In this article I will describe the findings related to communicative method of teaching (gamification) when delivering English classes in Asian context and describe a typical step by step plan along with the most efficient and interesting songs and games, which I delivered to the kids aged 3–12 teaching English in different training centers of China.
Keywords: games, young learners, communicative approach, lesson plan.
I included the games that every child usually finds absolutely interesting wherever I taught, so that every ESL teacher can successfully use them when teaching.
It would not be an exagerration to say that the best communicative approach when teaching young learners English is playing games in an extremely cheerful manner that would highly increase motivation to learn and quite rapidly lead to the best results in both speaking and listening comprehension abilities due to the enjoyment of the whole process.
Unlike traditional method, communicative approach aims to thoroughly use children’s natural potential through a wide range of fun activities, chants, rhymes, games and simple songs, which utterly create natural communicative situations.
As it is widely known, young children have their biologically explained ability to learn a language naturally and rapidly, and playing games, singing simple songs, doing chants are the fastest way to get them acknowledged with a foreign language, because they experience enjoyment during their English classes.
So, it is suggested that teachers use both games and songs, delivering English classes to small children.
This extraordinary for traditional way of teaching English method called the Communicative Language Teaching Approach was attracted by a great number of scientists, researchers and teachers.
But what is vital is that the teacher should consider deliberately when choosing the games, depending on what exactly should be trained, because the games are not played just for fun, but for educational aims.
As it is described in the Lin Hong’s article of internet TESL Journal [Lin Hong: Using Games in Teaching English to Young Learners, The Internet TESL Journal, 2002, 8, 14]. there are some questions which we might consider as we choose a game:
– Which language does the game target?
– Which skills does it practice? The language skill focus could be any one of the major skills of listening, speaking, reading or writing.
– What type of game is it?
– What's the purpose for using it?
– Does it fit the students? How could I simplify or make it more complex if necessary? Many games require modification in use when the students' need are taken into consideration.
– How much interaction and participation is there? Maximum involvement is something we are pursuing.
– Do I like the game myself?
For example, after introducing the new vocabulary, such games, as «Hammer game», «Pantomime game», «Say out the word», «Hoops game», «Magic hat», “Little teacher”, “Little Speech” are the games that both teachers and children frequently choose to play during the class, and are the best for practicing vocabulary, which is crucial part of any language system.
«Hammer game» is a competition game for the young learners of English of the age of 3–12 that targets practising vocabulary.
The flashcards are being put on the ground in a messy order. Two toy hammers are needed. The teacher invites two children and gives each a hammer. Then, after saying: «Ready? Go!» names the words quickly and the children should find a picture, and hit it quickly with a hammer. The one, who wins gets a sticker.
While the children are reacting to the teacher’s voice, the teacher can pick up a flash card and hide it behind his back to joke the children and let them laugh when they find it.
«Hoops game» also targets learning vocabulary. The flashcards are put on the ground into a circle of each hoop and the children should jump onto each flashcard simaltinuously pronouncing the words. The teacher should support them in every step, by saying «Good job!».
«Say out a word» game also aims to vocabulary practicing. The teacher hides the flashcards behind his back, then showing them quickly one by one afterwards to the children to say out a word related to a picture.
«Magic hat» The hat is needed for this game and the small flashcards. The teacher invites a child a gives him a hat with the flashcards, then the child should take them out one by one, saying «this is a book, this is a table, this is a chair, this is a ball».
«Pantomime game» is a game of showing the children the actions with the help of body language and the learners guess out the word related to the action. Some key sentences can also be taught through the actions, so the children can guess out not only the words, playing this game, but also the sentences.
”Little teacher” game. This game makes a child a little teacher, who is invited to check other children’s knowledge, by holding the flashcards and asking them ”what’s this”. Other children respond: ”it’s a chair, it’s a table, it’s a desk…”. Then the little teacher says: ”Good job” and praises each child with a high-five and a sticker.
”Music chair” game. Another game that targets learning vocabulary. Five chairs are put to make a circle. The teacher plays music, then, after an abrupt stop, every child should sit on his chair. If there are five chairs, there must be 6 children, so that one child, who failed to sit on a chair, after a stop, should name all the words he learnt during the class.
”Little speech” aims to recycle all the vocabulary the children learnt during the class and finally produce a speech. The teacher invites the child and gives him the flashcards. The child first should introduce himself, by saying: “Hello, everyone! My name is Helen. I’m a girl. I’m five. Look, this is a table, this is a chair, this is a ball, this is a book. Thank you”. After successfully introducing the speech, the teacher should guide other children to applaude to the ”little teacher” and give him a high-five.
This game practise both listening and speaking comprehensions, because the children listen to the teachers voice and should react quickly. This helps them to learn the words in an extremely cheerful way.
To start any game, the teacher should ask the children, which game they would like to play. If they hesitate, suggest to play one of the above mentioned games. Then, what is important, the teacher should introduce the rules of the games, making sure that everyone understands them well. The best way to introduce the rules is demonstration.
In Chinese training centers there is always a teacher assistant, working with a foreign teacher in pair, therefore, the game can be demonstrated by both of them.
