Author: Gemma Fanning, EAL Specialist
Play is a crucial part of language development and ideas for play and games are an essential part of any teacher’s toolkit. One of the most informal and obvious contexts for language development for children takes place in the playground (Pinter, 2006). Here, children will often pick up everyday language from their peers – and this can be a vital part of their learning. Pinter explains that when a child moves to a new country, after the initial ‘silent phase’, they will start to pick up phrases, conversation language and so-called ‘playground language’ fairly quickly. With this in mind, it is worth considering how to structure play, both in the playground and the classroom. Langer da Ramirez (2017) explains that games and fun activities help children feel excited on an effective level, as they are enjoyable and rewarding, allowing for language to be acquired on both a cognitive and developmental level.
Perhaps one of the first things to consider is what is a game and when it should be used in the classroom setting. Martin (1995) explains that any activity chosen should be fun, whilst giving the child an opportunity to practise the target language in a relaxed and enjoyable way. Playing games takes very little preparation; however, the following materials are an ideas part of any teacher’s toolkit:
There are various ways to play different games: some will be competitive, while others will be more co-operative, with teams or pairs having to work together to reach a goal.
When considering how to use games within the language classroom, consider some of the following questions during your planning:
Once you have determined this, you will need to consider how to form your groups or teams. This is also an opportunity for your learners to be able to work with all their classmates throughout the year. The table below shows some simple activities you can use to form groups for your classes.
|Straws – for forming pairs
|1. The teacher holds a group of straws and the learners each take one straw out. The straws have all been cut to different lengths.
2. Once the learners have taken their straws, they need to match their straw with a person who has the same length. The learners will then work with that partner.
|Straws, cut into different lengths
1. Give each learner a number, until half of the class have one and then start again from number one.
|1. As the learners to stand in height order.
2. Select pairings/groupings from the line.
|Names in a cup
1. Put all the learners’ names in a cup – an easy way to do this is to write their names on wooden coffee-stirrer sticks.
NB. Coffee-stirrer sticks with questions on them also make a good tool for asking learners questions at random.
Adapted from Young Learners Resource Books for Teachers.
De Ramirez, Lori Langer. The Imperative of Play in the Language Classroom. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Jan. 2017.
Mertin, Patricia, 2013. Breaking Through the Language Barrier: Effective Strategies for Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) Students in Secondary School Mainstream CL (World Class Schools Series). Edition. John Catt Educational
Phillips, Sarah, (1999). Young Learners – Resource books for Teachers. Oxford University Press, Oxford
Pinter, Annamaria (2006). Teaching Young Language Learners. Oxford University Press, Oxford