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Art_Game - Embedded Class of English
Joi, 08 Aprilie 2010 00:00




Prof. Simona Pisoi

Colegiu Naţional Carol I, Craiova 



In the last few years, there has been an emphasis on the development of creative educational materials that supplement the traditional lecture format. The new materials should engage students in interactive learning and enhance critical thinking, small group discussion, and problem-solving skills. This paper reports the use of games in teaching English as a foreign language in a middle school with 9-11 year old pupils. The traditional teacher-centred educational system in schools is heavy and ineffective in providing adequate learning experience, while the uses of games create an opportunity to transform the current traditional practices.

Key words: games, games’ rules, affective and cognitive benefits, motivation, creativity


Researchers and people involved in the educational system have started to look into the potential of using game based approach to creating adaptive learning environments to grasp the attention of students and increase their motivation to learn. Built on the survey results report on the way pupils play and are influenced by games, the paper aims to provide a general overview of the emerging problems. Results indicated that some games, especially the competitive ones, were not in fact appreciated by some of the pupils, those who in general did not like competition or, on the other hand, by those who did not like losing at all. On the other hand, findings indicated that there were some pupils, including shy ones, who had not tried to communicate with the others before, and who, in the end, were more open and ready to share with their peers.

Furthermore, the study draws attention on games’ main benefits on students behaviour and attitude towards learning: motor development, intellectual development (because as well as movement, games also involved understanding how things work, resolving problems, devising strategies, etc), affective development: the fictional nature of games, the opportunity to act out a role meaning that they have a key function in the affective development of the individual. Games stimulated students to understand their life experiences and helped them to mature; and last but not least, social development: games were a means of relating to others.

The survey also pointed out that despite the fact that games are thought to be enjoyed by both children and adults; there are nevertheless pupils who avoid taking part in games, mainly because of their characteristic shyness and introversion. Based on the problem analysis and literature review, some solutions will be proposed, implemented and evaluated. I will also analyse the results of the evaluation and propose directions for future research. My study aims to emphasize that incorporation of the amusing element in classroom interaction can represent a key in successful implementation and that the game element should be used in combination with other contexts for learning.






- set clear limits within which the children's natural decision-making processes must function

- these rules must be clear and the aim of the game must be well defined

- all rules must be obeyed by all students: another golden rule of a game


- friendly competition is a good ingredient for a game to be a success

- it is important for the students to know that only true competition is accepted, and that cheating is not tolerated


- it is strongly connected to motivation

- students’ competence will grow if they enjoy taking part in a game

- liking a game means wanting to experience it again, and consequently, an open attitude towards it.


- it is a crucial element in a game: lacking it leads to failure, and not to fulfil the objectives

- improve the retention time and what is learned

- control, relevance, and perceived competence blends with users’ curiosity to positively impact their continuing motivation, that which prompts students to return to a game based on their intrinsic motivation


Table 1 Key factors connected to games


In addition to these factors, it is also important for a teacher to be able to play and overact sometimes to help students feel comfortable and want to join the activity. This means teachers should thoroughly understand the game and its nature and be able to lead the game.

It is quite difficult to find a game that meets all of the teachers' requirements. Some games must be adapted in order to fit students' language level, natures, and characteristics. The most important factor is that games should be used when they can give students both fun and educational meaning otherwise they will be a waste of time.


The study was conducted in a middle school. It began in November 2006 and continued for a period of six months. It was focused on two groups: one of 29 students (intermediate) and one of 23 students (beginners). Both classes have a majority of girls and with one or two exceptions, all students enjoy a stable family environment. This study compared the differences of perception between pupils regarding the use and benefits of games in learning English.

The investigation was carried out by careful observation. The principal means were semi-structured and focused interviews, class observation and research diaries. They were considered useful means for the students to speak for themselves, to offer their viewpoints and account for their actions in the classroom.

The study has been carried out in a school third-year class of twenty-three students aged ten, in their third year of EFL. I have been teaching them three times weekly, fifty-minute classes, since September 2005. The textbook, Way Ahead 1 (Macmillan Heinemann) is regularly supplemented with materials aiming to promote conversation and develop listening skills- two CDs, a workbook and several sets of flashcards and handouts. The educational context includes a majority of students willing to improve their English and ready to cooperate any time they are asked to. They all love English, they started learning it since kindergarten and seem open to the use of innovative methods and to any interesting ideas.


