Games are used by teachers not only for the amusement of their students, but also for encouraging students to learn new grammar and vocabulary items. Students may be reluctant to acquire new grammar patterns and rules through classical exercises and traditional methods of teaching. By combining amusement with learning and acquisition, games attract students in using their willingness to learn new grammar concepts and rules. In other words, I daresay that games can replace or supplement the traditional techniques of teaching and learning.
When classical exercises do not work, it is time for games. Students will feel that they make no effort to acquire the new grammar and vocabulary and in many cases they learn them unconsciously. Therefore, games are meant to help learners achieve their learning tasks in a pleasant way. The tasks may be achieved individually, in pairs or in teams. Learners have the opportunity to work in teams, to co-operate, to take advantage of the knowledge and experience of their team fellows, to complete their colleagues; in order to do this, students must understand the rules and the goals of the games they are playing.
When playing games, participants do not work only in groups and help one another, but they are also in competition with one another. They try to learn for themselves, to be better than their colleagues, to get good marks and to assert themselves; hence, there may appear new group leaders who are also interested in learning individually, not only in helping the other members of the team. In this case, there can be distinguished the element of competition between individual students or teams during a language activity.
Games themselves have certain characteristics:
- Games propose to participants a parallel reality;
- Games are activities meant to amuse and relax participants;
- Games take place at a certain time and in a certain place;
- Games contain within themselves rules which may differ from reality;
- The result of a game can hardly be predictable;
- The participation rate is very often a low one because many learners may be reluctant to take part in games or they do not know the rules that are supposed to allow them to participate.
There are some advantages of teachers’ using games in the classroom. In brief, games motivate students to learn and acquire information; they diminish learners’ stress; they give students the chance to communicate with one another and with the teacher; games teach students how to have fun and learn at the same time and make them aware of the fact that the atmosphere in the classroom need not be only solemn and serious; on the contrary, the atmosphere may be relaxing and inviting and may create a propitious medium for learning and acquisition. One may resume this idea in simple words: in order to learn English, you do not have to be only serious, but also playful; it is this playfulness that motivate students and keep them learning.
From the point of view of motivation, games make students use their physical qualities, enhance their brain capacity and strengthens the synapses. Games as activities improve students’ learning style and capacity to memorize. Teachers have got the opportunity to change dull grammar and vocabulary lessons into attractive and catchy ones. Students also have the possibility to use varied language and to understand even the most intricate grammatical notions and vocabulary. Shy learners have got the chance to express themselves openly and to overcome their shyness and fear.
On the other hand, games help students to interact with one another; they want to interact because they wish to achieve the goals of the game. It is well known that most games promote pair work and group work; these two types of work encourage interaction. Participants feel like asking questions, talking to each other, debating upon a certain issue with their colleagues; and, in most cases, they do these in order to win the games, to be the best and to learn as much as they can. This means they understand that games are nothing but competition and cooperation altogether. Students learn how to win and how to lose, how to help and how to defeat others.
Because of motivation and interaction, learners understand better the meanings of the grammar notions and vocabulary patterns and this understanding leads to natural acquisition of language in a relaxed environment. Language is acquired because students are encouraged to participate in the game activities that are full of competitive elements. It is obvious that games help learners practice the language; which means that they have the opportunity to improve their skills, both receptive and productive: reading, listening, speaking and writing.
Games divide into linguistic and communicative. The goal of linguistic games is accuracy; for instance, participants have to provide the right synonym or antonym. The goal of communicative games is communication; for example, two students try to find the similarities between two landscapes that are different but have certain elements in common; even if the communicative aim is the most important, proper language should not be neglected; language helps the game participants to fulfill the communicative aim.
It is said that games contain within themselves their own reality and this reality is not the real one. But games mirror the real world and teach students how to fight, to be creative and to cooperate. It is important that almost all games can be adapted to the level of school pupils or students.
Jones, L., The Student-Centered Classroom, Cambridge University Press, 2007
Scrivener, J., Learning teaching: A guidebook for English language teachers, Macmillan, 2009
Hadfield, J., Intermediate vocabulary games, Longman, 1999