Games for Language Teaching

Topics: Second language acquisition, Language education, Linguistics Pages: 8 (2254 words) Published: June 24, 2013
Using Games in Language Teaching

The purpose of this paper is threefold: to discuss reasons for using games in language, to give suggestions on when and how to use games, and to explain categories for classifying games.

Why use games in language teaching
Games have long been advocated for assisting language learning. Here are some of the reasons why:

1. Games add interest to what students might not find very interesting. Sustaining interest can mean sustaining effort (Thiagarajan, 1999; Wright, Betteridge, & Buckby, 2005). After all, learning a language involves long-term effort.

2. Games provide a context for meaningful communication. Even if the game involves discrete language items, such as a spelling game, meaningful communication takes place as students seek to understand how to play the game and as they communicate about the game: before, during, and after the game (Wright, Betteridge, & Buckby, 2005).

3. This meaningful communication provides the basis for comprehensible input (Krashen, 1985), i.e., what students understand as they listen and read, interaction to enhance comprehensibility, e.g., asking for repetition or giving examples (Long, 1991), and comprehensible output, speaking and writing so that others can understand (Swain, 1993).

4. The emotions aroused when playing games add variety to the sometimes dry, serious process of language instruction ((Bransford, Brown, & Cocking, 2000) Ersoz, 2000; Lee, 1995).

5. The variety and intensity that games offer may lower anxiety (Richard-Amato, 1988 ) and encourage shyer learners to take part (Uberman, 1998), especially when games are played in small groups.

6. Games can involve all the basic language skills, i.e., listening, speaking, reading, and writing, and a number of skills are often involved in the same game (Lee, 1995).

7. Games are student-centered in that students are active in playing the games, and games can often be organized such that students have the leading roles, with teachers as facilitators.

8. Many games can be played in small groups, thereby providing a venue for students to develop their skills in working with others, such as the skill of disagreeing politely and the skill of asking for help (Jacobs & Kline Liu, 1996). Other advantages of games played in groups include:

a. The team aspect of many games can encourage cooperation and build team spirit (Ersoz, 2000). b. Although many games involve competition, this is not necessarily the case (Orlick, 2006). c. In most games, everyone has a turn, encouraging everyone to take a turn, rather than letting others do all the talking and other actions, and discouraging one or two people from shutting out others.

9. As many games can be played outside of class, they provide a means for students to use the language outside of class time (Ellis, 2005).

10. Games can connect to a variety of intelligences (Gardner, 1999), e.g., a. Games played with others involve interpersonal intelligence b. Games involving drawing connect with visual/spatial intelligence c. Games often have a hands-on element, such as cards, spinners, or pieces, which connect with bodily/kinesthetic intelligence

To achieve the above-mentioned benefits some thought needs to be given to when and how to use games. That is the focus of the next section of this paper.

When and how to use games
Games can play a range of roles in the language curriculum. Traditionally, games have been used in the language class as warm-ups at the beginning of class, fill-ins when there is extra time near the end of class, or as an occasional bit of spice stirred into the curriculum to add variety. All these are fine, but games can also constitute a more substantial part of language courses (Lee, 1979; Rixon, 1981, Uberman, 1998). In the Presentation-Practice-Production framework (Mauer, 1997), (in which language items are first presented for...

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