Sunday, August 9, 2015

Teaching English with Games

Each time a team of Global Volunteers comes to Poland we meet with the County Governor because the County of Siedlce is the official host for Global Volunteers in Poland. One who has known about the work of the volunteers over about a 15 year span said last year, "We were puzzled how you could teach English with games, but now we know it works." Language camps are nothing like school except that the children must come to the classes. The older and more fluent students too have told us that they like these classes because they can try out their English and if they make a mistake it doesn't affect their mark, what we call a grade in the United States.  (Well, sometimes I try out my Polish and that earns some good laughter.)

Here are two examples to illustrate teaching with games.

One wise Polish-English teacher said, "These are kids. We can't expect to sit still and listen to us for 45 minutes." I try also to use the principle of changing activities about every 20 minutes.

In the photo above my students are putting together I Spy puzzles. You can easily see they are not sitting and listening, but are engrossed in the activity. Once the puzzles are assembled I have them look at all the figures on the puzzles and write ten English words in their notebooks. I also tell them to ask me if they find something for which they do not know the English word. Once they have the list of 10 words I ask each to sit by me for minute and individually pronounce the words in their list so I can check prounciation. Then I assign them 2-3 words from their list to use in a sentences. Once the students have completed the sentences I review them again and make any needed corrections. For example, a student may write, "I like bird." What we would say, at least where I live, is "I like birds."  I always laughed too during my work with the class when I would get a sentence from one of my girls.  I knew from the first day that she had 5 cats. Frequently she would write, "I don't like dogs."

During the two weeks the volunteers make a presentation to all the campers about their home state, their hobby, or their travel in other parts of the world. During the first two camps the volunteers present in English and then the presentation is translated in to Polish, because the campers in the first two sessions are in elementary school and have a lot of vocabulary, but still not a great deal of comprehension for complicated English sentences.

On the second to last day of camp we spent one session doing the General Knowledge Game. In this game the students are divided into groups randomly so there is a mix of the older students with the  younger students, and thus each group has a somewhat even chance to score points.

The questions included: "What day is Polish Independence Day? Write your answer in English" to "Which two volunteers have ridden their bicycles across the United States" and "In the Public Market in Seattle what food do the market attendants throw to the customer?" Each group writes the group's answer on a white board and then a signal is given is for all white boards to be raised at the same time. Thus one group can't see the answer from another group. Also every group that has the right answer scores points.

So that is how English can be taught with games and students sometimes don't even notice they are having a class.

1 comment:

Shaz said...

Long ago when my daughter was in second grade, another mother told the teacher that the class was playing too many games. When it was explained by the teacher it was math games. A small group of students would be given a number from one to ten. Then the teacher would call out two numbers such as two and four. The students with those numbers would run to the front along with the student who had number six. The kids never knew it was more than a game!