Grammar Games – Motivation in Teaching English
The role of games on language lessons. The problems as adequacy in using games and their advantages. The different types of grammar games, and included worksheets, which are needed for playing these games. Some results from the scientific investigations.
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1. The role of games on language lessons
game lesson grammar language
Games offer students a fun-filled and relaxing learning atmosphere. After learning and practicing new vocabulary, students have the opportunity to use language in a non-stressful way. While playing games, the learners' attention is on the message, not on the language. Rather than pay attention to the correctness of linguistic forms, most participants will do all they can to win. This eases the fear of negative evaluation, the concern of being negatively judged in public, and which is one of the main factors inhibiting language learners from using the target language in front of other people. In a game-oriented context, anxiety is reduced and speech fluency is generated-thus communicative competence is achieved.
Games are also motivating. Games introduce an element of competition into language-building activities. This provides valuable impetus to a purposeful use of language (Prasad 2003). In other words, these activities create a meaningful context for language use. The competitive ambiance also makes learners concentrate and think intensively during the learning process, which enhances unconscious acquisition of inputs. Most students who have experienced game-oriented activities hold positive attitudes towards them (Uberman 1998). An action research conducted by Huyen and Nga (2003), students said that they liked the relaxed atmosphere, the competitiveness, and the motivation that games brought to the classroom. On the effectiveness of games, teachers in Huyen & Nga's (2003) reported that action research reported that their students seem to learn more quickly and retain the learned materials better in a stress-free and comfortable environment.
The benefits of using games in language-learning can be summed up in nine points.
Games: are learner centered.
1. promote communicative competence.
2. create a meaningful context for language use.
3. increase learning motivation.
4. reduce learning anxiety.
5. integrate various linguistic skills.
6. encourage creative and spontaneous use of language.
7. construct a cooperative learning environment.
8. foster participatory attitudes of the students.
There are many factors to consider while discussing games, one of which is appropriacy. Teachers should be very careful about choosing games if they want to make them profitable for the learning process. If games are to bring desired results, they must correspond to either the students' level, or age, or the materials that are to be introduced or practiced. Not all of the games are appropriate for all students irrespective of their age. Different age groups require various topics, materials and modes of games. For example, children benefit most from games which require moving around, imitating a model, competing between groups, and the like. Furthermore, structural games that practice or reinforce a certain grammatical aspects of language have to relate to students' ability and prior knowledge. Games become difficult when the task or the topic is unsuitable or outside the students' experience.
Another factor influencing the choice of a game is its length and the time necessary for its completion. Many games have time limits but according to Siek Piscozub, the teacher can either allocate more or less time depending of the students' levels, the number of people in a group, or the knowledge of the rules of a game, etc.
Games are often used as short warm-up activities or when there is some time left at the end of the lesson. As Mr. Lee observes, a game should not be regarded as a marginal activity filling in odd moments when the teacher and class have nothing better to do. Games ought to be at the heart of teaching foreign languages. Mr. Rixon suggests that games should be used at all stages of the English lesson, provided that they are suitable and carefully chosen. At different stages of the lesson, the teachers' aims connected with a game may vary:
1. Presentation. It presents and provides a good model making its meaning clear.
2. Controlled practice. It elicits a good imitation of the language and appropriate responses.
3. Communicative practice. It gives to the students a chance to use a foreign language.
Grammar games also lend themselves well to revision exercises helping learners to recall a grammar material in a pleasant, entertaining way. All authors referred to in my report agree that even the grammar games resulted only in noise and entertained students, they are still worth paying attention to and implementing in the classroom since they motivate learners, promote the communicative competence, and generate the fluency. However, can they be more successful for presentation and revision than other techniques? My teaching practice proves that the answer to this question is absolutely affirmative.
