Learning (English) Should Be Fun Enough (with out games)

I’m starting to see where some people are coming from with their “negative” attitude towards games. When I first started teaching, games and songs were the staple of my English lessons (though I was ALL kindergarten back then.) Now, I play almost 0 games and rarely teach songs.

I still really like games. If I’m tired or the class needs a change of pace, that’s what I fall back on, but lately, I’ve been strictly business* in class (even with the kindergarten kids.) I’ve also found out that if they understand what they’re being taught and are not just parroting back what I say, they honestly enjoy just learning. They make up silly questions and sentences, and that’s enjoyment enough.

I’ve just started to notice this change from game master to game miser. Thought I’d share the thought with you other teaching folk.

I still use MAD amounts of Chinese in my kindergarten class, but I like it that way so they’re always comfortable talking (I’m still not totally sold on the ALL English environment thing.) A little bit after teaching the kindergarten kinds possessive pronouns and the Noun + Be + Noun grammar pattern (I believe, I still have a grammar white belt.) A kid came up to me and said 我哥哥很笨 paused for a second, then said “My brother is stupid!” I enjoyed that.


*strictly business = teaching grammar and reading almost directly
I’m in a rambly mood today I guess

I don’t use so many games anymore, either. I can conduct the class in a fun way that precludes many games. I rarely hear my students saying ‘game! game!’, too.

I think games to some extent devalue learning for its own sake. Children just have to be stimulated properly to acquire the language.

Best Wishes

Games for my class are reserved for when the students have finished their work. Most of my games are grammar based like using the present continuous or the perfect tense or creating sentences using the structures they have a hard time with or are spelling and vocabulary based. And this is for 2nd graders. My newest game is Spelling Battleship. They also like the word wall spinner I picked up at Tiny Tots to practice using the words in a meaningful way like doing opposites or having to describe a word and their partner has to find it on the wall. My word list is at over 120 of the words that have come up in writing or are frequently missed on spelling dictation tests, but not basic high frequency words as most of them know those already.

If we ever have another Teacher’s Network meeting, I can show you some of the games that I do use in class as my rewards for hard work or for breaks when they seem bogged down and struggling for attention.

But yes, lessons should be engaging enough without having to rely on games to entertain the students, but games still have a role in the classroom. I’m sure you played classroom games when you were in school. Just make sure there’s a purpose or learning objective behind the game. And no, keeping the kids quiet or parents happy is not a purpose for playing games.

Which reminds me, I made up a new game last week called “No one talks for a minute or no play time.” I think it might be their new favorite game :laughing: (someone asked to play it yesterday and they all got excited.)

Yep. It’s a sign that the material you are using sucks when you have to make games out of everything to keep the kids’ interest.

On the other hand, you should definitely have activities that allow the kids to get out of their seats. Poor things get stuffed into a classroom for most of the day and don’t have enough chances to stretch their legs.

Engaged learning is getting them involved. Sitting in their seats while alternating between the teacher lecturing and them writing on paper or workbooks is not engaged learning. Therefore a class where the kids never leave their seats except to come and go everyday, is not an engaging class.

You can engage their minds without having them get out of their seats. They can participate in discussion and respond to questions without moving.

My point is that even if you are giving them challenging and rewarding instruction where they are interacting, you still should get them up and moving some times.

I feel that it is essential to have a compelling class. A reason many schools schedule games is to engage students, which they can do even when the teachers are new and don’t have good delivery. If a teacher’s class was boring, then they could use a game to learn what their students look like when they are paying attention. So while games are not the goal, and perhaps learning English grammar is, games might well be a steppingstone to achieve positive classroom management.

I also do not play many games, but I do sing songs, usually based on the kids’ names (like Chester, for The Weight; Stephen, St Stephen; Penny Lane for Penny) The kids learn to sing them too after a few times, and it serves the purpose of getting them re-focused.

We all also sing “Why do birds, suddenly appear, everytime _____'s near…”

If the class is fun, and the kids are learning, you don’t really need games. IMHO.


Games (like sickyball or battleship or tornado or shark attack) are usually reserved for when the work is finished. I try to keep them engaged during listenening, writing, or working by a variety of methods. I make up silly poems and songs like jd says, or make silly mistakes and have them correct me, or by acting out and getting them to act out certain elements. I often take words and sentence structure from their books and make up stories using the lesson material. I encourage them to make their own stories. I like to read what they come up with. I also reserve time for art projects and stuff like that. All lesson-based, of course.

I find there is no sure-fire way to keep them all 100 percent interested. They are little people, after all, and I don’t always feel like teaching either. It’s often good if your material is good and they will just sit quietly and think/work for themselves.

People learn best by doing. Hands-on, ears open, mouth open, on your feet learning.
I don’t like to sit still for too long and it’s a little mean the way some schools guage how you handle your class by how diligently they sit properly. I remember when I was 10 years old and my bones hurt.

Alas, the books have to be done…

Why is the font so big in this quick reply window?

This thread makes me think of a teacher at a school I know. He did not approve of games, because he was teaching, not hosting a game show. He did not approve of games. He did not approve of errors; he corrected every grammatical mistake he heard and told every other teacher to do the same. He also disagreed with the boss vocally during school hours in the hallway. And demanded that he be paid to grade the weekly diaries. He reeked of cigarette smoke and all the second grade students knew how to tell me he was a smoker (in English, nonetheless). Needless to say, he did not get his contract renewed, and I got his classes. :wink: So games are a bad thing for your classes - but if you are that hard-assed teacher, give me the inside edge so I get your hours when your contract (stipulating high hourly pay) is due to come up for review.

There’s a big difference between what canuck is talking about and an “all serious” classroom. You don’t have to throw sticky-balls, play paper scissors stone, or roll dice to have a fun, engaging class.

You can have students do role plays, do pattern drills in pairs with a goal in mind, challenge their preconceptions and get them to respond, or just be totally funny and capture their attention with humor. None of this is a game, but it can all be fun and fulfilling.

Personally, I think there is room for games, and that games are a natural way for us to learn. The key is that the game should function to increase learning and playing the game should require negotiation within the target language and structure, not just be an add-on or an intermediate step.

[quote=“R. Daneel Olivaw”]The key is that the game should function to increase learning and playing the game should require negotiation within the target language and structure, not just be an add-on or an intermediate step.[/quote]Right. I really strongly suggest that anyone who is interested in this kind of stuff get hold of a copy of Penny Ur’s book “Grammar Practice Activities”. Sounds deadly dull but it’s not. It has a wealth of involving activities, organised by grammatical feature. Some of them are game-style activities, some not. All of them are fun. All of them are very good for learning. This is because the target language is essential to the activities, which provide a meaningful context.

There is also a place in the classroom for quick warmer or energy raising activities, which may or may not be related to the main material of the lesson. After doing something that requires quite some concentration for a while, it is good to refresh the brain by doing something that uses pictures or movement. Even 2 minutes spent reviewing TPR actions or the like can be helpful, and students are then ready to go back to more demanding intellectual activity.