К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2006
Авторы: Курмангалиева Д.М., Нурбаева Ж.
In the last twenty years many ESL/EFL books
have been devoted to teaching grammar. We believe teaching grammar is the most
difficult aspect in teaching English as a foreign language, because people
should acquire what many call “a language feeling” or linguistic intuition.
English constructions are simpler than in Russian; however, there are twelve
tense forms for the active voice only. Besides, students should be
knowledgeable about their native language to understand the structure of the
target language. So we can say that the issue of improving grammar lessons is
relevant nowadays. Using games in teaching grammar always remains an arguable
question. Some teachers consider games to be just entertaining or as activities
which can be used only as some warm-up. Other teachers do not believe grammar
can be taught interactively at all and put a lot of weight on drills and substitution
exercises as the main means to achieving formal linguistic competence. These
teachers believe games have a legitimate place in a children’s classroom only,
but adults would better respond to formal instruction.
Most teachers of English agree that games
are excellent learning activities for children; some believe that adult
students are not receptive because they require something more than “fun and
games” from their classes. Practice shows that well-planned games can teach and
reinforce grammar points very successfully if the activities are geared to
students’ proficiency, age, and experience and not presented condescendingly.
Surprises may still occur when a supposedly “childish” game is a real hit in an
adult class and vice versa a problem-solving task which requires critical and
conceptual thinking might be of a genuine interest to younger students.
We also firmly believe that games can and
should be used at all levels of foreign language proficiency and across all
ages because when students are engaged in games or problem-solving activities,
their use of language is task-oriented and has a purpose beyond the production
of correct speech. This makes these activities ideal for communicative practice
of grammar if, in fact, the activities can be structured to focus learners’
attention on a few specific forms before the communicative practice. When this
is successfully achieved, problems and games help reinforce the connection
between the form (grammar structure) and real life situations where it may be
applied, since the forms targeted for attention occur naturally within the
larger context created by the game or the problem.
Games have a goal, are organized according
to rules, and are meant to be enjoyable. Problem-solving activities also have a
goal (i.e., the solution of the problem), and although they rarely have
elaborate game-type rules, the problems themselves may be structured so as to require
When using games or problem-solving
activities, the teacher must be sure that students are familiar with the words
and structures needed to carry out the task. Quick drills or exercises should
usually be done before students play the game or solve the problem. This will
encourage them to practice the appropriate forms rather than the forms that may
result when learners are forced to engage in a communicative task before they
have sufficient command of the words and structures needed to accomplish it.
“The Treasure Hunt” can be used successfully
with high-beginning or low-intermediate students. For this game, which elicits
communicative practice of imperatives and potentially all types of questions
(yes/no, wh-, alternative), the teacher first divides the class into groups of
three (in a large class students could form groups of four or five). Each group
is given a small picture of a pot of gold- or some other appropriate
“treasure”- with the group’s number written on it in large script. The group is
also given a thumbtack or a strip of scotch tape and asked to select one of its
members for a very important task.
The group members who have been selected
for the important task step outside the room with the teacher and are told to
hide the pot of gold in some secluded but accessible location at least fifty
paces away from the classroom door. At this stage they should be instructed
only to find a very good hiding place for the treasure as quickly as possible
and return to the classroom.
Once all class members in charge of hiding
the treasure have returned, they are told to rejoin their groups but to say
nothing until further instructed. They are then told to give careful oral
instructions to the other group members as to exactly where they must go to
find their group’s treasure. These instructions should be verbal only. No maps,
gestures, or written notes are allowed. The other group members may ask as many
questions as they wish. The one who hides the treasure must tell the others how
to get from the classroom to the hiding place, not simply where it is.
The next game is “Where’s what’s it?” It
can be used with all levels. This non-threatening guessing game is good way to
wrap up a lesson on prepositions. The aims of this game are to practice the use
of prepositions in a task-based situation. The procedure of this game is the following:
1. Before class begins place one of the
objects on top of something, underneath something, or between two other things.
2. Divide the class into two teams or into
3. Tell the class that they have to identify
an object you have chosen in the classroom, using only yes/no questions about
position (e.g., “Is it on the wall? Is it behind you”?).
4. Teams take turns asking position
questions; no points are lost if the answer is incorrect.
5. Either team may try to guess the object
at any time if they guess wrong, the point goes to the other side.
6. The first team to identify the object
wins the point.
This game also works best as a short
activity at the end of a class.
The next game is easy to conduct, as it
does not require any materials. It is used at the intermediate level and
requires 10-15 minutes. It practices “the first conditional.” You should do the
1. Ask a student to draw on the board a
girl looking puzzled by the side of a lake.
2. In a speech bubble, coming from her
“I wonder what I’ll do if he doesn’t come
to see me by this strange lake tonight.”
