Can games form part of your TEFL lesson plans?

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Learning should be fun and any TEFL course will supply you with different techniques for the classroom to help you impart knowledge and motivate and inspire your students.  Games are a tried and trusted method used by teachers to help learners of all ages to engage with, understand and enjoy a classroom session.

Games are interactive, they are sometimes competitive and encourage collaboration between the pupils and can lead to some memorable teaching sessions.

Don’t just think that games are for young children, they can be used with learners of all ages and abilities and will keep your TEFL sessions stimulating, lively and interesting. Games are just one of the teaching methods you should have ready in your library of learning tools.

What can games add to the classroom environment?

  • Games provide a great memory hook for kinaesthetic learners – this is learning through physical activity
  • Games are fun and keep students’ attention longer than conventional classroom techniques
  • For students who are anxious or worried, games can help reassure and relax them
  • Games are not free working so are actually a controlled activity meaning that the teacher can input into the accuracy of language use and pronunciation
  • Games promote student engagement and collaboration as pupils can work in pairs or teams

What elements of learning can games promote?

Games have an infinitesimal amount of usage within the classroom but some tried and trusted areas include:-

  • Reinforcing and practising grammar in a way that inspires less dread than usual
  • Games are a fun way to learn new vocabulary
  • Games can help to reinforce language points

If you are new to TEFL or a more established teacher who has never used games within learning before, there are plenty of ideas to borrow to get you started.

Relay Race – divide your students into teams and ask the first member of each team to write one item on the board which they learned the previous day – if you had a session about cooking then each pupil can write one food item or ingredient on the board   - before running back and letting the next team member go.  Either the fastest team can win or the one with the most listed items before the teacher blows the whistle.  Just remember, teams cannot copy so if one team has already written the word, ‘potato’ then the other team will have to think of something else.  This is huge fun for small children but you will be surprised at how much older learners also enjoy this game.  This game acts as a revision tool for the previous lesson to see how much information the students can recall and as any teacher knows, exercise is an excellent way to help promote learning

“If I were you...” – the teacher writes down a selection of simple life problems on a post-it note, popular choices include, you have lost your car keys, you have two job offers and don’t know which to choose or perhaps, you have lost your bank card.  The notes are stuck individually on the back of each student without that student seeing what the text says. 

The students then mingle and have to read the problem of another student and give them appropriate advice in English – “call a locksmith”, “write down the advantages and disadvantages of each job to help you decide” and “call your bank to report the lost card, they usually have a dedicated phone number for this.” 

The student advising on the problem must not give the game away and cannot reveal the actual problem; this is for the listener to guess based on the quality of the responses he or she receives.  This game promotes interaction amongst the students, useful if you have a disparate group that don’t really know each other and it encourages the creative use of language as the students figure out the vocabulary to express the solutions to the problems

Charades – this concept is most commonly played using book or film titles but works equally well with just simple vocabulary.  Choose a topic so that the students have some parameters and then write a selection of words down on cards or just use images.  Split the students into teams and each team has to act out a word for the other to guess

Synonyms – divide the class into two teams and seat each team on the opposite side of the room facing each other.  One nominated person from each team sits facing their team and a second person stands behind the team holding up a word on a piece of card.  The team has three minutes to get their captain to say the word being held up on the card behind their back.  They must not say the word, they can only use descriptions or synonyms

Hangman – not a TEFL game necessarily but a great game especially for young learners.  Think of a word within a defined topic and then mark out the number of letters in a series of horizontal lines on the blackboard.  Students have to guess the letters and each correct answer will fill in one of the gaps – the students can guess the whole word whenever they think they know it.  Incorrect answers are recorded as a single line in a drawing of a hangman and incorrect guesses will result in the same penalty.  The challenge is to work out the word before the hangman’s drawing is complete

Chalkboard acronym – write a word on the board downwards in a line and ask each student to come up with a word starting with each letter.  You can make it more challenging by asking the students to add a word which is related to the acronym or you can pick a noun that is part of a topic like animals and then ask the students to use each letter to form a new word related to this subject.

Games in the classroom can be huge fun, a way of introducing variety and they are collaborative and interactive encouraging interaction and teamwork between the students.  If you are looking for more ideas then there is plenty of inspiration online.