Until recently, affective factors have not been viewed as essential to the learning process and have generally been neglected by traditional teaching methodologies. But as the affective factors experiment a growing, new approaches directed to the “whole person” came, focusing on the learner, and recognising the comfort, enjoyment and engagement, as legitimate and primary concerns of the language teacher.
1. Functions of Games and Creativity in Language Learning
Game-playing has many features which make it a potentially valuable activity in the language class. Games and creativity go hand in hand in ESL (English as a Second Language) teaching and learning. The most important functions of using games in an ESL classroom are:
– Communication context.
– Mood enhancement.
– Student participation.
– Incidental or spontaneous learning.
2. Definition and Classification of Games Used in Language Development. What’s a game?
- A game is governed by rules.
- A game has objectives.
- A game is a close activity.
- A game needs less supervision from the teacher.
- It is easier for the students to keep going.
We can classify games in several groups:
- Competitive and co-operative.
- Linguistic and communicative games.
- According to technique (guessing, searching, matching, matching up, exchanging and collecting, puzzle solving, role play simulation).
- According to grouping (pair games, group games, team games, whole class games).
- According to the medium (some writing games like those which have in mind the audience and context, imaginative stimulus, formula poems or stories, creative gap games, making the familiar strange, describing what you see, brainstorming and fast writing).
- According to learner’s and teacher’s roles.
3. Foreign Language Communicative Competence Through Games
How games can contribute to developing specific areas of our pupils communicative competence? Before answering this question, we first need to study what communicative competence involves in order to see the ways in which we can use games to attain it.
3.1. Communicative Competence
The main goal of all our teaching is to acquire what Hymes defined as Communicative Competence. However, in this competence, we find several important aspects. Because when a native speaker speaks, he does not only utter grammatically correct forms, he also knows where and when to use these sentences and to whom. The aspects we distinguish are: systematic potential, appropriacy, occurrence and feasibility.
This four categories have been adapted by Canale and Swain into five sub-competences: grammar competence, discourse competence, socio-linguistic competence, strategic competence and socio-cultural competence.
3.2. Games and Communicative Competence
What kind of games can develop the pupils communicative competence?
- Structure games: provide experience of the use of particular patterns of syntax in communication.
- Vocabulary games: focus the learners’s attention mainly on words.
- Pronunciation games: bingo, spoken messages or Chinese whispers (passing messages).
- Spelling games: stepping stones (a river is drawn on the board and the task is to cross it by the stepping stones, and pupils must spell a word correctly in each stones).
- Listen/read and do games: for example, ‘doing what your told’ game.
- Mime and roles play: lost voice (somebody has to communicate with others by means of gestures).
3.3. Games and ICTs
If we make use of ICTs for gaming, what are the things we can achieve for our students?:
- Social and emotional development.
- Language development.
- Physical well-being and motor development.
- Cognition and general knowledge.
- Approaches towards learning.
- Types of games using the internet in class: Lexical quizzes; grammar, vocabulary and culture games; word searchers, puzzles, crosswords, listening and pronunciation, reading and writing games, webtasks and webquests.
All the games we have studied can contribute to the development of communicative competence. We must never forget that English learning and fun may go together, specially with our young pupils.
The justification for using games in the classroom has been well demonstrated as benefiting students in a variety of ways. These benefits range from cognitive aspects of language learning to more cooperative group dynamics.
General Benefits of Games:
- Affective: lowers affective filter, encourages creative an spontaneous use of language, promotes communicative competence, motivates and it is funny.
- Cognitive: reinforces, reviews and extends and focuses on grammar communicatively.
- Class Dynamic: student centred, teacher acts only as facilitator, builds class cohesion and fosters whole class participation.
- Adaptability: easily adjusted for age, level, and interests; utilises all four skills, requires minimum preparation after development.