3 Language games

One way of introducing routines into the classroom is to use language games. In Case Study 2, a new teacher introduces a language game as a way to improve her and her students’ English speaking and listening.

Case Study 2: Miss Shyamala introduces games in English

Miss Shyamala was a new teacher who was not very confident in English. She also wanted to improve her classroom management skills.

I decided to have a daily listening activity in English, but a fun one. I introduced the game ‘Do What I Say’ [see Resource 2]. It uses simple commands and requires the students to listen carefully and respond to what I say. I started by doing gestures with the words. When students became familiar with the commands, I gradually began to just say the words. It took time to focus the class, and for me to speak clearly.

With this game, I reinforced my role as teacher (giving instructions) and the students’ attention was on following my instructions and listening carefully. They learned the names of simple actions and parts of the body, and they enjoyed the game. I could also feel my own English confidence improving as I practised the instructions.

My class was large, so once I made sure that all students understood the game, I made smaller groups of eight to ten students. In each group one student took the turn of a ‘teacher’ and gave instructions to the rest of the group. I was surprised to see Shekar, who is normally withdrawn, participating with enthusiasm in the game. I realised that we had labelled him a ‘slow learner’. He must have realised that with English all of us were beginners – and this could have given him confidence to participate.

One day after school, I was walking through the village and I saw a group of my students playing ‘Do What I Say’ in English. They were teaching the game to their younger brothers and sisters. But I worried that their pronunciation and vocabulary were not accurate.

Pause for thought

  • Miss Shyamala used the game for language teaching. What were the other benefits of the game?
  • Are there students like Shekar in your class? Do you think games will give them opportunities to participate?
  • What is the significance of her students playing the game after school and teaching it to other children?
  • Do you use any games that involve English with your students? If so, is this a regular routine or something you do infrequently?
  • What should Miss Shyamala do about her worries?

Students like to play games with words and actions. You can use simple games in the classroom for English language learning. When you do this, your own English skills and confidence will improve.

Activity 4: English language games

Take time to read carefully through the games and activities in Resource 2 and Resource 3. Maybe you can share this reading with a colleague and exchange ideas.

After you have read through them, choose one that you would like to try out in the classroom. Practise the words and phrases with a fellow teacher, or with someone at home. Think about how you would organise the class for the game. Would you play it inside or outside? Would you incorporate home languages into the game?

Try out your chosen game, from Resource 2 or Resource 3, with your students. When they become familiar with one game, you can introduce a new game to practise English. If students like a game, encourage them to play it outside class.

Keep one day of the week for a language game, or play a game twice a month.

For evaluation, note which students are careful listeners, and who can respond with good understanding even if just by shaking their head. Make a note of students who make good guesses, and who try to form their own questions or statements in English.

2 Establishing classroom routines to use more English