Teach English in Qinghe Zhen - Tongliao Shi

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As a Special Needs Teacher I have had the opportunity of spending time in different classrooms as well as with a variety of age groups. During my visits, I would often hear children saying, “Please, can we play a game?” Why is it that children have to ask to play games? Why as educators are we not allowing them or encouraging them to play games? Many people believe that you cannot learn from playing games, but what better way to learn than through playing games and having fun. They can be used in place of activities in workbooks and the same goal can be achieved. Games are one of the most wonderful tools for students who are first language learners and maybe even more importantly second language learners. Games need to be ‘reconceptualized’ as powerful tools for learning and not just something students get as a special reward or teacher time filler. Regardless of age and or culture, games are a way to bring everyone together. Making mistakes in a safe environment is critical for learning, and game-playing provides an opportunity for students to develop skills, techniques, and knowledge in a positive environment. A common misconception is the amount of preparation time. However, one game can be used across age levels and themes. Games allow learners to feel safe as they are focusing on the enjoyment of the activity and little focus is given to their inability to read, write or speak in ‘perfect English’. This means that students do not feel as if they are being judged, but rather accepted. Games that allow all learners to feel confident are for example ‘nonsense words’ where students use their phonics to sound out the word. All words sound silly and this game is fun as students increase their self-confidence by actively participating, contributing and trying to say the word as correctly as possible. Building student's self-esteem is a vital part of games as it reduces their anxiety and allows for a sense of relaxation and freedom to participate. Playing games allows us to make connections between the world and the words in the world. Communication is imperative in the world and games allow us to communicate with others even if we do not speak the same language. Games are used to teach language skills such as, creating connections between grammar, listening, and speaking skills and language rules. When playing with other students they are required to communicate with them. This communication increases one's spoken fluency, therefore, allowing for an extension of vocabulary. Another advantage of playing games is that it helps learners to focus and concentrate as they are enjoying the activity and it is usually with others so they are not ‘under the spotlight’ all the time. New concepts can be introduced through games so that when the student goes to their desk and the concept is taught in a more formal way and they already have some ideas and understanding in this way learners will be more willing to participate and answer questions. The best thing for me about games is that they are student-driven and not teacher-driven. The teacher is the facilitator, she/he observes and makes sure that everyone is having fun. As the facilitator, the teacher can monitor learners' understanding. This also allows him/her to change and/or modify lesson plans to adapt to the learner's needs. There is a huge variety of games that can increase listening, speaking, reading, writing and vocabulary skills. To list a few: a shopping list (each student says ‘I went to the shops and I bought’ … an apple, the second student repeats ‘I went to the shops and I bought… an apple’ and then adds their own ‘and a banana’ and so the game continues. This skill is listening, speaking and remembering. Role-play is another great tool for teaching language skills, role-play can be done with students of any age. For example, students can role-play making phone calls about different scenarios. This mainly focuses on language skills. Bingo is a hit among my students and we started with basic CVC (cat) words and now we use CVCC (bath) and CCVC (ship) words. This requires reading and phonics skills. Another popular game my students enjoy is Hangman, this game is fun as they look around the room and find words that may be more difficult than their ability but they like to challenge each other while having fun. Games are great for class activities as well as small groups. It does, however, become a little more tricky when it is one on one and this is when you need to be more creative. I have found rhyming games and language puzzles never get ‘boring’ with one on one lessons. Games such as Hangman are easy as the student still feels success as there is no right or wrong answer, just guessing letters. Without a doubt, games are an essential part of learning a language and all teachers should embrace the excitement and true purpose of games.