#Gamers in my class – Teaching through games Vol.2

My previous post on teaching through games was focused more on introducing games as an alternative homework assignment or quick activity for the end of class. A Vol.2 is necessary and is dedicated to my wonderful gamers who come to class fully equipped and enthusiastic!
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Some students just adore games – I daresay more than I do (!). They send me links to every game they try out so I can have a turn, they are surprisingly resourceful with ideas for activities and they make me proud every step of the way with knowing much more than I did when I was their age – keep forgetting, we’ve got digital natives to work with, so we’d better shape up!

Ok, game design isn’t exactly language teaching, but to me it’s definitely one of the greatest, most fun ways to practise what we’ve learned and take it a step further (not to mention digital skills practice!). We work together on lots of different projects and I thought I’d share some in this post.

My young ones have been working in our group on GameStar Mechanic.
Those #ClassicChampions (as my four A2 students have decided to call themselves!) have been doing really well on this platform and keep coming up with new ideas for more difficult games and levels. Safety comes first, so for the time being all projects on the Gamestar platform are posted onto my personal account (Kryftina).

Our first game:

#ClassicChampions first ever attempt on Gamestar Mechanic!

#ClassicChampions first ever attempt on Gamestar Mechanic!

Our current project:

 

Teens though are always up for more challenging work, so Jim, Alex and Antonis (levels B1 to C1) have been testing their skills on Morrowind construction set and mod creation. Not everybody’s cup of tea and truly difficult to get your head around, but they love it and the results are really impressive. Can’t wait for them to publish their finalized projects! Here’s a little taste:

 

Guessing #games and the perception of #language

Sharing is key to education and I like to incorporate all kinds of things during teaching. As I think one of the greatest tools we’ve got is ourselves, I usually try to engage my students in activities with a personal touch.
I’ve used guessing games as  a quick fix (to accommodate 5-10 minutes at the end of a lesson), a prologue to open speaking lessons, even full lessons at times.
The results are always so rewarding! These activities help us come closer as a class and give us the opportunity to share and learn at the same time. They’re also a great way to showcase our work and progress, either individually or as a group.

linguaguess

I often use my homelands for reference; it’s a great reminder of how rich the Greek culture, both ancient and modern, is and how many things it provides us with so we can take our learning to the next level. The following activity can be used in many different ways and contexts. I’ve used it to get students to practise phonemes, improve their speaking & writing and work on digital skills. Here’s an example of a half-hour activity for intermediate+ level students which I do before Easter break, aiming at practicing pronunciation, using English and cultural exchange:

1. Bring up the following presentation on the screen: LinguaGuess#1 (a very simple presentation – I’ve now made it public on Google docs)
2. Elicit answers from the students and write the most popular on the board (alternatively, students can take notes and compare with classmates).
3. Discuss answers and ask students to pronounce the given word. Ask them to use the word in a sentence of their own.
4.Time for real answers! Take the students through the whole presentation, explaining vocabulary & context when necessary.

Follow-up activities:
– create a similar presentation of your own, using a word you find interesting or you think not many people would know its meaning.
– create a presentation of how you and your family celebrate Easter.
– find interesting Easter trivia from a place (village, city, country) of your choice and share them with the class.

#My Notes
The presentation above is about the word ”batoudo”.
When I asked students which language it comes from, the most popular answers were Spanish and Hindi.
Most of them thought it was either a type of traditional garment or a spice!
Students using the word came up with examples like:
(The ones who thought it was Spanish)
”Almost ready for the party! I just have to  get my batoudo to the dry-cleaner’s tomorrow.”
”We have to go back, I left my batoudo on the chair.”
(The ones who thought it was Hindi)
”Add some batoudo for a twist in your biryani!”
”The girls looked lovely in their batoudos.”

This is an activity I really enjoy doing with students and thought I’d share it with all – as always, feedback is greatly appreciated, leave a comment if you have any examples of your own or some different ideas!

