Games as a Teaching Aid
There is no doubt that learning a new language is a really interesting and rewarding activity, however, it is also a lot of hard work. You need to apply your focus and effort at every moment and maintain that dedication for a long period of time. Knowing this, it is no wonder that the singly most dangerous enemy for the language student is not difficult vocabulary or Byzantine grammar but the usual wane in interest and motivation.
A particularly important aspect of using games for language teaching is that they provide an amazing tool for creating contexts where the language is both useful and meaningful. The students taking part in the games must understand what others are saying or what has been written and must also speak or write back in order to interact with the game. The game then provides a context where the proper usage of the language becomes immediately relevant, with tangible and easily understandable rewards for proper use and inconvenient consequences from improper use.
Much like going to a foreign country to learn the language (imagine taking a trip to learn French in France ) a game puts you in a context where you must deal with the language and can not circumvent it.
Bored brains work much worse than entertained ones.
The brain reacts with added attention and intensity to these kinds of situations and, as a result, the learning potential and recall ability increase dramatically. The need for meaningfulness in language learning is nowadays widely accepted and you will see most teachers hammer the idea home if you take classes in European institutions or take your holidays on an Italian summer camp . If we are personally connected with the experience of learning on an emotional level (and not only an intellectual one) we can draw from this vivid experience and better remember the contents of our lessons.
Creating a Relaxed Environment
|Using games as a central tool in the teachers arsenal helps to create an atmosphere of relaxation rather than the usual anxiety boiler-room like environment that we have worked to hard to establish in most of our learning institutions.
"Games can lower anxiety, thus making the acquisition of input more likely."
Our brain does not work well under unnecessary pressure and stress and "make a mistake and you're done for!" does not encourage kids (and adults) to better learn any topic. Using games helps to create a place and a time where people can interact with new ideas and put this new knowledge to use, giving everyone a chance to learn at their own pace.
Games can entertain, teach and promote fluency, attention and high levels of focus. Even if these reasons were not present, games should still have a place in our teaching methods because they help students see the beauty and reality of a foreign language as it is rather than just as a source of intricate problems on the blackboard that can usually get overwhelming .
Last Updated 12th June 2009
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