Using Games in Teaching English to Young Learners
I. How to Choose a Game
Students may wish to play games purely for fun. Teachers, however, need more convincing reasons. 'Teachers need to consider which games to use, when to use them, how to link them up with the syllabus, textbook or programme and how, more specifically, different games will benefit students in different ways (Khan, J.1996).' The key to a successful language game is that the rules are clear, the ultimate goal is well defined and the game must be fun.
Below are some questions which we might consider as we choose a game:
- Which language does the game target?
- Which skills does it practice? The language skill focus could be any one of the major skills of listening, speaking, reading or writing.
- What type of game is it?
- What's the purpose for using it?
- Does it fit the students? How could I simplify or make it more complex if necessary? Many games require modification in use when the students' need are taken into consideration.
- How much interaction and participation is there? Maximum involvement is something we are pursuing.
- Do I like the game myself?
II. Hints and Suggestions
- When giving instructions to beginners, a few words in the mother tongue would be the quickest way to make everything clear. More English exposure is needed at a later stage.
- Games are best set up by demonstration rather than by lengthy explanation.
- It is very important not to play a game for too long. Students will begin to lose interest. It is best to stop a game at its peak.
III. The "Magic Matchbox" Game
This is a guessing game played by teams to practice numbers.
Exponent: How many? There are…
Additional benefits: genuine communication; hidden drilling; teamwork
Language needed: numbers 1 to 11
Time: 10 to 15 minutes
Material: 1 matchbox; 11 toothpicks per person
- The teacher challenges the students to count the 11 toothpicks in his/her hand. To model the game, the teacher then puts some into the matchbox, shakes it and asks the students to guess how many are inside.
- The teacher explains how to play the game in the students native language if necessary.
- The teacher divides the class into two teams, giving each team an English name, eg. the Roosters and the Monkeys. Then the teacher write the the team names on the board for scoring during the game.
- If the class has a large number of students, this is one way to get smaller teams. Choose 10 players from each team by chanting together a 'choosing rhyme' such as the following:
- One, two, three, four,
- O-U-T, OUT!
- (The student chosen is the one you are pointing at on the word OUT!)
During the Game
- The first player from the Roosters stands up, shakes the matchbox in his/her hand. His/her team members shout together 'How many?.' The Monkeys then give the answer by replying 'There are…'.
- If the guess is the correct number, the Monkeys wins a point. If not, the Roosters get the point.
- Then switch roles. This time the Monkeys ask and the Roosters guess.
- The game continues until all the players get a turn.
- The teacher keeps a record of the points on the board. The team with the most points wins.