2. The advantages of using games
Many experienced textbook and methodology manuals writers have argued that games are not just time-filling activities but have a great educational value. W.R. Lee holds that most language games make learners use the language instead of thinking about learning the correct forms. He also says that games should be treated as central not peripheral to the foreign language teaching programme. A similar opinion is expressed by Richard-Amato, who believes games to be fun but warns against overlooking their pedagogical value, particularly in foreign language teaching. There are many advantages of using games. «Games can lower anxiety, thus making the acquisition of input more likely» (Richard-Amato). They are highly motivating and entertaining, and they can give shy students more opportunity to express their opinions and feelings (Hansen). They also enable learners to acquire new experiences within a foreign language which are not always possible during a typical lesson. Furthermore, to quote Richard-Amato, they, «add diversion to the regular classroom activities,» break the ice, «[but also] they are used to introduce new ideas». In the easy, relaxed atmosphere which is created by using games, students remember things faster and better (Wierus and Wierus). Further support comes from Zdybiewska, who believes games to be a good way of practicing language, for they provide a model of what learners will use the language for in real life in the future.
Games encourage, entertain, teach, and promote fluency. If not for any of these reasons, they should be used just because they help students see beauty in a foreign language and not just problems.
There are many factors to consider while discussing games, one of which is appropriacy. Teachers should be very careful about choosing games if they want to make them profitable for the learning process. If games are to bring desired results, they must correspond to either the student's level, or age, or to the material that is to be introduced or practiced. Not all games are appropriate for all students irrespective of their age. Different age groups require various topics, materials, and modes of games. For example, children benefit most from games which require moving around, imitating a model, competing between groups and the like. Furthermore, structural games that practice or reinforce a certain grammatical aspect of language have to relate to students' abilities and prior knowledge. Games become difficult when the task or the topic is unsuitable or outside the student's experience.
Another factor influencing the choice of a game is its length and the time necessary for its completion. Many games have a time limit, but the teacher can either allocate more or less time depending on the students' level, the number of people in a group, or the knowledge of the rules of a game etc.
Games are often used as short warm-up activities or when there is some time left at the end of a lesson. Yet, as Lee observes, a game «should not be regarded as a marginal activity filling in odd moments when the teacher and class have nothing better to do». Games ought to be at the heart of teaching foreign languages. Rixon suggests that games be used at all stages of the lesson, provided that they are suitable and carefully chosen. At different stages of the lesson, the teacher's aims connected with a game may vary:
Games also lend themselves well to revision exercises helping learners recall material in a pleasant, entertaining way. All authors referred to in this article agree that even if games resulted only in noise and entertained students, they are still worth paying attention to and implementing in the classroom since they motivate learners, promote communicative competence, and generate fluency. However, can they be more successful for presentation and revision than other techniques? The following part of this article is an attempt at finding the answer to this question.
The adequacy in using games
In this paragraph we would like to reflect how modern teachers evaluate the adequacy in using games when teaching English language
Famous British teacher and educator Andrew Wright in his books' Language learning is hard work… Effort is required at every moment and must be maintained over a long period of time. Games help and encourage many learners to sustain their interest and work.'
Games also help the teacher to create contexts in which the language is useful and meaningful. The learners want to take part and in order to do so must understand what others are saying or have written, and they must speak or write in order to express their own point of view or give information.''
The need for meaningfulness in language learning has been accepted for some years. A useful interpretation of 'meaningfulness' is that the learners respond to the content in a definite way. If they are amused, angered, intrigued or surprised the content is clearly meaningful to them. Thus the meaning of the language they listen to, read, speak and write will be more vividly experienced and, therefore, better remembered.
If it is accepted that games can provide intense and meaningful practice of language, then they must be regarded as central to a teacher's repertoire. They are thus not for use solely on wet days and at the end of term!'
Another distinguished scholar, Aydan Ersoz, of USA noted them following:
Language learning is a hard task which can sometimes be frustrating. Constant effort is required to understand, produce and manipulate the target language. Well-chosen games are invaluable as they give students a break and at the same time allow students to practice language skills. Games are highly motivating since they are amusing and at the same time challenging. Furthermore, they employ meaningful and useful language in real contexts. They also encourage and increase cooperation.'
