Using Games to Teach ESL

Posted by Nick Niesen on October 27th, 2010

One of the challenges in teaching English as a second language is to make learning as effortless as possible. By making learning easy and fun, the instructor can ensure that the material imparted is received, understood and retained. Language is all about meaning and context. The best way for students to find meaning and context in what they are learning is if they experience it. Is it possible then to teach the English language by allowing the participants to experience it? Yes it is possible, through games.

According to Lee Su Kim, author of Creative Games for Learning Class, using games in the classroom help students to sustain the effort of learning. More to the point, it fosters interaction. What is language but a means to communicate? Through these fun activities, instructors will be able to promote the practice of English.

Real-learning is when even outside the learning place, the student will still be able to apply the subject matter. Instructors have to understand that the more relaxed the learning environment is, the less anxious the students will be. Hence, the easier the students will be able to assimilate what is being taught.

However, the use of games in ESL instruction requires careful planning, design and execution. Games should not be used as ice breakers or time fillers only. They should be used as part of the instructional design. Games should be seen and used as a motivational tool. Below are a couple of suggested games and their application.

Charades ? The class can be divided into mini-groups. The white or black board should accordingly be divided depending on the number of groups there are. Each group should have an assigned person who will draw the given phrase and an assigned person who will shout the answer. The other members will act as coaches. The instructor will show a phrase to the representatives and the first group to guess the answer wins the round. The time allocated for each round should not be too long because this activity should foster information retrieval and information relaying. This activity should best be used as a review for idiomatic expressions.

Guessing game ? The instructor will write a word on a piece of paper and tape the piece of paper on the back of a student. The instructor should do the same for all the participants. The students should not know what word is posted on their backs. The instructor should then tell everyone that they can each ask three closed-ended questions (answerable by yes or no) from each of their peers in order to guess what the word is. This game is best used for students who already have a working knowledge of sentence structure. The game can serve as an introduction to question formulations, which essentially reverses word orders.

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Nick Niesen

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Nick Niesen
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