In all curricula importance is given to fun, entertainment and the recreational aspect of language learning. It is very important for pupils to feel motivated and one of the best ways to feel so is to let them have a good time. The important aspect is that games in the language learning process should not be played just for the sake of playing, but the teacher should always keep in mind that the game is played to practice or review some aspects taught before and acquire the Key Competences.
Functions of games and creativity in foreign language learning
In the first place, it might be necessary to try to define the term “creativity”: Creativity is a mental process involving the generations of new ideas or concepts, or new associations between existing ideas or concepts. An alternative, more everyday conception of creativity is that it is simply the act of making something new.
Some say it is a trait we are born with; others say it can be taught with the application of simple techniques.
When learning a language, effort is required at every moment and must be maintained over a long period of time. Games help and encourage many learners to sustain their interest and work. They also help the teacher to create context in which the language is useful and meaningful. The learners want to take part and in order to do so must understand what others are saying or have written, and they must speak or write in order to express their own point of view or give information.
There are many advantages of using games in the classroom:
ü Games are a welcome break from the usual routine of the language class.
ü They are motivating and challenging.
ü Learning a language requires a great deal of effort. Games help students to make and sustain the effort of learning.
ü Games provide language practice in the various skills-speaking, writing, listening and reading.
ü They encourage students to interact and communicate.
ü They create a meaningful context for languages use.
It has been argued that games are not just time –filling activities but have a great educational value. Most languages games make learners use the language instead of thinking about learning the correct forms. Games can lower anxiety, thus make the acquisition of input easy. When students are free from worry and stress, they can improve their fluency and natural speaking styles. According to Schultz, students learn without realizing that they are learning when playing with games. Students stop thinking about the language and begin using it in a spontaneous and natural manner within the classroom. Games can give shy students more opportunity to express their opinions and feelings and add diversion to the regular classroom activities. They are a good way of practicing languages. Games encourage, entertain, teach, and promote fluency.
In order to achieve the most from any game, it is essential that suitable games are chosen. Whenever a game is to be conducted, the number of students, proficiency level, cultural context, timing, topic, and the classroom organization are factors that must be taken into account.
Definition and classification of games for language learning and perfection
Games refer to any of the amusements and pastimes of children that may involve spontaneous unstructured activity, bases mostly on fantasy and imagination, or organized games with set rules. Many games are derived from everyday life and reflect the culture from which they developed.
There are a great number of language games. It is necessary to decide which game to use on a particular class and which games will be most appropriate and most successful with each group of students. There are some factors to be taken into consideration.
Teachers should first consider the level of the game to fit their student’s language level. They should choose the game that fits the purposes of that class, the aims and the content. Moreover, teachers should consider student’s characteristics: whether they are old or young, and highly motivated or not.
According to Richard-Amato (2009), even though games are often associated with fun, their pedagogical values should be of importance, particularly in second language teaching. Moreover, as Avedon states, students try harder at games than in other tasks. Naturally when they are playing games, students are trying to win or to beat other teams for themselves or on the behalf of their team.
After this general introduction and definition of games we are going to present a classification of games. This classification is mainly based on publications by Andrew Wright. Among all the games he proposes we have only chosen those types which seem to be more appropriate for Primary Education.
It is usually difficult to find a game which focuses on one skill only. That is why in the following classification the different groups are called “mainly” speaking, for example. When using the games in this group, we practice the speaking skill although the others (reading, listening, and writing) may be included too.
ü Identity: This is a guessing game. The teacher shows a photo to the class. This photo is covered with a sheet of paper so that the pupils cannot see the image. They have to try to guess who or what is in the photo by asking questions or simply naming people or things. The teacher will reveal the photo step by step. The first pupil to guess correctly will be “the teacher” in the next game.
ü Picture dictation: Students play in pairs. Each student has a picture and has to describe it to the partner who will have to draw following his/her partner’s instructions. Once they finish, they will compare both pictures and then change roles.
ü Match: The pupils have to find a matching pair. Matching opposites for example.
ü Remember: The students will be shown, for example a street scene for three minutes and then they will have to say all the items they can remember.
ü Simon Says: This is probably one of the most traditional games for practicing listening comprehension and imperatives. One person is chosen to be Simon, Simone calls out an action for the children to follow. It can be anything like Simon says, touch your ears. If Simon simply states the action without saying Simon says whoever does the action is out and has to sit down.
ü Bingo-definitions: Bingo is another traditional game that can be used for many skills. We will read definitions to our students and they will have to cross out the correct words on their Bingo grid. The one who first completes the whole card is the winner.
ü True and false definitions and descriptions: Each students has to write five sentences in his/her notebook. Some of them are true, others not. Then some students will have to read their sentences aloud and the rest of the class has to decide whether the statement is true or false.
ü Jumbled texts: students order the sentences or paragraphs to make a convincing story.
Mainly vocabulary and spelling
ü Mime and guess: a student acts out some activity and the other students guess what the student is doing.
Games as creative and recreational technique to achieve communicative competence in the foreign language
In the succeeded we are going to consider the reason why games serve as excellent communicative activities. The use of games can be powerful language learning tool.
The benefits of using games in language-learning can be summed up as in the following:
are learner centered
Promote communicative competence
Create a meaningful context for language use
Increase learning motivation
Reduce learning anxiety
Encourage creative and spontaneous use of language
Construct a cooperative learning environment and foster participatory attitudes of the students.
At primary level games can be used, among others, to practice the following communicative functions:
ü Naming and identifying people, things and actions
ü Describing things, people and actions
ü Comparing things
Stating opinions and feelings
ü Agreement and disagreement
ü Personal attitudes
ü Questions of fact
ü Questions about other’s opinions and feelings
As we have already mentioned, games tend to relax the classroom atmosphere as all students are exposed to a fun way of learning. Games are a lively way of maintaining student’s interest in the language. They are fun, but also part of the learning process and students should be encouraged to take them seriously. AS with all group-work, the success of the game depends on the clear instructions to the students. They must understand the aim of the game and the rules before they start.