Games are highly motivating because they are amusing and interesting. They can be used to give practice in all language skills and be used to practice many types of communication.'
In Korea a noted teacher Lee Su Kim distinguished games as follows:
There is a common perception that all learning should be serious and solemn in nature, and that if one is having fun and there is hilarity and laughter, then it is not really learning. This is a misconception. It is possible to learn a language as well as enjoy oneself at the same time. One of the best ways of doing this is through games.'
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 language use.'
A great Polish educator the opinions of whom we mentioned within one of our chapters said,
Many experienced textbook and methodology manuals writers have argued that games are not just time-filling activities but have a great educational value. W.R. Lee holds that most language games make learners use the language instead of thinking about learning the correct forms (1979:2). He also says that games should be treated as central not peripheral to the foreign language teaching programme. A similar opinion is expressed by Richard-Amato, who believes games to be fun but warns against overlooking their pedagogical value, particularly in foreign language teaching. There are many advantages of using games. «Games can lower anxiety, thus making the acquisition of input more likely» (Richard-Amato 1988:147). They are highly motivating and entertaining, and they can give shy students more opportunity to express their opinions and feelings (Hansen 1994:118). They also enable learners to acquire new experiences within a foreign language which are not always possible during a typical lesson. Furthermore, to quote Richard-Amato, they, «add diversion to the regular classroom activities,» break the ice, «[but also] they are used to introduce new ideas» (1988:147). In the easy, relaxed atmosphere which is created by using games, students remember things faster and better (Wierus and Wierus 1994:218). S.M. Silvers says many teachers are enthusiastic about using games as «a teaching device,» yet they often perceive games as mere time-fillers, «a break from the monotony of drilling» or frivolous activities. He also claims that many teachers often overlook the fact that in a relaxed atmosphere, real learning takes place, and students use the language they have been exposed to and have practiced earlier (1982:29). Further support comes from Zdybiewska, who believes games to be a good way of practicing language, for they provide a model of what learners will use the language for in real life in the future (1994:6).'
Games encourage, entertain, teach, and promote fluency. If not for any of these reasons, they should be used just because they help students see beauty in a foreign language and not just problems that at times seem overwhelming.'
When to Use Games
Ms. Uberman noted that 'Games are often used as short warm-up activities or when there is some time left at the end of a lesson. Yet, as Lee observes, a game «should not be regarded as a marginal activity filling in odd moments when the teacher and class have nothing better to do» (1979:3). Games ought to be at the heart of teaching foreign languages. Rixon suggests that games be used at all stages of the lesson, provided that they are suitable and carefully chosen.'
'Games also lend themselves well to revision exercises helping learners recall material in a pleasant, entertaining way. All authors referred to in this article agree that even if games resulted only in noise and entertained students, they are still worth paying attention to and implementing in the classroom since they motivate learners, promote communicative competence, and generate fluency.'
Games have been shown to have advantages and effectiveness in learning vocabulary in various ways. First, games bring in relaxation and fun for students, thus help them learn and retain new words more easily. Second, games usually involve friendly competition and they keep learners interested. These create the motivation for learners of English to get involved and participate actively in the learning activities. Third, vocabulary games bring real world context into the classroom, and enhance students' use of English in a flexible, communicative way.'
'Therefore, the role of games in teaching and learning vocabulary cannot be denied. However, in order to achieve the most from vocabulary games, it is essential that suitable games are chosen. Whenever a game is to be conducted, the number of students, proficiency level, cultural context, timing, learning topic, and the classroom settings are factors that should be taken into account.'
'In conclusion, learning vocabulary through games is one effective and interesting way that can be applied in any classrooms. The results of this research suggest that games are used not only for mere fun, but more importantly, for the useful practice and review of language lessons, thus leading toward the goal of improving learners' communicative competence.'
Why Use Games in Class Time?
