How do I incorporate play-based elements into my English language lessons?
As with any new approach, there are certain factors to consider:
1. Learner engagement
Students’ motivation determines everything, meaning it directs how and what they do, as well as how long they can sustain their learning. The first thing to do is start a discussion about gamification, asking them their favorite games, what devices they use, how often they play, how they balance gaming with other activities out of school. Show an interest in what they say and utilize the information to help you plan your play-based lessons. Keep them involved in this process. Ask them to create a list of games they play or would like to play, before identifying which ones have learning potential and would be suitable for the classroom (age appropriacy and devices used). Digital game tools are becoming increasingly accessible and many are free or very cost-effective, and there are many to choose from.
2. Ask others
Ask your colleagues. Those interested in game-based learning would probably love to share ideas and advice. Make sure you keep school administration and parents in the loop to avoid any misunderstandings, particularly of the difference between ‘playing’ and ‘learning’.
3. Classroom management
Don’t assume learners will know what to do or take the work seriously. So explain and be clear about what the rules for usage are. Remind learners that they are still in class and they are there to learn. Playing games is strictly for home. Explain that tasks will be set, just as in any class, and completion of these tasks is expected. There's no real need to use the word game at all, really. Students will soon cotton on to what is happening.
4. Structure your lesson accordingly
When we plan a listening task, perhaps using a video or a listening clip, we structure our lessons to think about how the listening might link to the current topic or wider curriculum goals. We might plan our lesson by setting context first, followed by pre-listening, during-listening, and post-listening tasks to encourage maximum productive use of the target language from our learners. So too must we plan game-based lessons accordingly? Make sure there is a clear context for using games in the lesson.
Remember, the game is not the teacher, it is just an activity to facilitate learning. As such gameplay should not be assessed, but how learning transfers from the game experience to the curriculum can be.
5. Step back
Don’t intervene when students are figuring something out unless they really need help. It’s all part of the gaming experience in understanding games as systems.