some kids are bored - games will get their attention.
Make them think their English class is fun - they’ll be mroe receptive to learning.
A reward.
Competiion motivates.
Physical learning styles - some kids leran better if they’re moving around at the same time.

There’s lots of reasons. It seems really strange to be opposed to using games to help teach.

Bri


#12

Okay, let’s recap the points for and against language learning games here. As John posted first, I’ll begin with ‘for’:

Students very quickly run, read, write, speak, and solve problems, and learn teamwork. They get rather sick of sitting in chairs all day listening to teachers, and may find the language classroom [in which games are played] more motivational to attend, motivation being what really makes people learn. Games can be instrumental for particular kinds of learners, they involve physicality, make a great ‘anticipatory set’, provide opportunities for language recycling, spice up what can be a boring vocabulary revision task, get people’s attention, and offer rewards based on the motivational effects of competition. The stimulative effect of games, moreover, contributes positively to memory/retention.

Since I haven’t posted yet, I’d like to add my two cents worth here (as I’m assuming the teacher has used half an ounce of wisdom in selecting the ‘game’ best suited for the students involved and the learning at issue, I make no distinction here between a game and a “game-like learning activity”):

(1) Students pick up on the natural metalanguage used during a game. Consider the notional, functional, communicative, and lexical value of: “Okay, could everyone get together in groups of three, please?” “Cindy, I don’t think it’s your turn yet” “Who’s next in your group?” “Who went last?” “Pick a card” “Which colour magnet would you like?” “Find a partner” “One at a time, please!” “There’s only one student left in your group!” “Two down, three to go” “David, please trade cards with Amber” “Sunny, come up to the front, please” “Face the board and count to ten” - each of these utterances can in turn be recycled and compared and contrasted to other similar and opposing notions later in the course. You can do so much if a student’s first contact with a piece of language is authentic intake.

(2) While games only rarely mimic or emulate real life, they do have the advantage of providing the student the opportunity to speak from desire. And when students say something they really want to, no matter the reason, it sounds so much better than when they, say, drone out the correct response to a substitution drill.

(3) In real life, as in games, a certain chaos reigns. It’s good to have students spontaneously blasting out newly adopted language against psychic interference. Socially as well as systemically, the acquisition of language, in sharp contrast to that of most other systems, isn’t linear, so a teacher will do far worse than to provide, at least occasionally, an environment in which stimuli are coming from all directions.


Now for ‘against’:

Some teachers use games as a crutch, and there are plenty of very good speakers of the language who learned without those ‘fun games.’ The bottom line is that it is hard work, period.


Neither the arguments for nor against games are that substantive, and it would seem that the arguments against are in exceptional need of logistical support. Do those against games have real evidence that games well-chosen for particular learning items and properly executed for particular students are a waste of time? What kinds of “hard work” have proven so convincingly effective as to warrant the above antipathy? I’m sure everyone would love to get elaboration on this. And… are games and hard work mutually exclusive?


#13

Wow! Thanks busterbrown. I think what it boils down to is that some teachers like using games in class and others don’t. Wolf appears to fit in the ‘don’t’ category, while the rest of us may sprinkle our classes with them in order to enliven the time.
I teach mostly corporate students and I don’t use them too often unless the classes are lower level learners, in which case their abilities are similar to children.


#14
quote:
Originally posted by wolf_reinhold: What is this games bullshit for teaching? Are we talking about amusing four-year-olds? Then it's not really teaching. If we are talking about language instruction to older children, teen-agers or adults then games have no place and are a total waste of time. Games are an excuse for the teacher to get out of teaching. When I was in school, games were never a part of my instruction in English, Spanish physics, management, sociology and so on. I never used games in class and my students gave me feedback that said that they appreciated my no-nonsense approach. They liked the fact that I worked on language acquisition skills, not some convoluted version of Pin the Tail on the Donkey for ESL students.

Is this just your idea of a piss-take? Are you just trying to stir up a debate?

Well, I sure wouldn’t like to be your student Wolf. I can just imagine how stimualting it must be for your students to sit for 90 minutes looking at the back of your head as you write time lines and grammar paradigms on the board.

You talk about language aquisition… how is language aquired in your class? Do you, dare I say… allow… c-o-n-v-e-r-s-a-t-i-o-n?! Or, is it 90 minutes of, “I say it you say it”? Do they sit spellbound for the class period while Teacher pontificates on the greek and latin roots of prefixes and suffixes?

You seem to look to your experiences learning physics and sociology - in your native language - for inspiration for your fine language insturction in Taiwan. Yeah, that makes a whole lot of sense! Teaching like your high school chemistry teacher makes you a good ESL teacher?!

Unfortunatley, It is people like you, who never recieve any teacher trainning, who never learn the theroy and methodology of second language aquisition - who teach intuitively - that give the profession the taint of unprofessionalism in Taiwan. Those of us with ESL degrees, or extensive trainning and experience, who take our work seriously are never taken seriously because of the fly-by-night traveller teacher phenomenon.

