From Can’t to Can: Changing our Thinking about Exams by La-Salete Moreira

The following post was written as a summary of the session with the same name which took place at IH Portugal's training day, led by David Petrie.

This session was delivered by David Petrie and his purpose was to provide teachers with some tools that can help students overcome anxiety before taking the exam.

We started the session by establishing the difference between good and bad students and how anxiety can be a stressful element before exams. We also explored students’ motivations and what drives them to take language exams: intrinsic or extrinsic motivations? Parents? A future career?

David Petrie introduced “The Johari Window”, a tool of self-discovery and communication to build trust. In order to explain this tool, I took some information from the website www.mindtools.com

“The Johari Window is a communication model that is used to improve understanding between individuals. The word “Johari” is taken from the names of Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham, who developed the model in 1955.

There are two key ideas behind the tool:

  • That you can build trust with others by disclosing information about yourself.
  • That, with the help of feedback from others, you can learn about yourself and come to terms with personal issues.

By explaining the idea of the Johari Window, you can help team members to understand the value of self-disclosure, and you can encourage them to give, and accept, constructive feedback.

Done sensitively, this can help people build better, more trusting relationships with one another, solve issues, and work more effectively as a team.”

Here’s an example of the model:

From this, we moved on to assessing students’ performance and how the use of ‘can do’ statements foster students’ engagement in learning a language and, later, sit for the exam. Focusing on what the student ‘can do’ provides a positive feedback and, thus, reduce any possible anxiety or negative feelings towards exams.

To conclude, there is no miracle answer to help students overcome anxiety when it comes to assessing or taking exams. As teachers, we need to be aware that some students might find it difficult to cope with evaluation and try to find the best way to help them overcome their fears and achieve their goals.

What’s behind the curtain: Use of English/Part I by Laura Monteiro and Eunice Pais

The following post was written as a summary of the session with the same name which took place at IH Portugal's training day, led by Carol Crombie from IH Viseu.

This session, as the title suggests, focused on identifying helpful materials to use in class for any given preparation exam. However, if well thought out and planned, some materials can be valuable in General English classes or Business English.

This post will provide an overview of some activities carried out by Carol: identifying which Cambridge exam different parts of use of English were taken from; multiple choice (cloze); completing expressions by watching a video; word formation and checking synonyms.

Identifying the exam

At the beginning of the session 19 pieces of paper were laid on the floor. Teachers were asked to identify which exam the pieces of paper were taken from. The options were: PET, FCE, CAE and CPE.

The activity raised the issue of awareness concerning the English we expect students to produce as much as the English we teach for the specific exam. Unfortunately, in the session I attended nobody could correctly identify all the extracts.

Here are some examples:

Part 2

For questions 1-6, read the text below and think if the word which best fits each space. Use only one word in each space. There is an example at the beginning (0). Write you answers IN CAPITAL LETTERS on the separate answer sheet.

Example: : 0 ____of___

Men and women are often considered to be completely at odds with each other, in terms (0)  ____their attitudes and behaviour. Not so when they are in love, new research has discovered. As far as their hormone levels are (1)____, when men and women are in love, they are more similar to each other (2)____  at any other time.

It has (3)____  been known that love can (4)____  havoc with hormone levels. For example the hormone cortisol, (5)____  is known for its calming effect on the body, dips dramatically when one person is attracted to (6)____ , putting the love-struck on a par with sufferers of obsessive compulsive disorder.

For questions 1-5, complete the second sentence so that it has a similar meaning to the first sentence, using the word given. Do not change the word given Here is an example:

0.   You must do exactly what the teacher tells you.

carry

You must carry out the teacher’s  instructions exactly.

1.   So that Susan would be fit for the skiing, she went to the gym three times a week.

order

Susan went to the gym three times a week_______   fit for the skiing.

2.   It’s not worth inviting her to the party. She will never come.

point

There________   in inviting her to the party. She will never come.

3.   She had to finish her homework before she went out.

until

She had to stay in_______   her homework.

4.   Jo had not expected the film to be so good.

better

The film ____________  had expected.

5.   If Patrick does not arrange some more lessons, he will never pass his driving test.

does

Patrick will never pass his driving test_______   some more lessons.

For questions 26-29, read the text below and decide which answer (A, B, C or D) best fits each gap.

There is an example at the beginning (0).

0-     A hope   B-decide   C-want   D-expect

Answer: A

Whatever you (0) ……A…… for from a visit to San Francisco in the USA, you won’t be disappointed. The hills are just as steep as you imagined they would be, and the Golden Gate Bridge is just as spectacular. It’s no (26) ………… then that the city is among the world’s (27) ………… tourist destinations. (28) ………… many people live there, San Francisco (29)………… more like a small town than a city of more than 4 million people.

