The Game, The rules, The moment: Who owns it?

“It’s your game.” M.

One of my students nailed what I have been trying to say all along with my posts on playfulness. Although it is easy to lure teens with games and it is not about playing, but competition and how that resonates with homo ludens bringing adrenalin, excitment and a right now reason. For some (or just few of them) learners that is not true at all. And maybe because they are few, we don’t see it as such. Just maybe. Especially if one naturally avoids competition or/and have self-low steem they are not keen to group games. It is not difficult to spot them. Those are the ones who doesn’t know how to lose (they are not really players) or those who think they are not good enough for the challenge and prefer playing loosely and at their own will.

 Here is the background of M. and her classmates’ class.

It is a group of 3 students. M is moving to B1 soon. One of the boys are moving to A2 and the third one although is in the same level book in the course it is still struggling to make to stabilish himself in A1. The third learner is not struggling because he has difficult in learning, he just don’t have the will to do better. All he can think of is becoming a professional soccer player. And he is there, learning or learning mostly by accident because he has no other choice. His mom told him so. But he is a competitor. So the only time he is up for doing things in English is when there is a game. However game time is usually about using what you already know, not learning really although it is a great way to practice, learn or review. But in order to win, you need to know otherwise you will lose. But he is a true player, so he doesn’t mind either winning or losing. If he could just put the effort to learn English like he does with becoming the best player when it is time to learn, he would excel in these games just like he does with soccer. The other learner is an easygoing type of guy. He is funny and charming. We all love being around him. He pays attention to class, he learns but for the sake of others never really owning the language for himself. The only time he makes an effort is when he needs to avoid speaking L1 so not to lose a point. His mindset changes instantaneously. Winning does matter to him, but not enough to make him upset if he doesn’t win. He is cool with himself. He’s feels loved by people around him. He dreams of being a surfer or living just to surf.

It seems crucial to take into consideration how their personalities, dreams, hobbies, reading and writing abilities (literacy level) play a huge role into their learning outcomes. Taking that into consideration, the third student who is a girl same age as the boys but has been studying English for a longer time is the type of girl who competes for grades. So winning the games is really important for her. She is also an avid reader in Portuguese. But she doesn’t give much attention to learning vocabulary as she should nor does she care for grammar. She has wonderful ideas and could write perfectly in English if it wasn’t for her mistakes in grammar and not paying attention to the chunks of language she encounters in her coursebooks. I guess that has largely to do with the fact that she loves stories and usually the texts in the coursebook are about things others think she should read. But she doesn’t feel she is ready to read in English even though she has read my TWD comic book. Actually she just asked me last week where I get my comics, so I guess she will give it a try. And when she is in class she is always the best when you think of outcomes, engagement in the activities and speaking. She manages herself in any topic and does it well.

M. is an artist at heart. She loves Manga. She also loves listening to music. Although she copes with school demmands well, she prefers to express herself through images. That is what she loves. So she told me. But again she hopes she will be a good drawer one day. For now, she thinks she sucks at it. She is also very critical and not easygoing type of person. She gets bored easily. When we had beginners in her group last semester , she would not be patient or collaborative at all. Now class is balanced. I can speak English at all times with them and give them challeging activities. And she loves it.

Today we played WORD UP, some sample questions from TEFLGames.com suggested by Adam Simpson here. At one point when a decision had to be made whether a point was going to be given or not and a new rule had to be considered in which case I ask learners to make that decision, M. shoots straight at me…It’s your game. There was no exasperation in her voice whatsoever. She even said it under a smile. But that is your game brought me back to my journey in understanding playfulness.

To be continued…

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6 thoughts on “The Game, The rules, The moment: Who owns it?

    • 😀 She’s quite an interesting person Barbara. One of a kind if I may say so. In the first semester we had ups and downs and at one point, I thought our line of communication could not be repaired. I certainly learned a lot and I enjoy the most difficult students exactly because they teach me lessons. Thanks for reading my journal Barbara! A year since I started now. 😉

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