In general people think that studying is boring and, in fact, it should not be. The great challenge is to make a class a fun experience to make motivation flourish, pleasant to engage students, and enjoyable to favour the emotional response in learning and thus develop memory.
In this recipe there are no exact ingredients but there are some that cannot be missing: dynamics, diversity, movement, entertainment and a dash, at least, of culture to achieve a most serious objective: learning English.
There are hundreds of games we know and can be adapted to teach.
It is definitely not the same to practise numbers by repeating them in order or writing them dozens of times than by playing Yatzee. There are people who think playing is a waste of time. But what do we do when we play Yatzee? We USE numbers and thus we learn them.
Games make us use the target language for a purpose different from practice itself
They catch our attention so naturally that students make a bigger effort to concentrate and memorize because they want to win. Is this bad? Dr Gwen Bailey Moore says “Winning produces a feeling of success. Success and winning in games can be transferred to getting an A, B, or C in the next test in school. For example, a child´s thought pattern might be as follows: Paying attention helps me to win. Winning makes me feel good about myself. I am not so bad. Better grades make me feel good about myself. Paying attention can help me achieve better grades and have better feelings about myself.” Not bad at all! Games provide marvellous ways for students to improve their ability to attend. “Strategies, to be developed through the thought processes and manual manipulation of games, are the framework on which attention spans expand.”Let´s now see other examples to make other points.
Trying to study opposite adjectives by heart can be boring and not very promising. But, what if we prepare a simple game such as Memory Test? This will be not only fun but highly more effective: apart from extending short term memory, it will help lay the foundation for long term memory.
Ordering words written in the textbook is definitely not the same as ordering cards with words. We can manipulate them, trying different positions easily until we find the right one.
Look at what happened at a conference organized by APIZALS. I asked teachers to order sentences referring to the processes of learning according to Piaget. They know English, they teach it. I kind of cheated just to make them experiment how a student feels when facing such task. Have a look at those faces denoting extreme concentration.
One of the teachers exclaimed: “Poor my students!”
When I asked if they gave up (some of the sentences were so long and had so many tricks that the activity was taking too long, and my point had been made), another teacher said: “No way, I have to be able to do this!” It was her challenge. She just needed more time.
The most important goal was for teachers to realize the frustration that they can cause and thus hinder or even impede learning.
Emotion is a primary catalyst in the learning process.
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