26  A guess 
      B excuse        C question            D surprise

27  A complete 
B top
            C proper
              D full

28  A Although  B Besides        C Unless
             D Despite

29  A shows 
     B fits               C seems
              D makes

Multiple Choice (cloze)

Following the first activity, each part of Use of English was explained with different activities that can help students to build vocabulary and develop language accuracy.

For the multiple choice (cloze) part of the exam, the following activity was conducted:

  • Teachers were separated into groups of four;
  • Four words were written on the board and each group picked one. The words were either similar in significance or structure, i.e., participles, gerunds, nouns;
  • Then, a sentence had to be created using the word chosen;
  • Points were given according sentence complexity.

Here is an example:

-telling : ‘ There is no telling how she will react.’

-saying: ‘ I was just saying the other day how expensive fish is.’

-talking: ‘ Susan was talking to John when Sue showed up.’

-writing: ‘She made a decent living from writing.’

Advantages:

  • Teachers can get students to understand that this part of the exam requires studying and preparation in parts of language such a: collocations, phrasal verbs and fixed expressions.
  • Teachers can motivate students by doing the activity at different stages of the course, increasing its difficulty, so that students obtain evidence of their own development.
  • Students can practise and perfect an array of expressions they hear in different media platforms.
  • This activity can be adapted for any level of English and be tailored for different types classes, including Business English and private classes.
  • This activity also brought the teachers attentions to what to teach for this part: collocations, phrasal verbs, phrases, expressions and linking words.

Gap filling – Video Activity

As a way of showing us that the Use of English involves a variety of activities, Carol introduced an activity which included a video called “Francis”.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9xX6lQ_gdY

However, there was a sequence of exercises to be done prior to its display in order to give it a context. Before we could watch it, we were given a worksheet with a range of expressions with some gaps to fill in.

_____________________ without

seeing ____________________

____________________ skies

reckless ____________________

____________________ path

break ____________________

drift ____________________

fall into a ____________________

____________________ stretched out

____________________ feverishly

on the verge of ____________________

heavy ____________________

tricked herself into ____________________

____________________ decisions

lower ____________________

frantic ____________________

The idea was to fill in with words/expressions that we found suitable, in order to practise collocations and understand that these can be part of any spoken or written text – a music, a video, a conversation… At the end of the task, Carol showed us the video mentioned above to compare the different examples of collocations.

Word Building

Moving on to another important part of the exam preparation – word formation – , a set of words were displayed in a large piece of paper and put on the floor. All words were taken from a listening exercise, which is a good way of showing to the students that resources can be exploited differently to prepare them for the exam.

pressure relation law high
warm resign advert person
weight instruct special basic
injury word style individual
improve habit help wide
vary medicine analysis life
advice laugh important appreciate
love complain establish health
visit persuade sale free

The activity worked as follows:

  • The group was divided into teams;
  • Each group was assigned with a colour;
  • Teachers had 30 seconds to choose four words from the piece of paper and then one person, from each group, had to go to the paper to circle the words selected;
  • Each group had four post-its, where they had to write three words formed from the main one;
  • As soon as they filled in the post-its, one teacher had to stick them on the board;
  • The first team won the game;
  • Fast-finishers choose another word.

Synonym Snap

The last activity aimed at finding synonyms for different words and expressions. Each group of three was given a set of word/expression cards. We then had to divide the set between the three and play synonym snap – each one had to flip the cards, one at a time, until we found a pair of synonyms. It is important to mention that the expressions were taken from sentence transformation exercises, specifically Advanced level.

Teaching Unplugged by La-Salete Moreira

The following post was written as a summary of the session with the same name which took place at IH Portugal's training day.

The session was delivered by Lee Mackenzie, the DoS from IH Aveiro, and was based on the premise of using the teacher and the student as the source materials for the lesson. This approach focuses entirely on the student and his/her interests, and the teacher’s ability to activate students’ knowledge without following a specific course book or syllabus. The teacher follows the student’s pace and choice of topics and doesn’t impose a pre-determined structure. The aim is, therefore, to encourage conversational communication among the teacher and the students. All language used should be ‘real’ and have a communicative purpose. Consequently, grammar should arise naturally during the lesson and not be the purpose of the lesson.

This approach is based on the “Dogme 95 Manifesto”, a filmmaking movement that started in 1995 by the Danish directors. This movement upholds that the art of filmmaking should exclude the use of elaborate special effects or technology. This philosophy was later adopted by EFL experts turning it into a language teaching methodology. It became known as “Dogme EFL”.

Throughout the whole session, Lee Mackenzie demonstrated this methodology by eliciting opinions and points of view from all the teachers about different topics, most of which were chosen by the teachers.

We enjoyed this session a lot. It was interesting to learn about this methodology and how we can implement it in the classroom. From the students’ point of view, they feel in control of their learning and more motivated. From a teaching perspective, it cuts down on preparation time (which is great!) but it also keeps you alert as you never know what could happen in class. This approach will really keep you on your toes! Like many teachers who attended this session, we believe that it is easier to use Dogme EFL with higher level students and, particularly, in a one-to-one situation.

