Opinions 1: Waste of Time vs Effective Tool
The first set of questions deals with general opinions about the use of games in the classroom. From the responses there should be no question anymore about whether teachers believe games have a place in English language learning. A resounding 93% of respondents disagreed with the statement "games are a waste of valuable classroom time" with responses clustered at the stronger end of the opinion scale as in: "Absolutely NOT!".
Likewise 86% of respondents agreed with the statement "games are an effective learning tool". And, while respondents were quick to defend this category of learning materials, a common theme emerged in the final comments section with many qualifying their strong support with caveats such as the need for relevance and clear goals driven by competent instructors. You can view a few of those comments below. Dozens more will be found in the final two pages of these Game Survey Results.
I think many students from other (that is, non-North American) cultures think that games are not "serious" learning. Even though I don't think games are a waste of time, some of my students have mentioned this, as if to say, "Why are we wasting our time with this? When will we get to the real learning?" This is despite announcing at the start of the game the goals and what skills it practices. Many students seem to have quite a dismissive attitude towards this kind of learning. This is why I don't incorporate more games more often.
The teacher must be assured that the students are learning and applying the language correctly, not just having fun.
Games should not dominate class time, but should complement the instruction and serve as an aid to student motivation. Games can reach students who may not respond well to some other modes of learning. Finally, any game used in the language classroom needs to have clear relevance to the curriculum.
I don't think games are useful or NOT useful - it always depends on how the teacher integrates them into the learning task. An excellent game can be very poorly used and a not-so-useful game can be highly effective - depending on the teacher, the task at hand, the target language, etc. Games are not an end unto themselves.
Personally I think games should be an important part of an esl classroom but what matters most is the techers ability to use those games. Most games are not suitable for use in most class room context. So a good teacher should be able to pick out those games which work best in his/her classroom situation.
Only as effective as the teacher who introduces, models, facilitates and sometimes creates
Your question about the usefulness of games is impossible to answer. It depends on whether the game chosen fits the goals of the class. One game might be perfect as a review or practice activity but totally useless in another class where it is too difficult and the students are not prepared. Games should fit the lesson as a form of practice, but should not be used as mere fillers, I believe. Also, with adults, I sometimes avoid the term "game" as it can be seen as demeaning for an adult who is paying a lot of money for a professional language teacher to merely "play games." They may even get upset at a teacher who uses "too many" games in their lessons. In those cases, I prefer to call them "a practice activity" and state the language goal clearly.
I consider a game to be an activity to enhance a lesson, not just to be used as a filler.
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