#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:

 

#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:

English #Outdoors Vol.2

**original picture source: http://www.resourcesgraphics.com/

 Some of my favourite classic word games with a bit of a twist for extra fun:

-‘Word Chain’
Age: 8+
Estimated time: 15 minutes
Players: 3+

A nice game to practise vocabulary.
Decide on the order of players. The first player continues after the last.
The first player says a word, for example ”dog”.
The next player has to say a word beginning with the last letter of the previous word- in this case ”g”. If the second player says ”grass”, the third player will have to say a word that begins with ”s” and so on.
Any word can be used and in any form; nouns, verbs, adjectives, prepositions, etc.
If a word is repeated, the player who said it misses one round. Players are allowed three mistakes, after which they leave the game.
-As the game could take up a lot of time, it’s a good idea to decide when it should end, by setting a score board and awarding points for each word used correctly. I usually set the winning score at 20 points for young learners and 50 points for intermediate ones.
*Fun trivia: Words beginning with ”y” have proved quite challenging!

-”Sentence Surprise”
Age: 8+
Estimated time: 15 minutes
Players: 4+

A fun game to review structure and vocabulary.
Divide players in four groups, the ”Who?”, the ”What”, the ”Where” and the ”How”. Give each group a paper and a pencil and ask them to write relevant words one under the other. When they finish, a representative from each group has to come forward and stand in the correct position in order to form a sentence. Prepare for a lot of laughter, as sentences are usually something like ”An iguana hops quietly under the bed”! Do the same for all the words the players have come up with.
If you have more time on your hands, try playing more rounds and mixing up the groups so all players have been in all groups at least once.

-”Opposites”
Age: 8+
Estimated time: 10 minutes
Players: 2+

A quick game to build and review vocabulary.
One player says a word that has an opposite, for example ”day”.
The other players have to reply with its opposite, in this case ”night”. The first player to find the correct answer continues with a new word.
If, at any moment during the game, a player says a word that hasn’t got an opposite, e.g. ”pencil”, the first of the other players to realise it begins a new round.

**The ”Opposites” game is from a wonderful book I discovered about nine years ago, ”El gran libro de los juegos” (1998, Parramon Ediciones S.A.) which is full of amazing games and activities – not sure if there is an English version, though.

English #Outdoors Vol.1

It’s July! “Kalo Mina” as we say down here and a great start to a magnificent summer period!

**original picture source: http://www.resourcesgraphics.com/

Learning happens anytime, anywhere and, weather permitting, outside the classroom is the best place to start! I’ve been working in English learning summer camps for the past seven years and thought I’d share some of the funnest activities I’ve done with my students.
You might think they’re meant for large groups of young learners, but no. We’ve had the most fun trying them out with my colleagues; just the four of us, the young-at-heart teachers!

In this first post I’ve included three quick activities which serve as great ice-breakers and help teachers and students know each other better, remember names and choose leaders and team members.

“But, why are you?”
Age: 7+
Estimated Time: 10 minutes
Players: 7 or more

A fun game to get to know everyone in your class or team, while reviewing vocabulary on emotions. Everyone chooses an emotion. The coordinator helps anyone who struggles and ensures there are no repeats. Create a board (an A3 paper and a marker would do) with all the names and the emotion they’ve chosen under each. After the board is ready, give everyone five minutes to look at it and note names and emotions. Everyone then sits in a circle on the ground and when the coordinator gives the signal (best to set and explain what the signal will be before you start, especially if you have a group of young learners only) each player has to turn to the person on their  right and ask them the following: “But [name], why are you [emotion]?”. If they get the name and emotion right, both players leave the circle until everyone has had their turn. If they get one or both wrong, the other player has to ask them the same question. The game continues until all players have been asked the question.

*Make this more challenging by having players mimic the emotion they’ve chosen while they wait to be asked the question.

-“All aboard!”
Age: 7+
Estimated time: 10 minutes
Players: 7 or more

Learn and remember everyone’s name with this energetic game!
Draw the outline of a boat on the ground, jump in and inform everyone you’re the captain. Players shout their name twice and then stand around the “boat” waiting for orders. The captain starts with any player, saying “Sailor [name], on deck!”. That player has to jump in the “boat” and the captain asks “Sailor [name], are we all here?”. While the answer is no, the captain has to repeat the initial order for all names. When all “sailors” are gathered, the captain shouts “All aboard!” and further activities can begin.

-“Blind date”
Age: 7+
Estimated time: 2 minutes
Players: 7 or more

An easy activity to instantly create two random teams.
Draw two lines on the ground or use two ribbons, e.g. red and blue. The coordinator stands with their eyes shut while all players go around and touch them on their back. Every time someone touches them, the coordinator shouts red or blue and each player goes to  stand on either side, until everyone is in a team. Done!

Feel free to use them and send me feedback!

Next post coming up, with word games and observation skills activities.

**original picture source: http://www.resourcesgraphics.com/

Having fun with Stative Verbs – worksheet

A quick and fun activity for stative verbs I created with one of my B1+ classes (at Globe Language Centre) after finishing the first unit of our coursebook (Close Up) We cut out the words and start by putting the verbs under the correct headline.  Students then come up with examples for each verb.

StativeVerbsGame

This game is also wonderful in the way it has inspired students of different levels: -Our “TheArtofEnglish” workgroup (with students at levels A2 through B2) has turned it into a magnetic board game! -Our “PeerLearning” workgroup ( students at B2,C1 and C2 levels) are currently brainstorming on how to turn it into a mobile app! As always, everyone is welcome to try it out and send me feedback.