What’s in a Game? Part 2

Interviewing the teacher I love adapting ideas because I think it is important to adapt them to my context. There are particular characteristics that I need to take into consideration like age range as well as the profile of the Ss or group.

Last week with my 9th graders groups I used some ideas from one of my fav resource books: Teaching Grammar Creatively. The great thing about it is that it is text based and Ss own texts come to live as well as setting the context for the use of the grammar in interesting ways. Needless to say that I have been highly influenced by Teaching Unplugged principles, so any opportunity to exposure students to the language, raise their awareness of patterns, focus on conversation (either orally or written) and using less material…the better.

Keep in mind that I am not copying and pasting the instructions here, but rather explanning what I did with them and how I adapted to my context of teaching as well as reflecting at some teaching/learning aspects and concepts I am exploring myself.

Can they work collaboratively while they are competing?

Before the Game: Discovery stage

The book suggests working with the hot seat. I did it just once in each group with a student that either volunteered or had the highest level of English. I recorded the interview and saved the audio for later. Then, right after the interview I elicited the information the student gave focusing on a particular day. I wrote each contribution/modified their utterances needed on the board (Oral stage with a focus on listening). As they listened and read the sentences/information on the board we focused on the language. I erased the board. After that in pairs, they had to write as many questions as they could remember from the interview. They wrote them on their notebooks. I elicited once more and instructed them to compare the sentences (correction stage) and add the ones they hadn’t written yet. All contributions were accepted. Then, I played the recording. They listened and checked the ones that were actually asked. Before erasing the board, I drew their attention to the past tense.

The Game: Consolidation stage

In the previous stage, I concentrated my questions on a particular day of the week. In this stage, I concentrate on a place. I wrote “Egypt” on the board, and drew pyramids. Following the authors suggestion, I asked them to ask me questions about Egypt, but instead of orally through writing. In all groups I did this, accept in one because it is 1-2-1 class. So I can’t use the game approach.

Setting the Game

Divide the group or as in my case, in couple of groups, they played individually (number of slips of paper were 8 instead of 16 for the pairs or groups of three). It is actually pretty simple and dynamic game. Racing against each other really gives the competitive flavour teens love so much. They had also to work collaboratively when they were grouped.

Playing it

correction  The nicest part of the authors suggestion is that it is not enough to write the questions, they have also to self-correct it. I use a simple system with my 9th graders (See the picture).

So, they came back and forth. If the question ws correctly formed (and also relevant), I would write the answer on it and that was counting as one point. if not, I would use one of the symbols and let them discover their mistakes and correct it. When the word was circled, it wasn’t necessary they need a whole new word. It meant actually that it might be a grammar problem (wrong tense, lack of s for plural, etc.) or vocabulary. Only at the last resource, I would actually give them more than that, which didn’t happen much. I would keep all the slips in my desk until they were finished. The first group to use all the slips of paper, won the game. It was quite interesting though to see them almost of the same amount of slips and racing against each other in a fun and collaborative way.

Do games foster collaboration?

Competition has an interesting role here. And inasmuch as I never liked putting them to compete, I have to admit that this is the kind of competition that is healthy and motivating. It really links to what they know best as most of them really like sports and they know that in order to win they need to work collaboratively, focus on the task, contribute, share, do their part. It taps their love for it and the rules of sports comes up easily as they are imprinted on them.

Back in the end of July I wrote Part 1 in which I reflected on the language aspect of using games in class. In this post, my reflection is on how competition can be benefitial, even when they are playing against each other individually. Then back in September because of a course I was taking, I reflected on how ludicity plays a role in language learning.

Games have always been an issue and not because I don’t like having fun, quite on the opposite. I just don’t believe that fun is a result of a game, but actually a state in which we throw ourselves into when we are with people that we enjoy the company and it has not purpose of winning. So, it is not just about games, it is a state of mind where playfulness and laughter is present at all times, especially when you are happy. You joke with words. You tease each other. You laugh. You even play silly games. This kind of playfullness is quite different from what we encounter in sports. Actually this kind of playing is serious game. Playfullness on the other hand, it might be present in the locker room, in the training practice, during the game itself.

  In my journey to understand playfullness it is becoming clear as day that there is more to games in the classroom than the actually game itself. How about you? What are you thoughts on it? Please refer back to the previous post on the same topic to reflect on playfullness, ludic activities and ludicity.


17 thoughts on “What’s in a Game? Part 2

  1. Hello Rose and yes, when it comes to games and learning, I am really the clown of the lesson! I love them! And the more you get out of them, the better – be it fun, laughter, learning or teamwork. Thank you and great photos you used, too!


    • That is exactly the point. Thanks so much for your comment Eugenia.
      As you work with children quite a lot and being a mother yourself you live around playfullness as kids are the best at this. Emanuel creates games out of no where. One of his favorite things is to make us say “we don’t know” for him then say, “You know” in a very sweet voice. And we always laugh together and joyfully. Do the language games we set in the classroom have this same element? This is what I am exploring lately. Another thing is playfullness is a result of spontaneous action. This just gives me the idea of what to focus on my next post. 😀 Thanks again, this time Eugenia for the dialogue


  2. Thanks for another thought-provoking post, Rose! Like you, I’ve never been a huge fan of setting my students against each other, especially for a prize. However, in my new job I’m learning more and more that kids really respond to competition and it can be motivating and, in general, they share the prizes anyway. I agree that fun is not the result of a game. I think it’s more in the process. Games also promote group collaboration and I think that’s part of the fun as well. I like your writing correction process – that looks really helpful and I have been thinking of the need to come up with something similar myself. 🙂


    • Thanks Anne for commenting. I’m glad to hear that you like the post. You are one of the ppl I always look forward to listening to what you have to say in my posts.

      Collaboration is something that need to be fostered, and this is another aspect I should be looking into. I was very busy doing my part of the game (reading and answering the questions, sending them back when it was necessary, encouraging them), but I could see that each one was gaining something different from the experience. Related to language, lower levels contributed by giving the questions in L1 and adding ideas while Higher levels translated to L2. Some LLLs would try to help correct it, few of them stood there unable to even think.

      Games are fun. For sure, most of the time yeah! Does like everyone like competing? Only if they have a fair chance to win. Either changing the support according to the students need, or allowing them to collaborate in their own ways… I doubt it will be fun. That is actually what I am most concerned about. So do all games are fun? If the students who win the game are always the ones that are most strong linguistically?

      As this is a journey to look at Games from different points, it reminds me that your post discusses a different point, but similar concern. What do you think?

      I’ll leave a link to it here in case someone wants to jump in and contribute to the conversation.


  3. Rose,

    I am loving watching this “evolve” (and you “adapt”) – I went back to read Pt 01, too (as well as the comments you added to a couple of my earlier gamification posts). Just goes to show how important reflection is (for teacher learning)…and how valuable “bloggery” is as a learning tool in our “reflective toolbag”.

    Looking forward to Pt 03…and the rest of this wonderful “dizi” 😉 Keep up the great work!



  4. Dear Paul,

    I’ve sent you an email. I appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment. I hope you consider my request to explain further the points you tried to raise. It is pretty hard for me to consider sth without knowing the ‘whys’. Some learners have already said it is useful. But if it is for everyone… I’d say probably not. Does everyone like it? Probably not. I don’t base my choices on what Learners love or hate. Learning is about experimenting with different strategies. I wish there was THE way to LEARN. The more books/article I read the less convinced I get that there is a single way. But I am very interested to read your reasons to tell me to drop it. Why do they hate it? Let me know and I’ll surely think of ways to take your thoughts in the classroom and discuss with my learners to see what they have to say.


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