Why Should I Play This Game?

the word like spelled out on wooden scrabble tiles

Teacher, we don’t want to play games! We want to learn English!


Sometimes it can be difficult for adult learners to see the value of games in the English classroom. It is common for people to have culturally influenced ideas around what learning in a classroom looks like, and adults can be frustrated when they are asked to participate in activities that don’t appear to support their educational goals. This is completely understandable! Adult learners have busy lives and want their time in class to be as productive as possible.


Research tells us that language learners benefit from a variety of activities that are interactive and engage the brain in different ways. Teachers see the value in English games, so how can we convey the benefits to learners?


One effective strategy is for teachers to clearly spell out the skills that learners will be developing during the game. Basically, teachers should tell the learners the “why” behind the game. For example, if the class is playing vocabulary bingo, explain to the learners that this game will help them build reading skills. They will practice skimming, phonics (spelling), and sight word recognition that will make them faster readers. They will also develop their listening skills.


Speaking board games (find ones that you can download and print here: https://mnliteracy.org/blogs/2016/12/36541) help learners to develop their speaking skills, practice vocabulary and grammar, and builds confidence as learners respond to questions and prompts in front of a group of their peers.


Even the very humorous Paper Plate Game (find instructions for this game here: https://mnliteracy.org/blogs/2018/03/39846) provides lots of opportunities to develop language skills. This game can generate a lot of laughter, but it’s also helping learners practice adverbs of place (next to, under, in, on, etc.) and vocabulary, as well as helping them develop concrete listening skills, and their ability to follow directions.


The next time that you are introducing a game in class, take a moment to tell the learners what skills they will be practicing during the game, and how it will help them become more confident in their language skills. A little bit of the “why” can make a big difference in participation!

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