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Why Teach and Learn Grammar with Games?

It’s the rare gem of a teacher who can make a grammar lecture interesting, but with limited class time, it’s more important to get your students speaking! They can read grammar explanations at home and you can spot check to ensure that they have learned the basics—old-school grammar drills still do have a purpose! Then you can move on to grammar games to reinforce what they have learned.

Ever thought of giving your students language data, sitting back and watching them try to figure the rules out for themselves? Don’t! Not all students want to be linguists, so why spend valuable class time on such an activity when you can get your students speaking at the outset? Do something tried and true: playing grammar games is a great way to getting your students to speak!

Grammar outside of context is difficult to remember and hard to master. By designing games where students are able to utilize what they have learned, they establish linguistic patterns for later use.

Just as teachers have their own styles, students have their own preferred learning style and know which is most effective for them. Grammar games provide a variety of input types, auditory, visual, total physical response to name but three, that allow students to learn in a style most effective for them.

Thinking creatively is thinking critically. Grammar games give students the opportunity to be creative. They will start testing their limits, playing with words, negotiating meanings, plotting strategy—all the skills that they will need to use in the real world. Mastering these skills in a foreign language helps students work in their first language.

When students are being drilled in class, they are sometimes self-conscious about speaking and making mistakes. When playing a grammar game, students get so wrapped up in the moment that this self-consciousness goes away. They speak more freely. You listen and assess what they truly understand and are able to use.

How Can Grammar Games Remain Educational?

Playing games in the language classroom should have a specific pedagogical purpose and a specific outcome. Games are not something you should use because you are tired or you want to entertain your students.

Games will help to reinforce student responsibility. No student wants to be left out of playing a game, and no one wants to be the person making the same mistakes over and over again. If students are required to be familiar with the grammar before arriving to class, the learning environment playing games creates—wanting to win—will ensure that students do their reading!

A teacher’s job is to teach, but you should try to allow students to help each other in teachable moments before jumping in to explain every point. This will encourage them to help each other outside of game situations and, let’s face it, when you actively explain something, you understand it much better than when you internalize it passively.

If you use non-confidential information from your students in some of your games, you will allow them not only to learn the language but also about each other. This will help to create positive bonds in class and bring your students closer together.

Everyone wants prizes for winning a game, and the language classroom isn’t any different, but make it a prize related to the target language. Give candy, postcards, stickers. This will allow you to introduce cultural artifacts into the class—and “culture” is one of the Cs we must teach—as well as introduce the vocabulary words for these prizes.

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