#Sleuths in my class – Teaching through games Vol.1

Most, if not all, of the material I use in my classes is decided upon after the first three or four lessons. It’s very important to me to know my students’ tastes and interests, so I can provide them with an easy-going and uplifting learning process. I want my lessons to be meaningful, powerful and fun and I want them to be remembered!
I try to incorporate a variety of materials in every course, from music and poetry to newspapers and social media, but I’ve discovered only one thing can guarantee success: games. Regardless of age and level, all my students have shown a great interest in gaming as a way to learn. Being mad about games myself has been very helpful, as I have a wide selection to suit all tastes. Have a look at some of my favourites on List.ly.

ND_Silhouette originally from http://www.herinteractive.com/

Silhouette originally from http://www.herinteractive.com/

The first ever game homework I assigned was back in 2008, while teaching a group of five 13 year-old girls at level CEFR B1. We were about half way through our coursebook when they asked me if we could ”skip” the unit coming up, or at least the reading and speaking sections, as they were about computer games. ”That’s not for us”, they informed me. My immediate – but suppressed – reaction was to talk that idea out of them. I think I mumbled ”why?”, sotto voce, which thankfully went unnoticed. Instead of going into a fiery lecture defending pc games, I decided to agree to skip that unit, under one condition: they would try out a computer game. I let them moan and protest, as the idea had already taken shape in my head: it was time for the sleuth to come forward.
I still remember the two weeks that followed that lesson; we dedicated them to Nancy Drew and her adventures and they were the greatest lessons we’d ever had as a group. It wasn’t so much that those girls were now hooked on what they used to call a ”boys’ thing”, or that they actually learned through a game. That is a fact in my mind.
What I loved about this the most was that they learned to think twice before they dismiss an idea and I got to see first hand the results of an alternative approach to teaching.

These days, Nancy Drew still finds her way through my lessons in lots of different ways, depending on interests, needs and time available. I use HerInteractive games throughout my courses and have a set of three main activities for each ( listed from most to least time-consuming):

1. Finish a chapter ( set of five or six tasks) in the game and present your mindmap (how you solved it) in class
Goals: Revise vocabulary & functions / practise communication & presentation skills / explore & use digital tools 
2. Finish a task in the game, explain why it was/wasn’t easy and try to predict what will happen next
Goals: Revise vocabulary & functions / practise speaking-giving explanations / storytelling – making predictions
3. Finish an online mini-game. Can you remember at which part of the original game it’s found and what happened after that?
Goals: Practise timed activities / memory training / using Past tenses

I also usually assign three follow-up activities that work well either as individual tasks or as group projects (for groups of two or three students):

– Who’s Nancy Drew? Create a presentation for your family/friends/schoolmates
(Practice: effective web search, decision-making, story-boarding, use of English, editing, digital tools, presentation skills)
-The Nancy Drew Challenge. How many of the #Weekend Puzzles have you solved?
(Practice: getting social, testing skills, using English)
-The Idioms Hunt. How many English idiomatic expressions can you find in the [game title]? Make as many sentences as you can using them.
(Practice: identifying, learning and using English idioms)

I normally suggest several different websites and tools to help out each student, but always let them choose what suits them best. So far, their favourites include Oxford Dictionaries, Wikipedia, Google Cultural Institute, CoggleMindomo, Zoho Docs and Glogster.

Gaming plays-and will continue to play- a big role in the future of ELT and I’m always excited when educators around the world discover or re-discover ways of using games while teaching and then share their experience. To keep up to date, I usually refer to Gamification Wiki and Learning through Digital Games, as well as to great posts by ELTJam and ELT Sandbox (If anyone knows of other relevant blogs or pages, please leave a comment below with a link!). I can’t say I’m using game mechanics fully yet, but it’s an idea truly worth exploring.

*Update: two of my lovely girls shared some of their work (Annie used Chrome’s MindMaps and Marina chose Coggle), have a look: