Those of you who visit my blog regularly will know that I’m quite a fan of games and use them a lot in my classes.
Indeed, I’ve written about them here on quite a few occasions, too (here I write about online games; here I give the ‘golden rules’ of using games; here’s a post about turning quizzes into games; this article is my big ‘why you should…’ argument laid out in full). While I would never suggest turning all of your classes into one long ‘gamesfest’, I will always argue that a good game can be not only justified, but should be regarded as an important part of your teaching repertoire. Here are some of the reasons why you should be using games in class:
1. Games create a context for meaningful communication
Certain games do this more obviously than others, but all games do this to a certain extent. Even when the game revolves around discrete language items, such as we would see in a spelling game, meaningful communication occurs because learners need to process how to play the game, as well communicating about the game before, during, and after.
2. This meaningful communication serves as a basis for comprehensible input
The comprehensible input is, basically, what learners understand as they listen and read, interaction to enhance comprehensibility, such as asking for repetition or giving examples. It also leads to and comprehensible output, as learners are speaking and/or writing so that their peers can understand.
3. Games add interest to what learners find boring
Learning a language involves long-term effort and, as we all know from experience, maintaining interest can mean sustaining effort. This is difficult even for the most committed learner. Shaping a learning task in the form of a game often piques the interest of learners who see it as something different to what they normally do in class.
4. Games can be used with all the language skills
Games can be tailored so that there is a focus on listening, speaking, reading, or writing. Moreover, you will often find that a combination of skills is involved in the same game. They are therefore a great tool for appealing to different types of learners at the same time.
5. Games offer a fun experience
When we play games, we get excited; it’s as simple as that. The emotions aroused when learners play games add variety to what is often a sterile, serious process of language learning.
6. Games encourage participation from all learners
The game format, due to the variety and intensity that it may offer, can do wonders in lowering anxiety and encouraging, quieter learners to participate, especially when games are played in small groups (see point nine).
7. Games are learner-centered activities
Games are truly learner-centered in that learners are not only highly active when playing games, but also in that we can organize the working of games so that our learners adopt the role of leaders, with teachers as mere facilitators.
8. Games work outside of class
We see game formats used everywhere. Therefore, it should be no surprise that many games can also be played outside of class. Therefore, they present a means for learners to use the language outside of class time.
9. Games promote cooperative learning
Most game formats work well with small groups, thereby creating a setting for learners to develop their skills in working with others. Other benefits of group games include:
- The need for cooperation encourages the building of team spirit and can have a positive knock-on effect in classroom dynamics.
- Many games involve a degree of competition, although this is not always the case. Furthermore, this can be a healthy thing, as long as the stakes aren’t too high.
- Many game formats encourage everyone to take a turn, rather than letting some learners do all the talking. Games therefore encourage egalitarian participation.
10. Games fit into multiple intelligence theory
Game activities relate really well to a variety of intelligences (for more about Howard Gardner’s theory, click here). Here are a few examples:
- Game activities which contain a hands-on element, such as cards, spinners, or pieces engage with bodily / kinesthetic intelligence
- Group games always require discussion and therefore involve interpersonal intelligence
- Game tasks with visual input engage with visual/spatial intelligence
Even though I’ve just laid out a lot of good reasons for using games in your classes, we still need to be careful about when and how we use games. Guess what’s coming up in my next post?