Friday, April 18, 2008

Classroom Games: Motivating your Students

Here is another classroom activity using playing cards. This one doesn't focus on a specific grammar point or language function. Instead, its purpose is to motivate and promote interaction from students.

One common refrain from English language teachers is that students rarely get involved in discussions or ask questions. This may be especially true in Asia, where the potential for embarrassment caused by mistakes has a strong influence on behaviour. Lamenting such apparent tendencies is not going to solve the problem. As a teacher, you must find ways to create an environment that encourages student participation.

This activity is best suited to small classes with no more than 20 learners. It is most appropriate for listening and speaking courses but can easily be used when the focus is on other skills as well.

Objective: To increase the level of student participation in the classroom.

Materials: One or two packs of playing cards.

Time: Duration of the class you are teaching.

Procedure: At the beginning of the class, give a pep talk regarding the importance of asking questions and taking an active part in the learning process.

Then explain that whenever someone makes an interesting comment, asks a clever question or otherwise contributes beyond the normal prompting from the teacher, they will receive a card. At the end of the class, the person with the highest point total wins. Point allotment is based on the number on the cards. Make sure to highlight the fact that an ace equals one point while face cards are worth ten each.

Then, continue on with the lesson you already had planned.

You can award a prize to make the game more fun. A bag of wrapped candies goes over well or something more symbolic such as the person's name written on the board as the current reigning "champion" until the next game.

Modifications: There are numerous possibilities for awarding cards. Instead of handing them out for a good comment or question, make students successfully answer your questions. Or, separate the class into teams and give out cards for correct answers.

I've had positive experiences with this activity and find that the effects often carry over to subsequent classes. Things sometimes reach that level where everyone has forgotten about any worries or frustrations and are only concerned with getting the next card/point.

On occasion, students will start making superfluous or absurd comments in an attempt to increase their total and everyone erupts in laughter. A great atmosphere! You can then have the whole group judge subsequent comments and decide as a class whether they are worthy.

As with any game or activity, it shouldn't be used to excess or the novelty factor will quickly wear out.


Unknown said...

One of the things I dislike about class room games is this. In my class we play review jepory. The problem is the game became more of a shouting match. But, it does work. All the students study for this game, the game just fell apart.

Anonymous said...

I like this idea. Reckon I might give it a shake myself. I'm also thinking if the kids call out, they relinquish one of their cards back to the deck.

Can have outcomes on both sides of the 'discussion' line, eh?

Nice idea.

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