“It's important to have balance in your life between work and play.” - Bobby Flay
Learning a foreign language is a challenging endeavour and introducing games to classes can be a great way to help learners develop language skills without them even realising how much they're learning. That said, you still need to know how to effectively introduce games into class to ensure students get the most out of them.
With that in mind, here’s Superprof’s guide to using games in language classes.
How Do You Teach Children Foreign Languages through Games?
Teaching foreign languages requires a lot of creativity, especially when it comes to getting the students’ attention. Games are an excellent teaching resource that can improve a student’s language skills.
Whether you’re teaching English-speaking students a foreign language or foreign students English as a foreign language (EFL), there are a few things you should keep in mind.
Firstly, adapt your lessons to the age and level of the students.
For example, preschoolers will enjoy learning a foreign language with hands-on games, singing nursery rhymes, and engaging in stories, which can get them used to the pronunciation and accents. Podcasts with native speakers for younger listeners are also a good idea.
Primary school children will enjoy card games and board games where they get to interact with other children as this can teach them new vocabulary in their target language and encourages them to speak. Repetition is also useful for working on pronunciation and speaking skills while also teaching them new vocabulary.
Preteens tend to enjoy digital media so tablets, online games, and augmented reality all offer increased immersion and engagement and can really bring a foreign language class to life. A lot of sites and apps can be used to add digital resources and games to your language classes. You just need to remember why you’re adding digital resources in the first place.
There are 5 steps to follow:
- Choosing the game
- Start at the end: each student must understand the goal they’re working towards.
- Clearly explain the rules.
- Start the game and make sure the students are following the rules.
- Intervene if necessary.
Beyond the lessons you’re trying to teach students, games can help students with language skills indirectly by giving them an enjoyable activity through which they can practise their language skills.
Which Languages Can You Learn with Games?
Board games can be incredibly effective teaching tools in language classes and can be used for almost any language so whether the class is for young children, teens, or adults, there are a lot of ways to include games.
Most students around the world learn English as a second language and, in some countries, this accounts for the majority of foreign language classes. After all, English is the lingua franca for business.
It’s a good idea to use card games, video games, and board games in the target language.
Games you can use include:
- Time’s Up
These are popular games that most households have a copy of, but for games like Scrabble, it’s important that you use the version in the target language as the scoring is different.
There are versions in Spanish, Portuguese, Danish, German, Russian, and many other foreign languages and they can be useful additions to any language class. Just make sure the games and resources match the language that you're teaching.
The English-language versions are useful for EFL classes, of course, and they can be useful for native English speakers to work on their language skills. Crosswords and similar games can also be really useful for practising spelling and learning new words.
Games can be useful in any language, even regional or minority languages, which tend to have fewer resources available for learners. Lessons in Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Cornish, and Irish can all be improved with games if you adapt them to the language.
The Advantages of Using Games in Language Classes
There are a lot of benefits to using games in language lessons:
- They can help students to concentrate and work on their memory.
- They make students active participants in class and allow them to interact with their classmates while also working in the target language.
- They also make the students more responsible for their learning. Students are less stressed when they make mistakes as they’re just playing a game.
- Games also encourage students to vocalise their thoughts and think about their decisions, often in the target language.
- Learners also have an opportunity to work differently while also using reasoning skills.
- Students can work on several different skills at once.
Games give students a clear goal to reach with measurable and achievable goals, which allows students to work on their target language skills while having fun and often without realising how much they're learning.
Students learning through play will also be less stressed about making mistakes in the target language, which is often the best way to learn.
This creates a relaxed atmosphere where students are invited and encouraged to participate in the learning process.
Board games are also something that students can play outside of class and continue learning and they can go back over the day’s grammar lesson by playing with their parents once they get home, which is a great way for them to involve their parents and family members in their learning. A game of Monopoly in the target language on Family Game Night could be a great way to practise their language skills.
Their language classes should be an opportunity to discover new cultures, learn new words, and practise what they’ve learnt and one of the best ways to discover new cultures is by playing games popular in said cultures. You use games to teach manners, greetings, and cultural norms through games and role-playing.
Looking to teach students how to count in Portuguese?
A simple card game could do the trick!
Which Are the Best Games for Language Lessons?
Here are a few ideas to help you integrate games into your language lessons.
Firstly, be creative when including games in your classes.
You can always have the students make games to learn foreign languages. For example, you could have them make their own Memory game since you just need a few sheets of paper or card, pens, and some scissors.
Ask your students to cut an even number of 5x5cm cards and on half the cards, write the words to learn in the target language on half of the cards and write their equivalents in English on the other half.
To play, they can turn over two cards. If they have a matching pair, they can keep them, if not, turn the cards back over so they can’t see what’s written on them and the next player can have a go. The winner is the student with the greatest number of pairs at the end of the game.
As they’re working on the game, you can also make sure they know all the appropriate vocabulary for the tools they’re using (scissors, pens, glue, etc.).
This is also an opportunity for students to work on their fine motor skills, which is especially useful with very young learners.
A winning combination!
Games like Taboo are also useful for using your language skills. To play this game, you need to write words in the target language on cards and describe the words (without saying them) so that your classmate can guess the word.
Players aren’t allowed to use certain synonyms or related words. For example, if the word was house, players mightn’t be permitted to use the following words:
The goal is for players to use their language skills to describe the word so clearly that their partner or classmate can easily guess it. Taboo is a multiplayer game that’s regularly amongst the best-selling games in a lot of different countries.
Students with a decent level can also play Scrabble in their target language. This is a popular game in EFL classes.
There are also several other games that you can play or adapt to language lessons:
- Guess Who?
As you can see, games are an excellent tool to use during language lessons.
Video games and digital resources can also be used, but board games usually have a better social component that encourages students to talk to one another. Games are also a great way for students to learn from one another, allowing more students to participate in learning the process at the same time.
If you need some help with your language lessons, why not get some from a private tutor on Superprof?
Whether you're looking to improve your language skills or learn new teaching approaches, private tutoring is an excellent way to learn exactly what you want, when you want.
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