The present topic deals with the importance of games and creativity in FL learning; the types of games that can be useful in a foreign language class, and games as a playful means of achieving communicative competence in a foreign language.
Games are essential for children’s development. They play in order to develop as human and social beings. Any activity that they carry out is a game to them. By playing, children develop different social, cultural and linguistic aspects.
Given the developmental characteristics of Primary School children, games are one of the most efficient techniques in FL learning. If our goal in FL teaching is to help our students acquire an adequate degree of communicative competence that will help them use the language learnt in a creative and spontaneous way, we cannot underestimate the role that games play in this sense. Games also help the teacher to create contexts in which the language is useful and meaningful.
Games can be used to fulfil a series of FUNCTIONS. The most important functions are the following:
● Creating a good and stress-free environment which will in turn (a su vez) will help students gain self-confidence and take a more active and creative role.
● Since/Because games are enjoyable, they can contribute to students’ motivation.
● Games contribute to the child’s social development through use of interpersonal communicative skills.
● Since all children enjoy playing, games guarantee participation of every student in the class.
● Games provide the opportunity to practice language in a meaningful context.
● Games are very useful for practising, reinforcing and revising language previously learnt.
● They are a valuable tool for mixed ability classes, as they enable students with different levels to take part in the same game but doing different things.
● Games can be used by the teacher as a diagnostic tool for both, assessment and remedial work.
● They activate all the dynamic faculties of the child
ADVANTAGES: There are many advantages of using games in the classroom:
1. Games are a welcome break from the usual routine of the language class.
2. They are motivating and challenging.
3. Learning a language requires a great deal of effort. Games help students to make and sustain the effort of learning.
4. Games provide language practice in the various skills- speaking, writing, listening and reading.
5. They encourage students to interact and communicate.
6. They create a meaningful context for language use.’
7. Games lower anxiety, thus making the acquisition of input more likely
8. They give shy students more opportunity to express their opinions and feelings
Games are important in FL teaching from different points of view (p.o.v.)
From the Affective p.o.v, games: – lower the affective filter studied by Krashen
– encourage creative and spontaneous use of language
– promote communicative competence
– are fun
From the Cognitive p.o.v, games: – can reinforce the language already learnt
– are a good way to review and extend language contents
– help internalise the grammar in a communicative way.
From the p.o.v. of Class Dynamics, games are: – student centered
– the teacher acts only as facilitator
– they build class cohesion
– they foster whole class participation
– they can promote healthy competition
From the p.o.v. of Adaptability: – Games are easily adjusted for age, level, and interests
– The four skills can be used
GAMES AND CREATIVITY
Creativity (definition) is defined as a mental process involving the generating of new ideas or concepts, or new associations between existing ideas or concepts. By fostering creativity we foster in our students independence of judgment, self-confidence, attraction to complexity, aesthetic orientation and openness to experience.
All pupils have creative abilities and their creativity takes a wide variety of forms. Each individual has a wide range of ideas, perceives things in a personal way and, at times, shows inventiveness. Some pupils demonstrate high levels of creativity in particular areas such as music, problem solving, or in maintaining positive relationships. Others may be creative in the range and quality of ideas and words that they use in language. As teachers, we should favour the development of our students’ creativity in every possible way.
Creativity is possible in all areas of the curriculum, some areas offer more opportunities for creativity than others. In this sense, the Foreign Language class provides many opportunities to promote and develop creativity through the use of games, because through games children can experiment, discover, and interact with their environment. Apart from games, other activities that are commonly used in the FL classroom reinforce students’ creativity. I am referring to such activities as role-playing and dramatisation which require imagination and creativity.
PEDAGOGICAL VALUE OF GAMES
We have already mentioned that by playing, children develop socially, culturally and linguistically, but we can add that by using or introducing a foreign language in their games the learning of the foreign language is reinforced. Many experienced FL authors have argued that games are not just time-filling activities but have a great educational value. W. R. Lee holds that most language games make learners use the language instead of thinking about learning the correct forms (1979:2). He also says that games should be treated as central and as not peripheral to the foreign language teaching programme. In the easy, relaxed atmosphere which is created by using games, students remember things faster and better. Games also lend themselves well to revision exercises helping learners recall material in a pleasant, entertaining way.
WHEN TO USE GAMES
Games are often used as short warm-up activities or when there is some time left at the end of a lesson. However, a game should not be regarded as a marginal activity filling in odd moments when the teacher and class have nothing better to do . Games ought to be at the heart of teaching foreign languages, especially where young learners are concerned. In fact, games can be used at all stages of the lesson, provided that they are suitable and carefully chosen.
I would also like to point out that even if games resulted only in noise and entertained students, they are still worth paying attention to and implementing in the classroom since they motivate learners, promote communicative competence, and generate fluency.
HOW TO CHOOSE GAMES (Tyson, 2000)
Tyson gives us a series of tips on how to choose games for our students. According to this author:
● A game must be more than just fun.
● A game should involve “friendly” competition.
● A game should keep all of the students involved and interested.
● A game should encourage students to focus on the use of language rather than on the language itself.
● A game should give students a chance to learn, practice, or review specific language material.
TYPES OF GAMES. COMMUNICATIVE GAMES
Broadly speaking, games can be divided into two main groups according to their objectives: linguistic and communicative. Both types can be competitive or co-operative. In co-operative games the players or teams work together towards a common goal.
Linguistic games are mostly concerned with accuracy and are oriented, for example, towards the correct production of a linguistic structure. The length of the responses to this kind of game is usually limited: a word or short phrase is usually enough to fulfil the objective of the game.
In communicative games the emphasis is on communication rather than accuracy or correctness. This type of game usually involves carrying out a task, for example, drawing a route in a map, filling in a chart, finding two matching pictures, etc., rather than producing a correct structure. Since the complexity of the language and the task can be adjusted, communicative games can be played at any level. Communicative games are best used at the “free stage” in the progression from Presentation through Practice to Free production. Precisely, because the language used to carry out a communicative game is quite free, there is lots of room for creativity in the completion of the task.
There is a large variety of communicative games. Among them, we have for example:
Searching for information and filling in a questionnaire
Matching games: for example matching pictures to words
Puzzle-solving games in which the players share information in order to solve a problem, a mystery, etc.
Simulation of real-life situations, in which the classroom becomes a “street”, a “bus”, etc.
As a conclusion, I would like to stress that the game context makes the foreign language immediately useful to the children, thus bringing the target language to life. It is for this reason, among the many others that I have put forward in this essay, that games should be an integral part of the FL classroom.
Halliwell, S. 1992. Teaching English in the Primary Classroom. London and New York: Longman.
Nunan D., Language Teaching Methodology. London: Prentice-Hall International 1991
Ashworth, J., and Clark, J., Playground Games. London: Collins 1992
Porter Ladousse, G., Role Play, Oxford, OUP, 1994