Adapting Childhood Games for the ESL Classroom

Adapting childhood games for the ESL classroom can result in a learning experience that is simultaneously constructive and fun. Games are a good way to reinforce speaking and listening skills, and students as well as parents will inevitably appreciate the effort devoted to incorporating games into class.

Newcomers to the field of ESL teaching quickly learn of the importance of playing games. In situations where the students speak a different language than the teacher, games are a useful way to bridge this language gap. So what kinds of games work in the ESL classroom?

Perhaps the best games to bring into class are the games that you, yourself, played as a child. Adapting standard children's games to become ESL games can be quite easy. After all, most children's games involve some form of speaking or listening anyways, so these are naturally adaptable to the ESL teaching environment.

Hangman, for example, involves reading, spelling, phonics, and some speaking. In the same vein, the game "I Spy" involves a lot of speaking and listening, and especially the task of asking appropriate questions. These are extremely useful ways to get students talking and conversing in English.

Even games that don't require speaking or listening, such as Tic Tac Toe, can easily be transformed to teach ESL grammar. For example, instead of simply taking turns writing X's and O's in the squares, the teacher can stipulate that the students must complete a grammar chance in order to earn the privilege of writing the X or O in the square. The grammar task can be as simple as saying a past, present, or future tense sentence, or naming a noun or verb that begins with a predetermined letter. If the student is unable to perform this task, they have to skip their turn, which gives the other student a big advantage. This ESL grammar game is a good way to motivate students to learn grammar and give them a break from the normal class routine.

Perhaps the most crucial thing for teachers to remember is that ESL games and activities do not need to be exceedingly complex or time-consuming. Simple reviews and warm-ups can be a good way to reinforce grammar points, for example, and get students using them in relevant contexts.

Moreover, if the teacher can inject a bit of fun and liveliness into the course of conducting these exercises, the students will quickly find themselves enjoying the process of learning. Indeed, they may even begin to mistake classroom learning activities for ESL games! This is when teaching English grammar goes from something that seems tedious and impossible to something with a bright light shining at the end of the tunnel. The most important aspect of this process is a teacher who is willing to have fun and explain grammar with patience.

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