Ш Games are fun and children like to play them. Through games children experiment, discover, and interact with their environment. (Lewis, 1999)
Ш Games add variation to a lesson and increase motivation by providing a plausible incentive to use the target language. For many children between four and twelve years old, especially the youngest, language learning will not be the key motivational factor. Games can provide this stimulus. (Lewis, 1999)
The game context makes the foreign language immediately useful to the children. It brings the target language to life. (Lewis, 1999)
Ш The game makes the reasons for speaking plausible even to reluctant children. (Lewis, 1999)
Ш Through playing games, students can learn English the way children learn their mother tongue without being aware they are studying; thus without stress, they can learn a lot.
Ш Even shy students can participate positively.
Ш How to Choose Games (Tyson, 2000)
Ш A game must be more than just fun.
Ш A game should involve «friendly» competition.
Ш A game should keep all of the students involved and interested.
Ш A game should encourage students to focus on the use of language rather than on the language itself.
Ш A game should give students a chance to learn, practice, or review specific language material.
One more scholar, M. Martha Lengeling said the following:
'In an effort to supplement lesson plans in the ESL classroom, teachers often turn to games. The justification for using games in the classroom has been well demonstrated as benefiting students in a variety of ways. These benefits range from cognitive aspects of language learning to more co-operative group dynamics.'
General Benefits of Games
- lowers affective filter
- encourages creative and spontaneous use of language
- promotes communicative competence
- reviews and extends
- focuses on grammar communicatively
- student centered
- teacher acts only as facilitator
- builds class cohesion
- fosters whole class participation
- promotes healthy competition
- easily adjusted for age, level, and interests
- utilizes all four skills
- requires minimum preparation after development
So language learning is a hard task which can sometimes be frustrating. Constant effort is required to understand, produce and manipulate the target language. Well-chosen games are invaluable as they give students a break and at the same time allow students to practice language skills. Games are highly motivating since they are amusing and at the same time challenging. Furthermore, they employ meaningful and useful language in real contexts. They also encourage and increase cooperation.
Games are highly motivating because they are amusing and interesting. They can be used to give practice in all language skills and be used to practice many types of communication.
Learning grammar through games
Grammar acquisition is increasingly viewed as crucial to language acquisition. However, there is much disagreement as to the effectiveness of different approaches for presenting vocabulary items. Moreover, learning grammar is often perceived as a tedious and laborious process. In this report I would like to examine some traditional techniques and compare them with the use of language games for grammar presentation and revision, in order to determine whether they are successful in presenting and revising grammar than other methods.
From my teaching experience I have noticed how enthusiastic students are about practicing language by means of games. I believe that the grammar games are not only fun but they help students learn without a conscious analysis or understanding of the learning process while they acquire communicative competence as second language users.
There are numerous techniques concerned with grammar presentation. However, there are a few things that have to be remembered irrespective of the way new lexical items are presented. If teachers want students to remember new grammar it needs to be learnt in the context, practiced and then revised to prevent students from forgetting. Teachers must take sure of that students have understood the new words, which will be remembered better if introduced in a «memorable way». Bearing all this in mind, teachers have to remember to employ a variety of techniques for new grammatical presentation and revision.
We suggest the following types of grammar presentation techniques:
1 Visual techniques. These pertain to visual memory, which is considered especially helpful with the grammar retention. Learners remember better the material that has been presented by means of the visual aids. The visual techniques lend themselves well to presenting concrete items of grammar. They help students to associate the presented material in a meaningful way and incorporate it into their system of the language units.
2. Verbal explanation. This pertains to the use of illustrative situations connected with the grammar material studied.
The collection of word games is a valuable resource for the teacher of young through adult learners of English as a second or foreign language. Focusing primarily on language development through the use of high frequency vocabulary and structures, they reinforce classroom lessons and provide additional spelling, conversation, listening and speaking practice.
The most instructive language learning games are those that emphasize specific structures. They do not only practice the basic pattern but also do so in a pleasant, easy way that allows the students to forget they are drilling grammar and concentrate on having fun. The following games are concerned with Yes/No questions, Wh-questions, tag questions, comparative and superlative, adverbs, modals, demonstratives, etc.
