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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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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