Apart from being motivating and fun I would like to reflect on the language learning aspect of using games in class. I’m asking myself questions like what a game like the PPT Game Name that Tune would offer learners in terms of language practice or what kind of learning would take place.
Here are some thoughts and assumptions:
* It offered support for different language levels. It should! After all I have learners in different stages and can only deal with a certain amount of language or challenge at the time.
* They had meaningful and comprehensible input. It was meaningful because they were engaged in an authentic situation with the challenge to understand the clues in order to complete the game. And comprehensible input because the clues were given in a way that matched each level.
* It was not just playable. Playability plays a huge part in how a game will be perceived by the learners. It has to do with how enjoyable a game is. They had fun! No doubt about it. I played with 4 different classes (from mixed-levels to a group of the same level to actually a class of one.)
* Apart from engaging with reading/listening to the clues, Speaking is not going to occur to a great extend. It will only take place if the learner is an active language user. In this case, my one-to-one class in which the learner is a teen and very active language user, it was a blast in all senses. Have you ever tried to play with only one student any game?
* Everyone participated and were attentive to the game at all times.
* Music is really a great element to engage learners and it has an affective aspect.
* Presenting things in a different way is for sure a winner. The wordcloud is really interesting. By mixing tunes and colorful written text once again was engaging.
* It needs a lot of time to play and enjoy it all the way to the end. So depending of the class time and the size of the class, you’ll need to limit it to maximum of 10 tunes and be prepared to spend at least about 40 minutes just playing it. In one of the groups that they are in the same level of English (Group of 3 students), they wrote down the answers as planned, but no much speaking was going on and it took 30 minutes for them to play it. In another class (one-to-one), I changed the dynamics and we played orally only (no written down the answers) and generated lots of sharing about his favorite tv series, the ones he didn’t know anything about, joking around and challenging himself to get 20 out of 23. It took us an hour and 20 minutes to play with all the tunes.
If this game was presented without the support of the PPT, it wouldn’t have been as engaging and helpful to set the focus on completing the task. Their eyes were glued to the computer screen at all times. Audio and visual stimulus are really useful with my teens and I should bring them more into the classroom, not just in the format of videos, but also using music, color and games. Wordclouds and posters are particular interesting ways to do so. Another aspect of listening that I didn’t mention above, but could notice once again is that they want to be challenged in their listening of the language as well. Some students could read the clue cards, but prefered to listen to me giving the clues orally. Offering support and allowing learners to push themselves instead of being pushed seems equally important. I’ll keep that in mind in the near future. As for language practice, listening and reading were the main skills being used by the learners. Speaking would be a plus if they interact in L2 during the game. In one of the groups they showed great excitement and exchanged comments with one another, BUT in L1. Higher level learners told me last semester that when they are in class they don’t notice they are using L1 because they get excited with the tasks and it is hard for them to focus. Another reason would be because they know lower level learners wouldn’t understand so they switch off completely. This is one of the drawbacks of working with the whole group at once when they are mixed-levels, one affects the other greatly. I am trying though to keep this whole group task to a minumum now and trying to find solutions where the group can be split for speaking practice. Grading would be a coercitive measure in which I really don’t feel comfortable with, but I know would be very effective with them.
Engaging in a game is not the same as engaging in practicing the language, I mean practicing when learners are the ones producing it. So, although playing games is fun, and because it is fun, it is also engaging it is important that everyone in the game have the chance to participate, fair chances of winning and practicing the language even if the language aim is different for each level, it is still important to be enjoyable for everyone.