Every lesson needs to include something fun for the children to do. No one wants to sit through an hour and a half of a language lesson, without being slightly amused or captivated. Games are the best way to captivate the children, and make each lesson more enjoyable, and memorable!
My top Games
Every teacher is different and has their own games that they like to include in lessons, and I am no different. I try to think what type of lesson I will be teaching so as to know what type of game to include. I have broken down my top seven according to the class and activity.
Warm up Game
At the start of every class, whilst I am going around and checking the homework and diaries, I like to get the children up and thinking, rather than being sat there and bored. One game that they love to play is word hunt. It is one of the simplest games I know, but so effective.
Before checking the diaries, I get each child to say a letter of the alphabet and write it in the centre of the board. I then draw a circle around the line of letters and give two students a marker. They then have to go and make a word out of the letters, before passing the pen on. This continues until I have finished checking the diaries.
Depending on the level that I am teaching, depends on the rules. If it is a young, lower level class, the words can be short, so maybe a minimum of two letters per word, and if it is a higher level class, minimum of four or five letters per word. I then award points to the student with the best word.
I have found that things game gets the children thinking right from the start, and wakes them up. It also encourages them to learn new words, and if there is a new word on the board, I ask them to explain what it means, and translate it. That way the whole class has also learnt a new word.
Most lessons will try to incorporate new vocabulary, or else be reviewing the vocabulary. If I am introducing new vocabulary I like to make sure that the children can pronounce the word, and also understand what it means.
First, I ask them if they know they word, try to elicit answers, if not I tell them, and get them to repeat, before asking for the meaning, or to act out the meaning. Once it is understand, I will almost drill the meaning, but in a fun way.
The children are already in two teams, so I will draw two lines on the floor in front of me, and get the children to line up behind the lines in their teams. Using flashcards we will then play the ‘I want to sit down game’. The purpose of this game is that the first team with all the children sat down, gets points. All the children have to do is say the new vocabulary correctly, and before the other person in the other team.
The two front children in each line will be shown a flashcard, either the image or else the word, and will have to tell me what it is or says. They have to be correct and say it before the other person. The first one to do this gets to sit down, or else be a judge for me.
I find this game is very useful in helping children to remember. Not only to remember, but also to help with reading and understanding. They are very competitive so they enjoy it as well.
Another game I use is what I call the ‘Mexican wave’. In this game, the children are all sat in a circle, and are asked to each stand up and say a word. But each word has to be different from the others, and has to be done quickly. At first, the children are given a word and have to say that word when it is their turn, then they will pass the word onto the person on their right, and repeat the game. This way each student will say every word, but they enjoy it because it is a fast game, where they are standing and sitting, listening and speaking, and you can even make it so they are writing and reading. It is different from just sitting down and repeating words!
Sometimes grammar is hard to teach, or for the children to understand. Therefore games can be essential.
One game that has never failed me, and all children love to play is trading cards. I get the children to write down the vocab that goes with the grammar point on a piece of paper that has been folded, normally into six. They can cut these sections into cards, and have to go around the class asking other students the grammar point, in order to get the other’s card. The student with the most cards at the end wins a certain number of points, or a prize. This get’s the children up, asking the grammar, getting answers, and they really want to win so they repeat the grammar point so many different times, and have fun doing so.
Another game, or activity that is really good is a puzzle. This can be in that the students get a piece of paper with lines drawn on it, and a box full of words. They have to place the correct words in the correct order to get the grammar point and the answer. This includes the different structures, such as he or she, they, me, we etc. It gets the children thinking, and also practises their reading and writing. When some students have finished ahead of others, they help each other, not by giving answers but describing – they become teacher’s themselves, and they love it!
It is important to check understanding for each point, especially if you don’t have a teacher’s assistant that lesson, and aren’t fluent in Mandarin yourself.
One way that I have found invaluable, is through the use of charades! The children get together in small groups, and play charades. At first I will nominate a student to act out the vocab first, and the others get points if they are the first to guess what they are acting. After a certain period of time, I rotate it round, so every student has a chance to act out the vocab. If they haven’t fully understood it in the first place, through charades they can see what the word is, and what it means.
Another fun way of putting all the grammar and vocab together is through a round of KTV. China seems to love KTV, and so do the children. They get really into, it love it if it is almost like a game show – X Factor maybe, and the others get to help select the best of the best. They use microphones, and also have to act out what they are singing, almost like a dance routine. Really good in song lessons, and the whole class gets involved.
These are some of the games and activities I use within my classes to help the children have fun whilst learning English. There are so many more, and the activities can always be adapted and evolve to suit the level of the class and what is being taught. Plus, not only do the children have fun, you do too!