Grammar is central to the teaching and learning of languages. It is also one of the more difficult aspects of language to teach well.
Many people, including language teachers, hear the word "grammar" and think of a fixed set of word forms and rules of usage. They associate "good" grammar with the prestige forms of the language, such as those used in writing and in formal oral presentations, and "bad" or "no" grammar with the language used in everyday conversation or used by speakers of nonprestige forms.
Language teachers who adopt this definition focus on grammar as a set of forms and rules. They teach grammar by explaining the forms and rules and then drilling students on them. This results in bored, disaffected students who can produce correct forms on exercises and tests, but consistently make errors when they try to use the language in context.
Other language teachers, influenced by recent theoretical work on the difference between language learning and language acquisition, tend not to teach grammar at all. Believing that children acquire their first language without overt grammar instruction, they expect students to learn their second language the same way. They assume that students will absorb grammar rules as they hear, read, and use the language in communication activities. This approach does not allow students to use one of the major tools they have as learners: their active understanding of what grammar is and how it works in the language they already know.
Teaching English grammar can be hard going for the teacher and the students. It doesn't have to be difficult or painful, however. You can teach English grammar using fun learning games and before you know it your students will be more than willing. How does it work, you ask. Well, there has been a movement away from the traditional methods of teaching English grammar through writing, rewriting and worksheets to using a more active approach through games. Researchers have also begun to look at how and why these new methods work.
Four sound reasons to teach grammar with games
- Arif Saricoban and Esen Metin, authors of "Songs, Verse and Games for Teaching Grammar" explain how and why games work for teaching grammar in an ESL classroom. They say, "Games and problem-solving activities, which are task-based and have a purpose beyond the production of correct speech, are the examples of the most preferable communicative activities." They go on to explain that grammar games help children not only gain knowledge but be able to apply and use that learning.
- Additionally, games have the advantage of allowing the students to "practice and internalize vocabulary, grammar and structures extensively." They can do this because students are often more motivated to play games than they are to do desk work. Plus, during the game, the students are focused on the activity and end up absorbing the language subconsciously. One can also add that fun learning games usually contain repetition, which allows the language to stick.
- While games are motivating for the students, probably the best reason, according to Saricoban and Metin, to use games is that "the use of such activities both increases the cooperation and competition in the classroom." One can use games to add excitement through competition or games which create bonding among students and teacher.
- Aydan Ersoz, author of "Six Games for the ESL/EFL Classroom" also explains more reasons why games do work for teaching grammar. Learning a language requires constant effort and that can be tiring. Ersoz says games can counter this as because:
- Games that are amusing and challenging are highly motivating.
- Games allow meaningful use of the language in context.
Some more reasons for including games in a language class are:
- They focus student attention on specific structures, grammatical patterns.
- They can function as reinforcement, review and enrichment.
- They involve equal participation from both slow and fast learners.
- They can be adjusted to suit the individual ages and language levels of the students
- They contribute to an atmosphere of healthy competition, providing an outlet for the creative use of natural language in a nonstressful situation.
- They can be used in any languageteaching situation and with any skill area whether reading, writing, speaking or listening.
- They provide the immediate feedback understanding different parts of speech. Grammar games might be designed to be for the teacher.
- They ensure maximum student participation for a minimum of teacher preparation.
Children are more motivated to learn grammar with games
The theory of intrinsic motivation also gives some insight as to why teaching grammar through games actually works. Intrinsic motivation refers to the internal factors that encourage us to do something. Most young learners will not internally decide that they want to learn grammar. They don't yet understand the concepts of why it's important to know proper grammar, so these external factors won't affect them much either. Instead, intrinsic motivation can lead encourage them to play games. If these games are good then they will be learning while they are playing.
Using some movement is crucial because movement helps activate the students' mental capacities and stimulate neural networks, thus promoting learning and retention. If you have a large class with no space you still have options. Children can stand up, sit down, move various body parts and pass things around to each other. Movement does not only mean children tearing around the playground.
Types of grammar games
While there are a number of different types of grammar games that can be played to help improve a person’s grammar skills, most games are either physical or digital. Physical games usually include games like “hangman” or games that use flashcards or boards to allow players to progress through the game by using various aspects of grammar, such as spelling. Digital grammar games, on the other hand, typically utilize computers or similar technology and are often video games that reward players for using language to solve problems in different ways.
