Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Yesterday, I talked about some mistakes that A Geek in Korea made in class.  He responded to my criticism today on his blog.
 This is what I said:
When I do prep for a class, I’ll generally plan enough activities and games to fill the entire time.  And then, I’ll include one more optional one.  This way, I’ll always have enough to use the entire time and not have to make up stuff on the spot.  And, I have a roster of about 30 games and activities that I’ll cycle through in a semester.  This is enough that I never have to do the same thing twice, but it’s small enough that I understand thoroughly how to do/play all of them.  I suggest that you make your own master list.  Occasionally, I will incorporate news games into the list, but I’ll work through all the possible questions that students might have first to make sure I am the expert in how to play.
And this was his response:

(30 games! No way. I just don’t teach this way. Never have, never will. I have activities and different worksheets I make, and I have lots of things we do, but I never play that many games with any batch of students at any time of the year. Even when I taught children, I never played 30 different games, even when I had dozens of classes! How to you keep people interested in a lesson when they just play games all day? How do you have so many games connected to conversation topics that are in books required for the courses? That’s amazing! I do not play games in most of my freshman classes, but I will supervise activities and help them with their language to improve.)

And a few points from me in response to this:

1. Please note that I said games AND activities.  Some of my activities include things like survey your classmates, fill in the blanks on a worksheet by talking with your partner who has the corresponding information, or make a conversation and present it to the class. 

2. You'd be surprised as to how easy it is to make games connected to whatever grammar point or topic that you're studying.   Most (all!) of the things on my master list are just generic type games that I can adapt to whatever we're studying.  And yes, it would be totally boring and irrelevant if the game was not related to what we studying that day.  But, I NEVER do that, unless it's just a little 5 minute warm-up game once in a while.  Anyway, I challenge anyone to give me a topic or grammar point and I'm sure I can come up with at least a couple interesting, relevant games in a few minutes for you :) 

3. How do I keep people interested by just playing games?  In my 1.5 hour class, I'll usually do 2 games/activities where some people get a reward of some sort (in my class, a stamp worth 1% of their final grade).  One warm-up game, and then one game or activity to reinforce what we studied that day.  This seems to be an optimal amount.  I do other stuff too, including writing practice, partner conversation, grammar work in the book, etc.

4. And, it seems like A Geek in Korea has this idea that game cannot equal learning.  I totally disagree.  I think that sometimes the best learning happens when people forget that they're actually learning English and are focused on the game in question.  It's like a different area of the brain gets accessed, besides that area that is just focused on language.  The same thing happens when teaching content, in a  second language context.  It's like the students forget they're actually learning English too, because they're so focused on the content.


Jason said...

Jackie, you rock!

Everything you said, and then say it again!

Jason (formerly known as kimchi-icecream now serenity in China)

Danielle said...

Will you share your master list?

ageekinkorea said...

Activities using grammar and "games" together approach 30 things? Okay, that sounds totally reasonable over the course of a long semester.

I think that's just a difference in what you want to label things. I didn't pick up that they were lumped together.

I usually do something related to the grammar in the book that uses it in a unique way in nearly every class in the evening with my adult students. That's my thing. I just don't think of them as "games or activities" at all. That's just "practice".

As long as students are using the material in a fun way, you are doing something right. You have to have activities that use grammar in one way or another.

I totally get how games are "learning" I think that well presented materials that increase fluency are good no matter how they are structured. I wouldn't always have a competitive element in my class, but I'm not implying you are either. Don't try to paint me too broadly with your criticisms.

I've played Pictionary twice this year. That is a "game" from the office's "Game Locker". It is still English language practice, but when I played it, each word wasn't picked from their book. It's something I frown on doing. It's fun every once in a while, but if you just played games like that, I think there are ways to improve them.

I don't play those "games" with my freshman without customizing them for their specific vocabulary.

See where I am coming from?