The teacher says: «Do you want to play a hammer game? Who wants to play it first? Oh, Helen (assistant) wants!».
Doing so, the teacher guides the assistant show the game to the children and the children get the rules. This is a real communication between the teacher and the children throughout 90 minutes class, in which children grow and develop in a harmonious way.
As it was mentioned before, the games should be chosen according to the skills the teacher wants to practice. There are four language skills, such as listening, reading, writing and speaking, and this communicative approach guides the children to deliberately master more both speaking and listening skills, which are not trained enough through the conventional methods of teaching.
There are normally no more than 10–12 children in each group. To gain successful result I was always searching for the best approach during my two years of working in China as an ESl teacher, and the lesson- plan described below is a result of my two years journey, in which gamification plays the most vital role in pending successful results.
1.1 Warm-up part. First of all, we will start with the greeting of each other:
«Hello, boys and girls!»
«Hello, Lara laoshi».
Then continue with a warm-up song, plenty of which can be found on YouTube. They are called “Hello Song”, “Hockey-Pockey”, “How are you” and etc.
1.2 After the warm-up song there is a small talk with the kids. The teacher invites the children one by one, asking “how are you”, then the child responds
“I’m ok/great/wonderful/how about you?”
This will let both support the dialogue.
The questions “how old are you/ what’s your favorite color/food/animal”.
Then the teacher guides the child to chose one of the partners to ask each other the same questions. After each successful result the teacher should give the child a high five to support him and keep the energy up.
1.3 Normally the kids follow the rules of behavior in class, and from time to time, when switching into another part of the lesson, they must be revised.
“Now I want to check whether you know all the classroom rules”, “One, two, three”.
The children should respond: “Four, four, four”. This helps the teacher get their attention back, in case they are distracted or overexcited after an extremely active game.
Another rule is related to their behavior when they know the right answer to the question, they should say: “Teacher, teacher, let me try” without shouting the response out loud. Another exercises can also be practiced: “stand up/ sit down/hands up, hands down.
1.4 After having repeated the classroom rules, the revision of the previous material is followed.
The teacher should say:
“now I want to check whether you remember the new words we learnt last time”, hiding the flash cards behind the back, then showing to the audience very quickly one by one to check the children’s knowledge. In case not all of them know the words for 100 %, the teacher may play a couple of games, such as a “hammer game” or “hoops game” to let them revise the content once again. After this part of the lesson the teacher may switch into the new content.
1.5 To lead into the new content the teacher basically takes a flash card, demonstrating an extremely astonished face, as if he does not know what is it on the picture and then ask the children:
”Can you please tell me, what’s this”.
Normally some of the children may respond in Chinese. Here the teacher may pretend he understands and say to the child happily: ”Right, it is an apple!”, supporting with a body language, then repeat with the children the word ”apple” several times loudly and in a low voice, quickly and slowly. May also let the children clap the flash card, when uttering the word without letting him clap for the first time to joke them out. And do the same with all of the new words. There are always specially related songs on the CD’s of the books, which are absolutely crucial when learning the new material and keeping the children energized. They also help them to learn the material quicker and easier.
The video songs are helpful, but the teacher should also use body language, which will stimulate the brain to memorize the word in connection with a body movement. That’s how children not only learn the words, but sing the songs and dance. This makes the process of learning utterly wishful for the children.
After having introduced the new material, the teacher should act a little bit like animator and ask the children:
”Hm, now I think it is high time to play games. Do you want to play a hammer game with me?”. The children should be taught to respond: ”Yes, I do” raising their hands.
Then the teacher should distribute all the new flashcards all over the floor with the picture up and invite two children, giving them two toy hammers. Then pronounce: ”One, two, three, go!” and pronounce the words one by one and the children in their turn should hit the appropriate flash cards. Then the teacher invites another children.
Another game that allows to practice the words is called the ”hoops game”. 7 hoops are distributed on the ground and one flash card is put into each hoop. The child should jump from one hoop onto another and pronounce all the words.
After 10 minutes break the second part of the class may be started with a song related to any topic.
Then another game is followed, which is called ”London Bridge”. The teacher builds a ”bridge” with the teacher’s assistant and all the children make a line, crossing the bridge, while participant sing the song ”
At the end of the song the child, which is caught is ”responsible” to answer the teacher’s questions. The teacher asks: ”what is this”, the child should give the answer. Do the same with other children. This game will absolutely consolidate the material.
The final part of the lesson is devoted to a «Little Speech» game. First, the teacher performs a little speech, holding the flashcards: ” Hello, everyone. I am Lara. I am a girl. I am five. Look. This is an apple. This is an orange. These are bananas. This is a pear. The fruits are yummy. Thank you.”
After demonstrating them an example, the teacher should invite the students one by one to deliver a speech, supporting them if needed.
Having finished this part, the teacher gives everyone a high-five and the stickers to praise the children and plays ”Good buy song”.
- Lin Hong. Using games in Teaching English to young learners. The Internet TESL Journal, No 8, 2002.
- Khan J. Using games in Teaching English to young learners. Teaching English to Children. From practice to Principle England: Longman, 1996