Grammar games typically refer to those games that require players to use different aspects of grammar to either progress through the game or ultimately win it. Different aspects of grammar that might be required in such games include spelling, word choice, and played merely for fun, or they may be more like competitive games in which a player progresses through the game and ultimately wins due to his or her understanding of grammatical concepts.
Physical or traditional grammar games can include many different types of games, though they all tend to use cards, boards, or other game pieces. A game like “hangman,” for example, is a traditional grammar game won through recognition of different words and proper spelling. Flashcards can be used as a game to help people learning a language identify different objects or parts of speech through recognizing the word associated with an image or hint on one side of a flashcard.
There are also grammar games played with special sets of game pieces, such as lettered tiles or dice. These games are often won by those who can recognize different words that can be spelled using certain letters, or by those who are able to builds words from individual letters. Some grammar games can also provide players with part of a sentence that has blanks in certain spaces, usually indicating the part of speech that goes there, allowing players to otherwise fill in the blanks as they see fit to create strange and humorous sentences.
Digital grammar games are typically video games that can be played on a computer. These are often similar to traditional games, but might incorporate certain aspects of digital technology in them. For example, a digital game might allow players to battle monsters by spelling words that “damage” the monster based on the length of the word. Some games even provide players with problems to solve, and allow them to solve the problems by providing them with objects that match words typed by the player.
What Kinds of Games Work Best?
When you are looking for games to use in your classroom, don't just pick something to be a "time filler" which does not have a definite linguistic outcome. These games may entertain the students, but when you don't have much time with them each day as it is, you want your game to do double duty to get the most out of the time you spend playing games.
Have a clear linguistic outcome for each game. The game can be a listening game to allow the students to repeatedly hear a new grammatical structure in use, or it can be a speaking game to allow practise of the grammar once it has been absorbed through listening beforehand. There are degrees of difficulty with speaking games from basic repetition in a fun context to more creative sentence creation for revision or more advanced practise once the basics have been mastered. The teacher should lead the children through this progression so that the game at hand is always well within the grasp of the students. This makes games fun rather than laborious. It is a mistake to play a speaking game immediately after the new grammar has been presented. Ideally reading, spelling and writing games come after the new grammar has been absorbed and the students can use it orally.
Another thing to watch out for with grammar games is that a maximum of students are involved simultaneously. If you have thirty children you want to avoid a game where only one child is speaking at a time. What are the other twenty-nine children supposed to do in the meantime other than get bored? On the other end of the scale however are games that cause chaos in class and make teachers unpopular with colleagues because of high noise levels.
Tips for Using Grammar Games in Class Successfully
Organization. The first thing you should do when start teaching a preschool or elementary school ESL class is to figure out how to organize your class. For the younger students you'll want to change your activities every five to ten minutes because they have shorter attention spans. If you don't change your activities, they'll soon start losing interest. As you get towards the higher elementary grades, you can expand the time you spend per activity. The best way to gauge this is to pay attention to your class for the first few days to see what length of time works the best for them. Additionally, try to have everything ready to go before the students enter the classroom. That way you can go from activity to activity with minimal downtime. This is essential as you can lose control of the class if you do not keep them occupied.
Expectations. If you notice that your class is getting noisy or rambunctious, it's time to change activities. Kids of this age like to be active; in order to balance out the energy levels in the classroom, alternate between active activities and quiet activities.
Be careful how you use activities that require fine motor skills or more importantly pay attention to your expectations for activities that require fine motor skills. Children in preschool and early elementary are just learning to write in their own languages. This is not the best time to expect them to write in a foreign language as well. As they progress through elementary school, however, you can begin using games and activities that require them to write small amounts.
Variation. You want to make sure your activities appeal to all sorts learning styles, so even when you are using games to teach grammar you'll want to vary the types of things you expect your students to do. For preschool and early elementary grades, stick to games that use talking, listening, looking and moving. For middle and high elementary, you can continue to use games that use talking, listening, looking and moving and add in some games that use writing and reading.
Going along with this same idea, think about what children learn from the easiest. Television commercials are short and catchy and the most memorable are the ones that are repeated often. Keep these characteristics in mind when you are teaching grammar to your students incorporate these characteristics into your daily activities.
Respect. To make games work for you and your class, be sure to operate your class with the utmost respect both to and from students. This includes teaching your students from the very start that you expect respect at all times. This includes giving encouragement and following the rules.