Most learners somehow accept that the sounds of a foreign language are going to be different from those of their mother tongue. What is more difficult to accept is that the grammar of the new language is also spectacularly different from the way the mother tongue works. At a subconscious, semiconscious and conscious level it is very hard to want to switch to «to be» (`I'm 23', `I'm hungry', `and I'm cold') if it is «have» in Italian.
Grammar is perhaps so serious and central in learning another language that all ways should be searched for which will focus student energy on the task of mastering and internalizing it. One way of focusing this energy is through the release offered by games. Teenagers are delighted to be asked to do something that feels like an out-class activity and in which they control what is going on in the classroom - they become the subjects, while for a lot of the 15,000 hours they spend in schools they are the objects of teaching. The point is that fun generates energy for the achievement of the serious goal.
Where exactly do such games fit into a teaching programme? Grammar games can be used in three ways:
diagnostically before presenting a given structure area to find out how much knowledge of the area is already disjointedly present in the group;
after a grammar presentation to see how much the group have grasped;
as revision of a grammar area.
One should not use grammar games as a Friday afternoon `reward' activity. Using them as a central part of the students' learning process would be a better idea. Thus, each game is proposed for a given level ranging from beginner to advanced. This refers simply to the grammar content of that particular game. But, as it has been already mentioned above, a lot of activities can be adapted to different classes with different grammar components. By changing the grammar content a teacher can, in many cases, use the game frame offered at a higher or lower level. Generally, any frame can be filled with any structures you want to work on with your students. The students have to take individual responsibility for what they think the grammar is about. The teacher is free to find out what the students actually know, without being the focus of their attention. Serious work is taking place in the context of a game. The dice throwing and arguing lightens and enlivens the classroom atmosphere in a way that most people do not associate with the grammar part of a course. The `game' locomotive pulls the grammar train along. Everybody is working at once - the 15-30 minutes the average game lasts is a period of intense involvement.
Other reasons for including games in a language class are:
1. They focus student attention on specific structures, grammatical patterns.
2. They can function as reinforcement, review and enrichment.
3. They involve equal participation from both slow and fast learners.
4. They can be adjusted to suit the individual ages and language levels of the students
5. They contribute to an atmosphere of healthy competition, providing an outlet for the creative use of natural language in a non-stressful situation.
6. They can be used in any language-teaching situation and with any skill area whether reading, writing, speaking or listening.
7. They provide the immediate feedback for the teacher.
8. They ensure maximum student participation for a minimum of teacher preparation.
A game should be planned into the day's lesson right along with exercises, dialogues and reading practice. It should not be an afterthought.
Games are a lively way of maintaining students' interest in the language, they are fun but also part of the learning process, and students should be encouraged to take them seriously. They should also know how much time they have to play a game. It's not useful to start a game five minutes before the end of the lesson. Students are usually given a `five-minute warning' before the time is over so they can work towards the end.
The older the students are, the more selective a teacher should be in choosing a game activity. Little kids love movements, while older ones get excited with puddles, crosswords, word wheels, and poster competitions whatever.
Modern language teaching requires a lot of work to make a lesson interesting for modern students who are on familiar terms with computers, Internet and electronic entertainment of any kind. Sympathetic relations must exist not only among students but between students and a teacher. It's of special importance for junior students because very often they consider their teachers to be the subject itself, i.e. interesting and attractive or terrible and disgusting, necessary to know or useless and thus better to avoid.
A teacher should bear in mind that it is the content, not the form, which is of interest to the child. A toddler does not learn to say,» Cookie, please», in her native language because she is practicing the request form. «Cookie, please» is learned because the child wants a cookie.
So children learn with their whole beings. Whole-child involvement means that one should arrange for the child's participation in the lesson with as many senses as possible. Seeing pictures of children performing actions and repeating, «The boy is running», «The girl is hopping» is not at all as effective as when students do the actions themselves in response to commands and demonstrations from the teacher.
