Teaching English in Cambodia for the past two weeks has taught me how valuable games can be in teaching. I used to think of games in class as fun but not “real learning.” However, I’ve learned that the right game can be an excellent way to help students pay attention, learn, and have fun. It takes creativity, but can be rewarding. Here is what I have learned so far about what makes a good, fun, and effective game:
- The game directly reinforces or teaches concepts you are focusing on. Modify games to fit the material.
- The game is age and skill appropriate.
- The game fits your class’s circumstances (students’ background, the class size, normal student interaction, class rowdiness, etc.).
- The game doesn’t involve someone getting “out.” That leaves students out of the fun and learning and can cause them to get rowdy or bored. Change the format of the game so everyone can participate.
- The game has some sort of competition instead of merely being an activity.
- If the students don’t respond well to a game, don’t try to force them to like it. Have a back-up plan and try to learn from what went wrong. If a game is going well, don’t draw it out too long and bore the students.
- Games don’t have to be a reward at the end of the lesson. In my situation, games at the beginning of class help students get excited about participating and stay interested in the topic.
- Games don’t require a lot of materials or work. Here in Cambodia, I don’t have access to many materials, so I have played every game without any printing, cutting, laminating, or buying. You have to be a little creative, but each game does not need to be a masterpiece.
- Have fun! Remember that games are supposed to be exciting, not a chore. It is a good chance for the students to enjoy learning, so have fun!
The following are a few successful games I’ve found:
- The dice game: Students are given any kind of worksheet (but don’t call it that), put in a group, and told that the winner is the first one in their group to finish filling it out. However, only one person can write at a time. The students take turns rolling a pair of dice, and if someone rolls doubles or seven, they get to write until someone else rolls doubles or a seven. Then that person starts writing and the other person has to stop. The game continues until someone finishes the worksheet correctly. This produces excitement and suspense for many age levels.
- The whiteboard game: Put lots of words, numbers, pictures, or maps (whatever you want to practice) on the board. Divide the class into teams and send one person from each up to the board. The goal is to be the first to point to the answer of whatever you say. For example, if you are learning geography, have them point to the correct state/country. If you are practicing times tables, put lots of numbers on the board and have them race to find the right number to the times table you say.
What games have you found helpful in your teaching experiences?