Fun and Games in the Classroom

Is it Education or Entertainment?  Some call it Edutainment.

What do you get when you make a monkey dance?

A cynical English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teacher might reply, “Edutainment.”

But combining “Education” and “Entertainment” together is not always a bad idea.  In many countries, ESL edutainment is much more prevalent than strict, serious ‘education.’

Of course, in some nations you will find schools to be super-oriented on old-school ‘education,’ focused on and memorizing lesson content. These schools will want to you to teach the students some skills. However, you may also find more relaxed schools which will hope that students learn some English while being amused by you, the ultra-entertaining English teacher.

Both environments can be fulfilling for the teacher. You just have to know how to prepare yourself if you are, in fact, expected to provide edutainment. A good idea is to prepare English-adaptable games and fun activities for classes. Students do learn a lot from games and activities, so you’re not doing them a disservice by playing around on class time.

However, it is possible to cross a line between teaching a fun, entertaining class and becoming the often-referred-to dancing monkey. If you take a job with a school that values the entertainment aspect above all else, then beware of burning out before your contract expires.

Assuming, though, that your school just wants to be on the right side of entertaining, it’s a good idea to seek out some games and activities. As for most things resource-related, the Internet is a super place to start. The “Games” pages at Dave’s ESL Cafe has more listings of games and activities than you could ever imagine using. If you weed through and select six or eight of these activities that you think will work with your students, you can later tweak them to different levels and topics to use in multiple classes, many times.

TED’s Tips™ #1: Search out some games that YOU find interesting (remember, you’ll spend time playing them too!) and think about how to chop and change them for multiple levels and many kinds of class objectives.

Make a list (or bag or box) of these games and materials with your other teaching stuff and bring them to every class. That way, you’ve got them ready to deploy should you have to substitute for another teacher. Plus, you’ll get happy feedback from your students—don’t fall into the trap of thinking everything ‘edutainment’ is BAD!

TED’s Tips™ #2: Don’t just play something. There should always be ‘a moral’ to the story—keep an educational goal in sight whatever game or activity you use in class. Students will quickly become bored if you play just for the sake of playing something.

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Banish Boring Boardwork

How to Organize your Class Board for Effective EFL Lessons

Good boardwork—what you write on the marker board during classtime—is a sign of a skilled English as a Foreign Language (EFL) teacher.

Pucker up and KISS the board—no, it’s not what you think. KISS is a good reminder for you to “Keep It Simple for Students.”

When you’re preparing your class, mentally go through your lesson and put all the things on the board that you plan to put on the board. In a perfect world, all of the information you put up will fit without having to erase anything. Furthermore, the board should look neat and tidy and, most importantly, easy to understand. Go to the back of the room and see it from the desks or chairs at the back. All of your students should be able to read it easily.

During this dry run, make sure you’ve got all of the important stuff on the board—target language, grammar structure and vocabulary. New words may look best off to one side.

While you’re doing this, you’ll likely find that you have to change a few things in your original plan. This is a great exercise to do, not only to help your boardwork, but also to meter the lesson’s flow.

It’s also important to consider each classroom if you teach the same lesson plan in different places. In many rooms, the bottom third of the board may be obstructed by student heads and not easily seen from the back of the class. Also, sometimes the angle of the board relative to the students makes the extreme left or right of the board hard to see from some seats.

Another problem factor might be too much light—glare from windows and overhead lighting can render some of the board unreadable from some angles. It’s a good idea to pull down curtains or blinds to save your students’ eyes.  If you take all these things into account, it means you’re safest using the top two-thirds of the board and the middle sixty percent.

When you’re doing your pre-class boardwork practice, don’t forget to check if you’re writing your words large enough and clearly enough to read easily. You might be surprised!

During classtime, don’t forget to ask the students before you erase anything on the board. You’ll see that the high-achievers in the class will want to write down your boardwork for their notes. It’s polite to ask them first, and if someone is taking notes you want to make sure they don’t rush and make a mistake!  These are likely your best students.  Don’t frustrate them.

The very best lesson plans will include examples of your planned boardwork, typically on the last page. It’s a big help if you plan your boardwork ahead of time.

TED’s Tips™ #1: While you’re not creating the next Mona Lisa, boardwork is a fine art that you should work on improving, along with the rest of your teaching skills.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Don’t just think about yourself—it helps your students when you present your lesson on the board clearly, visibly and in an easily understandable way.

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English Fun and Games

Games and Activities in the EFL Classroom

Games—they’re not just for young learners.  Playing games and jazzing up your lessons with intriguing activities are an essential part of the dynamic English as a Foreign Language (EFL) classroom.

Through playful situations, you, the teacher, create a no-stress situation where students can use the day’s target language. Best of all, most games require some repetition, so the students will use the language or structures over and over and build up good language habits.

When planning your EFL classes, you’ll most likely start with a “warm-up” or “icebreaker”—typically an activity that relaxes the students and settles them down ready for class. This warmer can often be a game—which immediately sets a fun tone for the rest of the classtime.

Later in the class, in the practice and production stages of the lesson, you’ll probably plan in some structured activities–and while this is the real meat of the lesson–who says these can’t be lighthearted and fun as well?

At the very end of class, time permitting, you may want to review structures or language with a short English-based game before the students go to break.

What you want is to let your class unwind a little, have a few laughs, then work harder in the middle before finishing on a fun, high note.

You’ll find that if you follow this basic process of beginning and ending with a playful, stress-reducing activity or game, the students will likely be more motivated for the next class session.

Any long-term EFL teacher will tell you that they keep a few fave games or activities up their sleeves, ready to go with limited prepwork. These will save your bacon any time you’re asked to substitute for another teacher and haven’t had time to prepare a proper lesson. Unfortunately, it’s not unusual in ESL to be asked to fill in at a moment’s notice.

If you want to build your own repertoire of games and fun activities to spice up your lessons, browse the Internet to find some ideas. A great place to start the search is at Dave’s ESL Cafe here:  ESL EFL Games

TED’s Tips™ #1: After browsing games at Dave’s ESL Cafe and some other sites, make a list of five or more games that you think you’ll have fun with. Don’t just write them down, however, also consider how you can use the games in different settings, with different age or skill levels, and adapted to different target language or topics.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Google (or Yahoo or whatever you do) the terms “ESL Games” and “EFL Games” and browse through the umpteen results to get some easy, multipurpose games. Luckily for you, there are tons of ESL game resources on-line.

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