Games in the ESL and EFL classroom In a traditional English language

In a traditional English language classroom the student’s curriculum focuses on grammar, reading, vocabulary and rigid repetitive drills. The majority of students I have spoken with find this method to be very dull and boring. If students are not interested in the subject being taught they will lack attention and motivation to learn the language. Language is used primarily to communicate with other people. What is the best method to learn a language' Throughout history people have played games to socialize and interact with each other. Therefore it seems reasonable to assume that playing games in a language classroom can only be beneficial.

What does a game consist of' I think that games involve play, competition, rules, and enjoyment. The Merriam – Webster online dictionary defines a game as an activity engaged in for diversion or amusement. Games don’t have to be only a diversion but a way to get students to practice and use the language. Jill Hadfield (1990) defined games as “an activity with rules, a goal and an element of fun.” I agree that a game should be fun and enjoyable for the students. A happy student will be more motivated and eager to learn.

Some teachers and institutions don’t approve of games being used to teach English to students. Some reasons I have been told are that games take away from teacher instruction and they don’t provide useful or proper practice for the students. The benefits and advantages of using games in the English language classroom elude them. Games are amusing, interesting and can be challenging. Games are effective because they motivate the student (Ersoz, 2000). Games help lower anxiety and students become more relaxed. If students are relaxed and comfortable they will retain things better and faster (Uberman, 1998). Games help students to maintain their interest in language (Wright, Betteridge and Buckby, 1984). They help students to participate and it gives them a real context to use their English (Huyen and Nga, 2003).

Kim (1995) feels there are many advantages of using games in the classroom:

“1. Games are a welcome break from the usual routine of the language class.

2. They are motivating and challenging.

3. Learning a language requires a great deal of effort. Games help students to make and sustain the effort of learning.

4. Games provide language practice in the various skills – speaking, writing, listening and reading.

5. They encourage students to interact and communicate.

6. They create a meaningful context for the language.”

There are numerous games that can be adapted and used in an English language classroom. English language teachers “need to consider which games to use, when to use them, how to link them up with the syllabus, textbook or program and how, more specifically, different games will benefit students in different ways (Khan,J.1996)”. The teacher needs to choose a game suitable to the lesson and the students. The language level used should be appropriate for the students. It should give students a chance to learn and practice different aspects of the language. The chosen game should ensure all students are participating and interested in the activity. Competition or team work can play a big role in eliciting and maintaining student’s motivation and participation.

Games shouldn’t be limited to icebreakers, warm up activities and time fillers. Games can be used at any point throughout the class if the material corresponds with the goals and aims of the lesson (Uberman. 1998). Games can introduce a new language skill or can be a great way to review and reinforce material previously learned.

For games to be successful students must have a clear understanding of the rules and how to play. I have found demonstrating to be the most effective method of instruction. It is always good to be involved in the game so the students see your genuine interest and it gives the student and teacher a chance to bond. There are many ways to be involved in the games; participant, director of the activity (eg. game show host), follower or simply cheering and giving encouragement. It is also important to limit the duration of the game and give an individual time limit for responses. Time limits will keep students excited and interested in the activity.

Overall games can be a great way to develop student’s language ability. Games give students a chance to interact and communicate with each other. Games will be an integral part of my English language classroom.


- Hadfield, J. 1990. A Collection of Games and Activities for Low to Mid-intermediate students of English. Hong Kong: Thomus and Nelson and Nelson and Sons Ltd.

- Aydan Ersoz. June 2000. Six games for the EFL/ESL Classroom. The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. VI, No.6.

- Agnieszka Uberman.1998. The Use of Games for Vocabulary Presentation and Revision. Forum Vol.36 No1. January-March.

- Andrew Wright, David Betteridge and Micheal Buckby. 1984. Games for Language Learning. Cambridge University Press.

- Nguyen Thi Thanh Huyen and Khuat Thi Thu Nga. December 2003. Learning Vocabulary Through Games. Asian EFL Journal.

- Lee Su Kim. March 1995. Creative Games for the Language Class. Forum Vol.33 No.1.

- Khan, J. 1996. Using Games in Teaching English to Young Learners. Teaching English to Children. From Practice to Principle. England: Longman.