Teachers, as well as psychologists, have long recognized the need for students to have a positive attitude towards learning, explaining that for optimal learning to occur the affective filter must be weak. A weak affective filter means that a positive attitude towards learning is present. If the affective filter is strong the learner will not seek language input, and in turn, he will not be open for language acquisition. With the affective filter weak, I have found that games and other funny and engaging activities can develop the four skill areas of reading, writing, listening, and speaking. I have noticed that it is easy for me to have this kind of classes, mainly because my classes were not very severely different anyway, even before carrying out this experiment. I became aware of the fact that games were an ideal opportunity for several types of classes:

a) To present a topic, a language point, vocabulary, etc.

b) To practise a language point, lexis, etc.

c) To focus on common learner errors in a more direct way

d) To encourage extensive and intensive listening

e) To stimulate discussion of attitudes and feelings, to bring variety and fun to learning

f) To encourage creativity and use of imagination, to provide a relaxed classroom atmosphere

After a two-week period, it became clear that games provided a break from classroom routine, and that learning English through games developed a non-threatening classroom atmosphere in which all language skills could be enhanced. The belief that games provided enjoyment and developed language skills was reinforced. It was clear that the pleasure aspect of learning language through games was directly related to affective factors.

I perceived changes in pupils’ behaviour from the very beginning. There were different with every passing day; they were peaceful and comfortable, and they were not worried anymore. They did not care about bad marks; they knew English classes were fun.

I must admit I was afraid that my classes would become a chaos, since my students were not afraid of anything, but, in fact, it was a good thing. They no longer had problems with productive skills, because they always knew that I did not punish the ones with bad answers, I only pointed out what was wrong with those answers and always without mentioning their names.

I noted that students’ affective state improved; it conveyed high motivation, self-confidence, and a lack of anxiety. This meant a lot to my pupils, mainly because English became a much funnier and relaxed class in comparison to other subject matters. Most of them admitted that they loved English first of all because they were not punished and threatened like other teachers did.

Good results began to come up, some of my students were progressing, step by step, and I was glad to see that this progress was slow but constant. Students with speaking problems had overcome their fear towards expressing themselves orally. Some of them even became very confident and always tried to answer. Two months before, they had not even tried to raise their hands, being afraid that their classmates would laugh at them and at their answers. I discovered that games activities helped students by reinforcing their motivation for learning and working in class, and built up their confidence in using language.

Another important benefit was to get students work not individually but as a group, to allow the better students to encourage and motivate the less proficient ones. Group work proved to be a good factor that contributed to students’ learning a foreign language. Working in groups helped the less proficient students because cooperation with the group motivated them to work on some activities that demanded more individual contribution. There were used games which demanded group work and promoted student communication and cooperation, such as the Auction game (students had to decide which sentence is correct and to ‘buy’ correct sentences).

I was pleased to notice the way their relationship improved. They became better companions and classmates. Before this experiment, they had been complaining about each other and about their misunderstandings. Another observation is related to their socialising features: some of them, including shy ones, who before had not tried to communicate with the others, were more open and ready to share with their peers. This was an important change in their attitude towards the classmates. Their own feelings and thoughts became subject for some modifications, optimistic ones.



Language learning is a task which can sometimes be both hard and challenging. 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 practise 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 and they also encourage and increase cooperation.

Games should be regarded as supplementary activities, therefore the whole syllabus should not be based on games only even for young learners. When choosing a game, the teacher should be careful to find an appropriate one for the class in terms of language and type of participation. Once the game has begun, the teacher should not interrupt to correct mistakes in language use. The teacher should not compel an individual to participate. Some learners may not want to participate due to personal reasons. Forcing students to participate usually does not have successful results. A game which looks wonderful on the paper may not work in the actual classroom setting. If it is tiring or boring, it should be stopped. Give clear instructions. Unless the learners know what he is expected to do and how to do it, the aim cannot be achieved, and the game cannot be played.



Brown, H. D. Principles of Language Learning and Teaching (fourth edition).New York: Longman, Pearson Education, 2000

Brown, H. D. Teaching by Principles – An Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy (second edition). New York: Longman, Pearson Education, 2001

Frank, C and Rinvolucri, M Grammar in Action, Pergamon, 1983

Rinvolucri, M Grammar Games, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985

Ruben, B. D. Simulations, games, and experience-based learning: The quest for a new paradigm for teaching and learning. Simulation & Gaming, 30(4), 498-505, 1989

Wright, A, Betteridge, D. and Buckby, Games for Language Learning (2nd edition). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984




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