That said, you'll need to make sure the rules for all of the games are clear and manageable. When possible, explain the rules in the students' native tongue so that they all know what is expected of them. When there is an environment of respect in the classroom, the students will feel safe enough to participate in the games so that they can get the most educational value out of them.
Towards the end of elementary school, you can start introducing competitive games, but only if the class is respectful and it shouldn't be the main focus of the game.
Routine. Even if you only have your students for a short time every week, establishing a routine will help the class go smoothly. Children of this age (preschool through elementary school) thrive on routine and if they know what to expect next, they will be more able to participate in what's going on now. Set up a schedule for the type of activities you'll be doing at any given time throughout the class whether it is a game, story or song or whatever you want to do. Then, when you are planning your class, plug in the appropriate activities to each section of time. You should also leave a little time at the end of the class period to allow the students to clean up and gather their things as well as time for you to recap the class, praise the students and tell them good-bye.
You can also designate a "sign" to use to signal to the students when it is time to change activities such as clapping or signing a specific song so that they know it's time to return to the circle, table or desks.
Nurture. Perhaps the most important thing you can do with your students is to nurture them everyday. For each child in your class, find something you like about him or her and be sure to tell him or her. Be encouraging, patient and kind while playing games and participating in activities and they'll like you as a teacher and a person which will in turn help them get excited about your class and what you have for them to do everyday.
Using games to teach grammar can be both fun and rewarding for you and your students. Just remember to keep them engaged and make sure that you're games are truly teaching the skill at hand and you'll soon have a class full of students who get excited about learning grammar!
Normally, grammar rules in English are confusing and so it will be difficult for the students to grasp. If grammar is thought through conventional methods, it will be boring for the students. So, teaching English grammar through games will be effective in such a way that students can learn grammar with fun and excitement. According to experts, exposure to stimulation and challenges will make the students to develop their curiosity in English grammar. There are many games available which will be useful for teaching grammar to students. So, English grammar can be thought to students through grammar games in the following ways:
- Teachers can purchase some grammar board games for their classes. There are also online grammar games and teachers can make use of these as well. These online games will enable the teachers to make the students strong in certain areas of grammar and its usage. As said earlier, there is a wide range of games to select from and so teachers can select a game that well suits their plan of lessons. Some of the good examples of grammar games are ‘sentence scramble’ and ‘spying part of speech’. The teachers can also take advantage of the discounted rate at which these games are offered for educational purpose.
- When it comes to online grammar games, teachers can select a web site offering these games free of cost. There are web sites offering constructive games free of cost to help the students improve in grammar. Some of these web sites require registration, but some others do not require any registration and teachers can make use of the web sites offering games without any registration.
- The teachers can also consider purchasing Grammar pack software program for using in their classroom. This pack will have quiz worksheets, story maker game and grammar quest game and the main advantage of this is that print out of these games can be taken out and distributed among the students. The pack will also contain story builder, which will enable the students to create their own grammar games.
- The teachers can also consider arranging a grammar party for their class and they can also give some attractive name for the party. They can allow the students to play grammar games for some time on a daily basis and they can also ensure that all the students get the chance of playing the games. They can also announce some prizes for the winner. This will enable the students to participate enthusiastically in grammar games, which will in turn improve their grammatical skills.
- Apart from the above-mentioned options, the teachers can also consider constructing their own grammar game. They can also use conventional game boards like hangman, classic tic tac toe and checker board and can add some grammatical elements to these games in such a way that the students will be able to improve their grammatical skills.
Using games for teaching grammar can be rewarding and fun filled for both teachers and the students. Here, the teachers should ensure that they choose the right grammar games for helping out the students.
Now what better way is there to teach grammar than that? You are teaching grammar by absorption and repetition, which is the way we learn our native tongue, and for children it is by far the best way to go.
So language learning is a hard task which can sometimes be frustrating. Constant effort is required to understand, produce and manipulate the target language. Well-chosen games are invaluable as they give students a break and at the same time allow students to practice language skills. Games are highly motivating since they are amusing and at the same time challenging. Furthermore, they employ meaningful and useful language in real contexts. They also encourage and increase cooperation.
Games are highly motivating because they are amusing and interesting. They can be used to give practice in all language skills and be used to practice many types of communication.
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- Internet: http://iteslj.org/