My journey to understand playfulness has come to an end. And now it is time to take full advantage of the lessons learned and create/adapt the games for 2014!
I learned for instance that when choosing a game I have to make sure that all learners are prepared to fully participate, and to create a supporting atmosphere. Also never to base the choice of a game on a language point alone, but rather I’ll give some thought on the pedagogical reasons to use it, and adapt in order to provide the support that everyone needs.
Take a simple spelling game for example. If competition is involved and there are stronger/higher level students, the other students might not have the same chance of winning if they play alone and that can be really frustrating, and also demotivating if classroom culture promotes competition especially with teens. I’m not saying that competition is all bad, but if we want to educate our learners to create themselves a better world, the language classroom should be a safe place for everyone to participate and succeed with equal chances while one has the chance to improve him or herself. Through play they can learn a number of important lessons for life and I believe we can promote that as well. A way to do that is by promoting fairness during the game play. In order to do that I have to think of ways to give each one a fair chance of winning while reinforcing the sounds and practising.
Preparation: Write the words you want students to practise on the board at random.
Grouping learners: in two or three and make sure that one of them is the stronger/higher level learner.
How to play:
1- Each pair/group of 3 get a colored board marker. The color identifies and helps counting the points later one.
2- A chair is placed in front of the board. The learner who seats in the chair will spell out with their back to the board.
3- In each round one chooses a word from the board and their partner spells it out. It’s good for the learner to concentrate on the sound he/she is hearing and keep the word in the working memory. If it is spelled correctly, they can circle it and the pair/group gets a point. Each pair/group is free to choose the word they want.
It is a lot of fun because when a pair/group misspell it, and it was a word another pair/group wanted to spell, they have an advantage to try it out. I never correct the word that was misspelled exactly because of that. The next pair/group will chose that one and get the point too easily. I don’t intervine during the game, unless I have to. Once they know the rules, they will play on their own without any problem.
4- As for language support, on the same wall of the board there should be the alphabet with the respective phonetics. So while one is spelling, the other participants have their eyes glued to the alphabet on the wall to check if he/she is spelling it out correctly. Of course, I listen attentively myself and I also encourage them to speak in English during the interaction by supplying with the words/phrases we usually use to react during the game. And most importantly if a game is used with teens and it is well designed it can take really class space, and they enjoy it a lot. So don’t rush things. Let them enjoy it and make sure they can get the most from it. My learners who practised spelling that way improved on spelling afterwards and enjoyed it a lot. And remember to spell out in class as well whenever there is an opportunity and for learners to do that too not as an activity but as a normal thing to do in English on a daily basis.
Click on the Quotes to read my posts related to Games/Playfullness:
Fun is about enjoyment and freedom to enjoy something. It is about been invited in and have the choice to do it or to stop doing it and choosing or not to do something else. How can we provide a fun environment if the final aim of education is always the numbers/grades that label them and does not help them get in touch with themselves and their need to learn.__________________________________________________
Although we like to believe that any game will be fun, we need to consider that in real life people have different tastes and expectations, react to each other even in very early age and need to learn to negotiate. Social environment is not about ME but us, and children learn through play how to behave socially.
Working with different levels of English together and trying to attend each group need is not easy, but I am confident that if the group respect and care for each other success, it is possible. I’m learning and experimenting with different tasks, estrategies and task lenght this year. Differently from last year, I can see the work with multi-level group being more fun and enjoyable for them and me as I learn to see things from their perspective._____________________________________________________
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._____________________________________________________
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._____________________________________________________
Thanks everyone for the support throughout 2013.