Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Blowing off steam - rewarding hard work

 I don't think it is rocket science to realise that teaching children has to include games - from time to time. Ideally, everything you do has a fun edge to it...but you do also have to put the hard work in and actually teach stuff. Likewise, children are not going to learn stuff through osmosis! You can't learn to spell without picking up a pencil (and making mistakes)...you can't improve your reading speed without starting slowly...you can't learn new words without guessing/getting it wrong from time to time. You can't go a whole lesson without some kind of release!

I know a lot of teachers/parents view games with mistrust. Me too! They have to be relevant, and produce as much language (English!) as possible. What kind of output really depends on the game, but you can always insist on consistent game playing phrases. The teacher needs to be as involved or not as he/she sees fit to get the game working - sometimes quite a lot at first to get the ball rolling/model the interplay. Othertimes needing to step in as referee or to calm things down, manage time etc. Taking as much of a back seat as possible is my preferred modus operandi, as then I can monitor & interact non-verbally (stop cards getting put into mouths with a glare, get bottoms back on seats before an accident, mime a phrase to weaker players, encourage a potential loser and praise a generous participant). If I do take part, making mistakes or offering daft answers helps the fluency no end - if the teacher is making mistakes so can I - and I have to listen to other people or I might loose!

This A-Z game is an old favourite. Students can cover the first letter of a word from a set, which they are given by rolling a dice (and the teacher being quick to choose a suitably easy/hard topic from a deck of cards!). eg sandwich fillings or pizza toppings, football teams or girls' names. You need a timer/buzzer. The 'danger' aspect = one side of the dice (nominate a number) means you take tokens OFF the other players boards to the rubbish pile. Nice way of levelling the playing field.

And the winner is...? Everyone. Loads of vocab review, disagreements and laughs. What do you think?