Gamification, Games in an ESL classroom; Expert Opinion - Ekaterina Simonova
Have your students ever been bored in class? And it’s the adults we are referring to here, not only kids. The reason for this could be that the lessons has become repetitive, the tasks are not interactive enough, there is too much information or it is too challenging.
If you look around, you will notice that information is no longer presented the same way it used to be. So many apps, companies, products are fighting for our attention, that they constantly have to invent new ways to grab it. Bright pictures, clickbait and an offer of fun all come into play where simple straightforward facts are failing. Taking these notions further and applying them to language learning, we will suddenly realise, that the most prosperous edtech companies are the ones offering learning in the form of games.
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Gamification in itself is a relatively new concept. It is a technique based on using “game elements and game design techniques in non-game contexts. It is based in the success of the gaming industry, social media, and decades of research in human psychology. Basically, any task, assignment, process or theoretical context can be gamified. With technological advances and a wide-spread transition to online-learning, using games in class is becoming not just optional, but essential to providing the best experience to your students. It is a powerful tool that engages language learners and empowers them to try new things and apply what they have already learned.
Let’s see what defines a game in terms of L2 learning and acquisition:
By the end of the game students will have achieved something. Having no goal will not always motivate them enough to participate.
By defining the rules of the game you will help your students achieve the goal and fulfill the major objectives of the task.
A feedback system provides information about progress towards the goal, what was done right and what could be improved next time.
As you can see, at least three of the components are closely connected and depend on each other.
Apart from the components there are several elements that enhance the teaching and learning process of L2. Because they are geared towards a particular goal that eventually focuses on winning by overcoming challenges and other constraints, game activities are all meta-centered and contain this form of activity. Each game also uses a reward system or method for the player to obtain prizes, based on the situation.
This element also comes from sport, where there are leaderboards based on the performance of each participant. In L2 teaching, leaders can be students who manage to achieve the game goal faster than others, manage to outsmart their opponents or receive the highest score at the end of the game. This element is common in competitive games.
Prizes / Awards
These can be any kinds of tokens, marks, candy or additional activities. Prizes/awards promote an additional commitment and engagement by the player and that is one element that is persistent in L2 learning.
These play the role of providing recognition of the student’s efforts, success and results. They can go in the form of badges or, for instance, stickers, all of which provides a boost in motivation and engagement.
It gives learners necessary information about goals already achieved and works as an incentive to move forward. It also represents the player’s journey, which could be part of a series of small challenges embedded into a larger challenge
However, not all games are the same, and simply handing out a game for your students to play will not equal gamification. As you can see, there is much more to it than that. Why bother then? Gamers of all ages frequently play video, smartphone, or even Facebook games. The social connection, competitiveness, and game itself are all huge draws in today's culture of gaming. Players compete against one another by posting their high scores, leaderboards display the top players, badges showcase all of your successes. What's more, a game doesn't just begin and end. Players go from one level to the next in a progression, with the top tier being the final objective. Many language learning apps realised it and utilised the full potential of gamification getting into the top lists of apps downloaded by users.
Do you use games in class? How have you gamified topics with your students?
Hello, readers! I’m Ekaterina and I’ve been teaching English for 20 years. When I was a young specialist, I used to turn to games as a teaching means really seldom.
I specialize in teaching adults and the most amazing thing I’ve discovered is,
!ADULTS ARE NO DIFFERENT FROM CHILDREN!
They like paying even more because grown-ups are often tired sorting out complicated issues and mitigating conflicts at work. So you can use games with adults, too. What for?
When a student, I learnt Spanish in Sevilla and once I accidentally overheard a part of a teachers’ meeting when they were asking each other how they could make their Spanish classes even more amusing and involving. The answer was, “With children’s games”!
Being an advocate of the cram-your-gram approach, I couldn’t understand why teachers in the Western world are expected to do their best to entertain students as if the latter were children in a circus. It didn’t sound serious or fundamental to me. Besides, playing numerous games at classes seemed to make teachers take all the responsibility for the education process though part of it definitely lies with the students.
Games give us a lot of serotonin. Serotonin is produced by our brain when we do something familiar, something we know already how to do. Playing games is one of such things. When we learn things while playing, our brains show less resistance in obtaining new information.
Learning a language is great mental strain. For grown-ups, it can also be stressful as at English classes they find themselves in a vulnerable position. Playing games is a good remedy here. It helps students relax and memorise words and rules easier.
Besides, games trigger positive emotions and help us associate a difficult process of learning with something pleasant and entertaining. That is why games are a productive way of teaching and should be a regular part of a teaching process.
DO GAMES FOR CHILDREN AND ADULTS DIFFER?
Sure. As compared to children who do need to touch things, watch colorful and animated pictures to keep their attention on, adults need more communication in the form of conversation, competition or a team-play.
WHAT GAMES WILL DO?
If you teach online, the best games are interactive ones. It’s satisfying for both children and adults to participate as much as a teacher who usually controls the gameplay. So if a student can also press buttons in your amusing game, you hit the jackpot. You can be sure your students will be playing on their own without your supervising.
The following websites have lots of games to offer. Note that they require little to no preparation,
British Council website - for kids, but you can find words good to know for adults as well
Learn English Today - for adults
Turtle Diary - for schoolchildren
Fun Brain - nice interface and big diversity of games for everybody
Week English - games for beginners to advanced learners including adults
English Media Lab - grammar games for everybody
WHAT I PERSONALLY DO
I stick to a creativity approach in teaching-learning and quite seldom make use of online games. Since I teach adults, my fav is to make them think and speak. To do that, I suggest their looking at the active vocabulary list and I ask them to make a sentence with a word from the list. Here are a couple of suggestions of what you can do out of it,
1. make a sentence using first person singular (I) and an active word / word it’s combination.
Tip: making sentences with “I” makes it easier to memorize words.
2. make sentences with the active vocabulary, the last word of the previous student’s sentence being the first word for the next student.
Tip: this makes students follow the group-mates’ answers and retain attention.
3. create a story, no matter how fantastic it can be, with the vocabulary in focus.
Tip: Story-telling makes students feel a team.
4. ask students to choose about five new words and to share their own life stories that would include these words.
Tip: when people talk about themselves, they learn to be the center of attention, they feel recognition from other people l and they get aware of being finally able to say something important in English.
5. When I worked in class face-to-face, I used to play jigsaw twist games. For example, students would have to - make up a dialogue from divided phrases, - to make a story from broken paragraphs, - to make up really long words from letters and so on. I held such games as competitions among micro groups of three. Of course, this kind of games requires preparation but it’s worth it. When students manipulate words and sentences on the table in front of them, their brains are working more efficiently.
KEEP IN MIND
If you feel like playing a game at the next lesson, make sure you have enough time. In average, you may want to spend up to 15 min with an individual and 10 to 20 min in a group.
For more complicated games such as role games, quizzes, talk shows etc you might want the whole lesson and a night’s preparation😅.
Moreover, bear in mind that playing a game should be a brisk process, the students’ answers should be as short and clear as possible otherwise the engagement in the game will quickly go down and the attention will be taken by smartphones and other distracting things.
Do you think you have picked up some new ideas for your classes? What games are your favourite to play with your students? Please, share your ideas in the comments below.
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That’s all for now!
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