3. Tell the students the aim of the
exercise is to transform the sentence completely. To do this they may take out
either one word or two words together, but each time they must replace them
with a phrase of three words. When the first student suggests a deletion and
addition, rub out the word or two words, and add in the three words proposed.
Ask another student to read the new sentence to see whether it works for him or
her and the group. You don’t need to speak at all – if the students can’t make
up their minds about a substitution, and if it is wrong, all you have to do is
rub out the three words and put back the original one or two. When a student proposes
something that is wrong, avoid commenting with your face and body – you can be
silent and still very un-neutral.
These, by far, are not only games, which
can be used in the lesson; we just wanted to show a few that proved quite
effective and may be used in English lessons.
Beside games we can also use the role-play
as an activity, which is dramatization of a real life situation in which the
students assume roles. It presents the students with a problem, but instead of
reaching a group consensus in solving it, the students act out their solution.
The format of a role-play allows students to use the target structures
naturally, without much thinking over which ending to put where. Correctly
chosen role-playing scenes expose students to the types of situations they are
most likely to encounter inside and outside of the classroom. They are such
situations that help to improve students’ self-confidence and ability to
communicate effectively. It is an excellent technique for communicative practice
of structures sensitive to social factors. The general procedure is first to
hand out the problem to the students and answer questions. Next, introduce and
explain the vocabulary and structures necessary for the task. In the following
session, divide students into groups, in which they discuss and practice how
they are going to do the role-play. During this step the teacher allows
students to communicate freely and does not interrupt for correction. However,
the teacher should take notes on grammatical, cultural, and phonological errors
for subsequent treatment.
Next, the role-play is performed before the
class. After each enactment, the teacher comments on selected minor language
errors. Major errors are saved for formal grammar lessons later. After each
group has performed, the entire class discusses the questions raised by the
situation, such as different interpretations of the scene and culturally or
linguistically appropriate responses. The last step is to assign a writing exercise
based on the role-play or related question. Subsequent grammar lessons based on
the errors observed during the exercise should be presented.
The entire exercise is spread out over
three days: introducing the role-play situation and the initial group work on
the first day; more group work, performances, class evaluations, and written
work on the second day; the grammar follow-up on the third. A classroom
activity like this usually includes work on vocabulary, a culture lesson,
written work, and grammar lesson, as well as work on pronunciation and
communicative strategies. Thus, the role-play presents a comprehensive approach
to language study.
To illustrate the procedure, we will
consider the following role-play: “Being Stopped by a Police Officer”. The
grammar focus is the social use of modals, such as May I see…, Would
you mind…, and the logical use of modals, as in must have left.
1. Setting the Scene - You are driving down a freeway
in California and you are stopped by a police officer.
He is completely unsympathetic to the fact that you are a foreign student and
your nervousness makes it difficult for you to express yourself. You are not
sure why he has stopped you, but you know that he is extremely angry. You are
to work out a short skit with three characters: the driver, a passenger, and
the police officer. The presentation should be approximately five minutes.
2. Vocabulary – driver’s license, vehicle
registration, insurance valid until, the law.
3. Questions for planning the role-play:
Why has the police officer stopped you?
How should you react to this anger?
Is it possible that he had a good reason to
What is the best way to deal with the
What kind of language do you use to talk to
a police officer?
What are the possible problems you might
4. Discussion questions:
Is bribery a good way to deal with a police
officer in the United States? Why or not?
What is the role of a police officer in the
USA? In our country?
If you are stopped by the police officer,
how should you act?
Having studied some of the latest works on
the place of games in an English classroom, we should say that there both advantages
and disadvantages to using games. The advantages are the following:
- Interaction of all the students in the
process of the game;
- Arousing students’ interest to the subject;
- Involving learners into the
- A good practice of all language aspects;
- Appropriate at all levels;
- Ability of using the games in any stage
of the lesson.
Among the disadvantages the most wide
spread are the following:
- Games may take a lot of time –
preparation, set-up, scoring, evaluation, etc.
- Not every student is willing to
- Games may cause arguments among the
Despite the listed drawbacks, most games provide
meaningful contexts for integrating writing, reading, pronunciation, listening,
and grammar. In this article we tried to focus on how to enliven grammar
lessons with interactive games that help reinforce learning. We believe games
enable students to operate spontaneously with the language, as well as
experience increased empathy, heightened self-esteem and motivation, and
lowered sensitivity to rejection, thus facilitating second-language
acquisition. Finally, games, if properly conducted, provide teachers and
students with delightful lessons.
“Techniques and Principles in language teaching” (Oxford university Press,
Donna Inness, James Kealey
“Grammar- Focused Interactive Activities and games (Oxford University Press,
Mario Rinvolucry, Paul
Davis “More grammar games” (Cambridge University Press, 1995)
“Grammar Games” (New York, 2003)
К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2006