Thursday, 23 January 2014

From 'my first game' to my First Certificate!

"I Spy, with my little eye..."
We've been enjoying various board games this week in our classes, as you can see!

I Spy is a cool game without any English it it - so you could use this for any language, actually. Four game cards are beautifully illustrated with loads of content, intricate detail and variety. Each card has a different picture. The aim of the game is to cover the picture with jigsaw pieces when you 'find' something the teacher has asked for eg Something beginning with "P" (for spelling, or do it phonetically). You can also call for "something big/small/hot/delicious/dangerous etc" or by colour. Children love exploring their pictures and getting creative with their answers - and checking each others' answers! Suits all sorts of levels...
Alphabet Squares

Alphabet Squares is a game I picked up in Australia years ago, and is based on the characters from an ABC kids' TV show - never mind we are unfamiliar with them. It's a simple A to Z dice game/race, with players collecting letter cards as they land on squares. Add a bit of motivation for the lagging players by giving them the chance to 'steal' these cards when they land on them later - rock/scissors/paper injects some noise! Ask players to tell you the letter name as they pick up; make it harder and get players to name all the letters as they move; make it harder still and tell you what the pictures are eg 'M for moon'. Unfortunately the pictures are not phonetically thought out eg 'C for Charlie' and obscurely Aussie here & there eg 'J for Jup Jup'. However, children still get a lot of enjoyment from this kind of game and are repeating & repeating the letters, and using game taking language each & every turn.

Animal ABCs
Another ABC race we like is from Learning Resources from a pack of 6 games "Pre-School Fun game board book". I was amazed this week that some of my students simply could not spin the spinner (dice alternative - harder to throw off the table!)...seems they have too many fingers/dangly winter cuffs or something! An animal on each square by first letter, and can be 'milked' by asking students to tell you what noises the animals make, if they can be seen near where you live, if they have ever seen one, are they safe or dangerous, do they like them etc. My learners love to play an Old MacDonald game (by Loesch Ware) on iOS, incidentally, which extends the theme, uses the familiar song but with un-farm friendly animals such as fox, shark, giraffe...highly recommended!

Old MacDonald iOS game
And of course, even the ultra-serious classes secretly want to have some fun and play a game! Most readers will be familiar with Scrabble, which can be a bit quiet/slow if you don't 'manage' the game properly - time limits, ban dictionaries (ask the teacher?), etc. I like this card game version just because it's bigger & feels different (put your own double/triple letter/word cards where you like); only limit is the size of your table. Encourage players to write down all the words in their notebooks & review at home, do a spelling test next time or ask students to make sentences with etc - don't waste the vocabulary generated. I like to play semi-open hands so I can give clues about 'better' words & avoid getting stuck with 3-letter minimalism/clogging up the vowels!

FCE practice
So game play works from my first class all the way through to my First Certificate. Games need to have a language/learning point & produce output. Should be used sparingly, enthusiastically (by teacher to get the most out of players, not players goofing off!) and sypathetically - don't make a big deal out of winning/losing...unless of course the teacher loses, which everyone enjoys :)

What is your favourite classroom board game?