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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