A compotent language teacher, reagrdless of the age of students, empolys a wide variety of techniques- including games, to create a dynamic,student centered, communicative learning environment.

Go to the bookstore for pete’s sake! Pick up any ESL book. What do you see? Communicative acitivites - games - pair work - info gaps - puzzels - messenger games - vocabluarly and grammar games… The variety is astounding. And that is one of the key points. Successful and effective teachers present lessons in ways that make the material engaging to the student.

I’m guessing that you are the kind of “teacher” who took one look at the books you were given to use, didn’t want to figure out how they are meant to be taught, and said to yourself, “The hell with this, I know best.”

Why do you know best?! Because of the way you learned things in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s in your own bloody country?!

Do you think Oxford, Cambridge, Prentice Hall, Longman, and Heinaman publish numerous communicative game books (for all ages), and always incorperate “games” into any full class text (even for business English classes) because they think their market is to provide teachers ways to “get out of teaching”?!

Do yourself a favor. Quit whatever teaching job you have now, and go over and fill out an application at ELSI. The owner, Mr. Ho is a legendary twat - the mangagment sucks, and the pay is middle to low, but at least you will finally get the teacher trainning and class preperation support you are in obvious need of.

One last thing – Did you ever stop to think that perhaps your students were either too intimidated, or too polite to tell you what a boring teacher you are? This is Taiwan, Wolf…

I really didn’t want this to become a flame - but really - your post has to be the stupidest thing I have read on this board.

Your comments about other things are often quite amusing and well thought out. Hmmm… perhaps what you really need to do is change your line of work.


#15

I am sorry, but games play a crucial part in education, especially with children. You try teaching 6 years old how to retain the spelling and the phonics sounds associated with only 26 abstracts shapes (aka letters) without making it entertaining. I use phonics Bingo where they choose 24 letter combinations and they have to remember what sounds those letters represent when I read them. I have them split into two teams to make them pay attention when we are doing something slightly dry where if one of their teammates is not paying attention they lose a point. I have vocabulary games where they have to make up a sentence off the top of their heads using one of weekly spelling words. You cannot tell me that games are merely a cop-out for teaching. My results prove otherwise. I had sceptical parents who were upset when little Johnny came home and when asked what he did at school replied, “We just played games.” When I met with those parents and showed them the games, they asked me for copies of them to play with their children at home to help them with their English. One of my favorite courses in college was TESOL materials and making up activities to both entertain and educate English learners. These games were enough to help even my stubborn adults (one being a fiercely proud Uzbek who finally came around acting as a detective) learn English.


#16

Even if a particular game were not a “learning activity” (which I support when choosing “games” or "game-like activities), it may still have a purpose in a country where young children are routinely put into English classes for 90 minutes, 2 hours, or even more at a stretch.

NO ONE can pay attention to the basic level of a language for that long!!! Especially the way they are taught commonly in Taiwan (i.e., analytically, by giving rules, copying, and memorizing). Especially if the students are young. Try getting an 8-year-old to pay attention to ANYTHING for that long…it ain’t easy. It ain’t even easy with motivated adult learners!

I’m lobbying for classes not to exceed 60 minutes at the beginning levels, or 75 minutes if it is deemed “absolutely necessary” to make the parents accept that it’s a serious class. The students will learn as much as they would in a longer class. Anybody who had to endure 2.5 or 3 hour seminars in grad school can see the truth behind this one.

And yes, I have my Ph.D. in Foreign Language Education.

Terry


#17

I wonder how much this all depends on what you call “games”.
Teaching adult migrants in Australia I employed a number of “games” and my students from very diverse backgrounds always looked forward to them. This usually involved lots of speaking, reading and writing. Of course I took time out to teach grammar conventionally. (actually it’s more acurate to say that I took time out to play games) However another teacher used to play lots of board games (roll the dice, land on a square, ask a question, etc.)and most of the students complained to me about this. Saw it as a waste of time.
I have taught adult migrants and overseas teenage students and had lots of success.
As pointed out we all have our styles and preferences of teaching and if the teachers not enthused about the “game” then I doubt the students will be.

Maybe we’re all right!


#18

PS Thanks John for the tip!


#19

Games - great tool for capturing the attention of a wandering mind and exciting kids and having them actually enjoy using English. They can even be used to trick the most unwilling student into actually learning something. I love games.


#20

[quote=“wolf_reinhold”]Thanks moderator for your impartial insight.
Let me ask all you good Chinese speakers who acquired their skills here in Taiwan or China – how many games did you play at school to learn to speak?[/quote]

Dunno if my Chinese is “good”, but I learned much of it from my teacher, who I dated and eventually married… We played lots of “games” :wink: