Teachers find that utilising learning games online provides children with motivating and stimulating experiences that can compliment classroom instruction, consolidating new concepts, vocabulary and sentence structures.
How can games support children with learning English? Games definately have their place in the learning process. Learning another language can be a stressful experience and games can provide an enjoyable and motivating break from intense face to face learning. Wisely used games can provide opportunities to practice new vocabulary or learning concepts, develop speaking and listening skills if used with pairs or provide a stimulus for new learning. Now most classrooms are well equipped with computers meaning that access is really a problem, the key area for teachers to think about is what programmes should I be using and when should I slot games into the learning programme? In addition, games can provide excellent home learning and setting up a managed learning environment with well cosen games to support class learning can be a significant boost to classroom learning.
So what needs to be considered when choosing games to support learning? Firstly lets consider the different groups that games fall into. As Rupert Wegerif and Lyn Dawes explain well in their book, 'Thinking and Learning with ICT: Raising Achievement in Primary Classrooms' ICT can be used in three main ways: as a tool for learning, as a tutor or as a stimulous for learning. Each of these categories has benefits in the learning process, you just need to consider carefully what role the game is playing and when it is appropriate for this form of learning.Games would usually fall under the 'tutor' group as they are in essence providing feedback to the child about their learning enabling hte child to recognise what they are doing correctly and what areas they need to improve on. So why is this motivting for children and not demoralising? They may receive significant feedback that they are getting things wrong, although a good teacher won't allow a child to play a game until they are suitably confident in that skill. Children seem able to receive more critical feedback from a computer than a teacher. Perhaps they realise that the computer is just a computer and they don't attach personal meaning to negative feedback in the same way that they do when dealing with real people.
Games provide opportunities to move forward to the next level so children are able to see their progress in an immediate way. With constant feedback about how they are doing and progression stages through levels of accomplishment, it doesn't take long before children are hooked on games. Using this momentum to support learning can be extrememly beneficial.
Utilising a talk partner to support a less confident child can reduce the stress of not succeeding at first and can also stimulate talk about thei learning shich can support language development. Providing adult supported talk before the game can support the thinking process during the game and then discussing the game afterwards can consolidate learning and the key vocabulary and sentence structures that were used.
So if used wisely games can be a significant and positive part of the learning process. Where they can be detrimental is when games are at an inappropirate level for the children involved. If the games are too hard the experience will be demotivating for the child and perhaps put them off the skill the game is focussed on. They may become embarrassed if in front of peers. Also, if the game is too easy for the child, this is detrimental to the learning process, meaning that the child is just wasting valuable learning time and not progressing as fast as they should be.
So with this in mind, consider games as a valuable asset to your learning tools repertoire and not as an add on reward when finished an activity. Always consider the individual child when selecting a game and avoid a one size fits all approach which may disadvantage some children. And enjoy! The enjoyment children gain from games can be rewarding to see and the way they stick with the learning through games can mean significant progress is made.
Nouns and adjectives
Verbs and adverbs
Reading games at Oxford Owl
BBC Monster-Maker Game - Make your own monster!
Fun English Games - a variety of games and activities for developing language