All said above is fairly true to adult learners not only children, because of our common human nature to possess habits through experience. We all learned to understand and speak our first language by hearing and using it in natural situations, with people who cared for and about us. This is the most effective and interesting way to learn a second language as well. The experts now advise language teachers to spend most of the classroom time an activities that foster natural acquisition, rather than on formal vocabulary and structure explanations and drills. They insist that «once you have become accustomed to the rewards and pleasures gained from teaching through activities, you will wonder how second-language teaching ever got to be anything else. Your own ideas for activities and their management will flow, and your students' learning rates will soar!» «Activities' mean action games, finger and hand-clapping games, jump rope and ball-bouncing games, seat and card games, speaking and guessing games and even handicraft activities. Judging the results we have nothing but believe them.
In the present qualification work we attempted to investigate the problem of game using at English language lessons, one of the main problems in theory of English grammar teaching. We chose the theme of our qualification work because we interested in it. We used different kind of references to investigate the role of games in teaching English.
Recently, using games has become a popular technique exercised by many educators in the classrooms and recommended by methodologists. Many sources, including the ones quoted in this work, list the advantages of the use of games in foreign language classrooms. Yet, nowhere have I found any empirical evidence for their usefulness in vocabulary presentation and consolidation.
Though the main objectives of the games were to acquaint students with new words or phrases and help them consolidate lexical items, they also helped develop the students' communicative competence.
From the observations, I noticed that those groups of students who practiced grammar activity with games felt more motivated and interested in what they were doing. However, the time they spent working on the words was usually slightly longer than when other techniques were used with different groups. This may suggest that more time devoted to activities leads to better results. The marks students received suggested that the fun and relaxed atmosphere accompanying the activities facilitated students' learning. But this is not the only possible explanation of such an outcome. The use of games during the lessons might have motivated students to work more on the vocabulary items on their own, so the game might have only been a good stimulus for extra work.
Although, it cannot be said that games are always better and easier to cope with for everyone, an overwhelming majority of pupils find games relaxing and motivating. Games should be an integral part of a lesson, providing the possibility of intensive practice while at the same time immensely enjoyable for both students and teachers. My research has produced some evidence which shows that games are useful and more successful than other methods of vocabulary presentation and revision. Having such evidence at hand, I wish to recommend the wide use of games with vocabulary work as a successful way of acquiring language competence.
The present material can be used at the lessons of grammar, practical course of English language, lexicology, and speech practice in both: universities and English classes at schools. This paper can help to create the teaching aids, textbooks, etc. Teachers and students might use the results of the present work for the further investigations.
1. Abbott G., D. McKeating, J. Greenwood, and P. Wingard. 1981. The teaching of English as an international language. A practical guide. London.
2. Azar B. Sh. Fun with grammar. New York. 2000
3. Ersoz Aydan. The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. VI, No. 6, June 2000.
4. Hubbard, P., H. Jones, B. Thornton, and R. Wheeler. 1983. A training course for TEFL. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
5. Horwitz E.K., Horwitz, M.B., and Cope, J.A. 1986. Foreign language classroom anxiety. The Modern Language Journal 70 (2)
6. Lee Su Kim. Creative Games for the Language. Class Forum Vol. 33 No 1, January - March 1995
7. Lee, W.R. 1979. Language teaching games and contests. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
8. Nguyen Thi Thanh Huyen, Khuat Thi Thu Nga. Learning Vocabulary Through Games. 'Asian EFL Journal' - December 2003
9. Rinvolucri Mario. Grammar Games: cognitive, affective and drama activities for EFL students. Cambridge, 1989.
10. Rinvolucri Mario and Paul Davis.1992. More grammar games. Cambridge University Press.
11. Rixon, S. 1981. How to use games in language teaching. London: Macmillan Publishers Ltd.
12. Wright A. Games for Language Learning. Cambridge University Press, 1984.
13. Wilga M. Rivers, Mary S. Temperley. A practical guide to the teaching of English as a second language. - Cambridge, 1978.
14. Yin Yong Mei and Jang Yu-jing. 'Using Games in an EFL Class for Children' Daejin University ELT Research Paper. Fall, 2000.
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