This article is devoted to investigate the effectiveness of using games in teaching speaking in high schools and to provide some suggestions and implications for the improvement of speaking teaching by using language games in addition to other techniques.
Keywords: objective and subjective reasons, communication, teaching, speaking, games.
In the globalization age today, English assumes as more and more important part as a means of international communication than ever. Therefore, in some recent years, the focus of teaching has been promoting oral skills in order to respond to the students’ needs for effective communication.
However, due to some objective and subjective reasons, teaching and learning English in general and teaching and learning speaking in particular does not come up to the study aims. Despite teachers’ efforts to provide students with opportunities to develop their communicative skills, how to teach and learn speaking effectively is still a challenging question to both teachers and students at many high schools.
In language teaching, language games have proved themselves not merely as “time filler activities” but as an important factor which can create more chances and interest to motivate students to speak. Nevertheless, language games have not successfully applied to speaking classes in many educational institutions.
Effective teaching in classroom environment requires different types of methods and techniques. Games are one of the activities that these techniques use. There has been quite a lot of research done on the use of educational games in particular. However, the effectiveness of using language games in English language teaching is still controversial among educators and teachers.
There is a common perception that all learning should be serious and solemn in nature and that if one is having fun and there is hilarity and laughter, then it is not really learning.
Ur reports that once we call a language leaning activity a “game” we convey the message that it is just fun, not something to be taken serious. Therefore many teachers are reluctant to use games in their lessons because they are doubtful about the effectiveness of games. That is, the teachers often perceive games as mere time-fillers, «a break from the monotony of drilling» or frivolous activities rather than an effective teaching technique.
Contrary to the opinions mentioned above, many experienced textbook and methodology handbooks writers have argued that games are not just time-filling activities, but they have a great educational value. Lee holds that most language games make learners use the language instead of thinking about learning the correct forms. He also says that games should be treated as central, not peripheral to the foreign language teaching programme.
A similar opinion is expressed by Richard-Amato, who believes game to be fun, but warns against overlooking their pedagogical value, particularly in foreign language teaching. Hadfield claimed the effectiveness of using language games in English language teaching: Games should be regarded as an integral part of the language syllabus, not as an amusing activity for Friday afternoon or for the end of the term”. According to Rixon (1981), games can be integrated with teaching so that they can become a positive part of it rather than a time-filler or, worse, a time-waster.
There are many advantages of using games. «Games can lower anxiety, thus making the acquisition of input more likely» (Richard-Amato 1988:147). They are highly motivating and entertaining, and they can give shy students more opportunity to express their opinions and feelings. They also enable learners to acquire new experiences within a foreign language which are not always possible during a typical lesson. Furthermore, to quote Richard-Amato, they, «add diversion to the regular classroom activities», break the ice, " [but also] they are used to introduce new ideas» (1988:147). In the easy, relaxed atmosphere which is created by using games, students remember things faster and better.
Further support comes from Zdybiewska, who believes games to be a good way of practicing language, for they provide a model of what learners will use the language in real life in the future.
With the demand of changing the teaching methods nowadays, most of the teachers have made efforts to exploit a variety of techniques, one of these is games. A good game can enhance students’ motivation in language classes and partly contributes to increase the quality of language classes.
The importance of motivation is second language teaching and learning has been discussed for many years. Motivation is a key consideration in determining the preparedness of learners to communicate. Motivation refers to the combination of effort plus desire to achieve the goal of learning the language plus favorable attitudes toward learning the language. That is, motivation to learn a second language is seen as referring to the extent to which the individual works or strives to learn the language because of a desire to do so and the satisfaction experienced in this activity. Therefore, those who are motivated participate actively in class and usually get good study results.
Since motivation is something very personal, it is not easy to develop. However, according to Lightbrown and Spada (1999): “If we can make our classrooms places where students enjoy coming because the atmosphere is supportive and non-threatening, we can make a positive contribution to students’ motivation to learn.” With a view to creating such a learning atmosphere, using language games, which have long been advocated for assisting language learning, in speaking classes seems to be a good choice for the following reasons:
– Games add interest to what students might not find very interesting. Language learning is hard work…Effort is required at every moment and must be maintained over a long period of time. Games help and encourage many students to sustain their interest and work. Sustaining interest can mean sustaining effort. After all, learning language involves long tem effort.
– The variety and intensity that games offer may lower anxiety and encourage shyer students to take part in speaking classes positively, especially when games are played in small groups.
– Games also help the teachers to create contexts in which the language is meaningful and useful. The students want to take part and in order to do so they must understand what others are saying and they must speak in order to express their own point of view or give information.
– Games are student-centered in that students are active in playing the games and games can often be organized such that students have the leading roles, with teachers as facilitators.
As mentioned language games can be used as a teaching technique to enhance students’ motivation in speaking classes effectively.
It is effective to use language games as a motivator for students to speak. There are some reasons for this affirmation as follows:
Firstly, a large number of students in speaking classes like to join language games. Once the games are given by the teacher, they are willing and eager to play. This positive attitude towards language games reassures the feasibility of using language games as a motivator in speaking classes.
Secondly, when making a small comparison between the data collected from pre-task survey questionnaire and post-task survey questionnaire, it is clear that the number of students who are willing to join the speaking classes adapted with language games increase considerably. It has approved that the speaking classes are surely more interesting and enjoyable with the use of language games. In this case, language games play a role as an inspirer to appeal students to speak.
Thirdly, it can not be denied that language games bring about a variety of great benefits to the users. It is easy to find in the analysis that language games are not only used for relaxing purpose but also for teaching target. Games are enjoyable and fun so they can help students banish boredom and bring them the pleasure to speak English. Games also make speaking activities less challenging and difficult; therefore, they can help students regain interest in speaking. Moreover, language games can lower students’ anxiety and shyness and make them become more confident speakers. More importantly, games give students chances to practise their speaking sill. With these benefits, it is no doubt the games can be used to enhance students’ motivation in speaking classes.
In brief, those findings reveal the fact that there exists an effective teaching technique named language games which can be used to motivate students in speaking classes. The positive factors achieved after carrying out the study reassures that these games can raise students’ motivation in speaking classes.
- Hadfield, J. (1987). Elementary Communication Games. UK: ThomasNelsonandSons
- Lee, W.R. (1979). Language teaching games and contests. Oxford: OxfordUniversityPress.
- Richard-Amato, P.A. (1998). Making it happen: Interaction in the second language classroom: From theory to practice. NewYork: Longman
- Ur, P. (1996). A course in Language Teaching. Cambridge:CUP