Teach English in Wuduntaohai Zhen - Chifeng Shi

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Games and Learning How can games be used to support students learning English? Games are an invaluable tool in effective pedagogy as they ultimately support student engagement in learning. As defined by the Oxford Dictionary, games are “an activity that one engages in for amusement or fun” (2019) and thus can be used to deepen student knowledge, skills and understanding of language. Using the context of teaching English as a foreign language, this essay will explore the applications of games in the classroom and how this can be used to support students learning English. In particular, this essay will explore how the use of games are beneficial across three specific areas: support student engagement in learning, promote the development of positive relationships, with both peers and teachers, thereby facilitating a safe learning environment, and facilitate student progression in the English Language. Whilst games in the modern sense of the word are inherently linked to technology, communicative games will serve as the focal point of this essay. Support in Engagement Creating an element of fun, competition and display of skills, games can be used to support student interest and engagement in learning. Whilst the concept of fun is amorphous at best, Christian Bisson and John Luckner aptly phrase how fun relates to learning, stating ‘it is from enjoyment that our desire to learn is born and it is from the lack of enjoyment that we abandon our taste for learning’ (1996: 109). This is further supported by Barbara Fredrickson and Thomas Joiner, who emphasise positive emotions, derived through fun or enjoyment, expand a student’s capacity for learning (Fredrickson & Joiner, 2002). Therefore, by establishing positive emotions and fun through games or otherwise, educators can effectively engage students in learning. In the context of an English Language classroom applying the Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) framework, games can be utilised in the engage, study or apply phases of learning. The types of games used will depend on the learning outcomes of a specific lesson, however, will be most beneficial to develop speaking, listening and reading language skills. Short improvisation pieces (also regarded as “role-plays”), word association games, one-word-stories, Guess-Who, Charades, Two Truths vs One Lie, Have You Ever? and Celebrity Heads can be used to develop student oral and aural capacity in English language. Speaking and listening games are closely linked, particularly in the example of role-play or group activities and for students to effectively participate in the game, they must listen to others, interpret the meaning of language and formulate an appropriate response. To develop reading skills, Word Finds, Crosswords, Hangman, brainstorms and quizzes are games that require students to expand their vocabulary, recognise English words and interpret their meaning. To add a further level of fun to reading activities, teachers can create a competition in regard to time, accuracy or leader boards, which can deepen student engagement in their learning. Whilst games certainly serve a purpose in learning, it is important to note that fun is subjective and complex (Bisson & Luckner, 1996). Charades may be enjoyable for some students, however, may be overwhelming or disengaging for others. To accommodate prevalent student diversity, it is important that teachers apply a range of games throughout lessons and provide different opportunities for students to engage with learning and comprehensively demonstrate their understandings. By being mindful of student diversity and selecting a variance of games that address speaking, listening and reading skills, teachers can aim to engage students through fun, humour and enjoyment. This will ultimately support student learning and develop their engagement and abilities in the English Language. Support in Positive Relationships In addition to student engagement, games can be used to establish rapport within the classroom, which ultimately supports a safe learning environment. Interactions between students have a tremendous impact on learning and for students to take ‘risks that are a part of exploration and constructivism’ they must feel safe in their learning environment (Clapper, 2010:1). According to Carol Dweck, if a student believes they are not smart enough or are being judged by their peers, they are less likely to participate or take risks in their learning (Dweck, 2008). This is a particular barrier in the English Language classroom, as students are required to contribute in discussions, role-plays and partner conversations to solidify their application or understanding of English. It is therefore important to establish a supportive learning environment from the early stages of a new class and building positive relationships through games is one methodology educators can use to achieve this. Games that require students to “get to know one another” are commonplace in Drama Education and are a fun way for students to work collaboratively, learn about their peers and develop positive relationships. This includes activities that also involve an aspect of physical movement, including “Have You Ever?, Zombies, Minute Meetings, “This is a…”, word association games and more. Not only are students required to communicate with one another in English, but they also learn about each other and begin to form friendships with their peers. Using teams in activities or games also supports the development of relationships in the classroom. Evidence suggests that implementing teams in learning creates ‘greater peer-tutoring’ as students are accountable, invested and dependable for the outcome of their group’s work (DeVries & Edwards, 1973: 309). Applying games in the English Language classroom is a useful strategy for educators, as in addition to engaging students with learning they are also able to establish and maintain a safe learning environment, where students have positive relationships with peers and their teacher, and are willing to take risks to ultimately enhance their understanding of English. Support in Learning English Finally, games ultimately support students in their progression towards mastering English. As previously outlined, games elicit engagement and can be used to establish a safe learning environment, both of which are fundamental components in a successful English Language classroom. Games, in their varying forms, provide opportunities for students to develop language, and practice language accuracy, fluency as well as their creativity in a non-confronting environment (Hromek & Roffey, 2009). By choosing games in correlation with learning intentions, educators can focus on specific language skill development or address any misconceptions students may have. Games are a low-risk, fun and engaging way to assist students develop their understanding of the English Language and continuously practice their speaking and listening skills. Conclusion Games support students in their study of the English Language. The implementation of communicative games in the English classroom is useful across three main areas, such as student engagement in learning, developing positive relationships with peers and teachers in the classroom, and facilitating student progress in fundamental language skills. Games establish an imperative element of fun, enjoyment and competition within a learning context and can ultimately engage, support and extend students in their learning of English as a language. Games provide diverse opportunities for students to develop their capabilities in English and are an invaluable staple in the foreign languages teacher’s pedagogy and approaches to learning. Bibliography Bisson, C. & Luckner, J. (1996). ‘Fun in Learning: The pedagogical role of fun in adventure education’. The Journal Experimental Education. Accessed 2 January 2020. Clapper, T. (2010). ‘Creating the Safe Learning Environment’. PAILAL Newsletter. 3 (2). Accessed 6 January 2020. DeVries, D. & Edwards, K. (1973). ‘Learning Games and Student Teams: Their Effects on Classroom Learning’. American Educational Research Journal. 10 (4). Accessed 5 January 2020. Dweck, C. (2008). ‘The Perils and Promise of Praise’. Education Leadership. 65. Accessed 5 January 2020. Fredrickson, B. L., & Joiner, T. (2002). ‘Positive emotions trigger upward spirals toward emotional wellbeing’. Psychological Science. 13. Accessed 6 January 2020. Hromek, R. & Roffey, S. (2009). ‘Promoting Social and Emotional Learning with Games’. Simulation and Gaming: SAGE Publications. 40 (5). Accessed 6 January 2020. Oxford Dictionary. 2019. Lexico. < https://www.lexico.com/definition/game> Accessed 2 January 2020.