Furthermore, as teachers, we also face certain constraints that impede using this approach exclusively, one of them being the fact that our students buy expensive course books and expect (or their parents do) them to be used in the lessons, while the choice of topics for discussion is another. Choosing appropriate topics, both in terms of students’ interest, command of the language and age, requires thought and attention in order to avoid using “PARSNIP” themes in our classes.

To sum up, the session was useful to discover and exploit another teaching methodology which is much more than just an open conversation class. It involves a structure that allows students to become independent in their learning and promote their critical thinking.

Interested in knowing more about this topic? How about adding these articles and sites to your reading list?

https://englishagenda.britishcouncil.org/sites/default/files/attachments/20_steps_to_teaching_unplugged.pdf

https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/article/teaching-unplugged

Teaching Unplugged

To speak or not to speak, that is the question by Edite Abrantes

Having engaged students who take part in classroom discussions is the objective of any language teacher, however, improving student participation in our lessons requires much more than time and planning. The way we interact with our students reflects how significant participation is in our classes and inevitably, it affects their attitude and input.

Naturally, the key to having more involved students is creating an environment in which everyone has the opportunity to learn by sharing ideas and exploring different perspectives. While the most enthusiastic students raise their hands, (and voices!), others ponder quietly on the given topic before shyly voicing their opinions. Since, our objective as teachers is to ensure that we create conditions which enable students of various personalities to be dynamic participants in interactive speaking activities; there are some tactics which can be adopted to encourage the quieter students to speak up and not be overwhelmed by their more effusive peers.

One easy strategy, which is frequently overlooked, is the way the classroom is organised. So, bearing in mind the size of the class, try moving the chairs around to form a circle or  a “U”, thus creating an environment in which students are more actively involved in discussions, while allowing you to move around and gently prompt the input of the quieter ones, and control the liveliness of the others.

Next, since participation is a two-way street, why not allocate some responsibility to your students for greater engagement in class discussions? How about asking for their views on what contributes and generates animated yet cohesive “talks”?  Then, and based on their input, come up with a list of “dos and don’ts” which can be put up on the classroom notice board as a reminder of their “commitment” to be more active participants in speaking activities. Not only will it highlight students’ accountability for the success of the set activities, it will also serve to make them more co-operative participants in discussions and speaking tasks.

Moreover, learners’ enthusiasm and involvement can be boosted by eliciting topics from them and arranging activities in which they can play the role of “advisers”, who not only listen to their colleagues’ talk but also give feedback on how they believe the presentation could be improved, bearing in mind items such as organization, the lexical range and the language used. By having students assess and advise their peers on their contributions means that greater attention needs to be paid so that the feedback may be constructive and objective.

If you are preparing a discussion activity, integrate short texts into the lesson plan in order to introduce concepts, clarify doubts and help students understand the subject, include small-group discussions or informal writing assignments before or at the start of the class to prompt students to consider the discussion topic before presenting their views to the whole class. Such steps can be effective in providing shy students with the time and means to think about and develop ideas which they can then use in the class discussion with greater confidence and more readily.

Then, it’s vital that students are given time to think before they answer questions. Do not be afraid of silence and giving students a few seconds to think and formulate a response. If no one volunteers an answer, rephrase your question and prompt some feedback rather than giving in to the temptation of answering your own question. By supplying the answer, students fall into the habit of waiting for the appropriate reply rather than participating and sharing their views, so be patient and do not be afraid of silence.

Additionally, use both verbal and non-verbal cues to encourage inputAvoid relying on the same volunteers to answer your questions. Respond to frequent volunteers in a way that indicates that you appreciate their contribution, but want to hear from others as well. Move around the classroom; smile at and make eye contact with the quieter students to encourage them to speak up. In the same way, when frequent volunteers speak, look around the room, rather than only at them, so as to encourage and motivate everyone to participate. Furthermore, encourage students to respond to one another, rather than merely to you. By making eye contact with other students lets them know that you expect them to be listening and responding aptly to what is being said. Listen fully to your students’ questions and answers and resist the urge to interrupt when you think you know what the student is going to say or ask. Often, such well-meaning interruptions result either in incorrect assumptions or misinterpretation of what the students had planned to say or ask, not to mention the frustration they will feel in seeing their efforts being curbed and cut short!

Make sure you give specific, positive, varied repliesPoint out what is useful or thought-provoking about a student’s response, pick up on comments that were made so further discussion can be carried out and ask follow-up questions to prompt students to clarify and develop their ideas. When a student gives an incorrect answer, reply in a way that encourages the student to think the answer through, and come up with a more appropriate response. Furthermore, highlight students’ ideas whenever you can. Referring back to a comment made by a student earlier in class or in a previous lesson shows that you value what your students have to say. Likewise, avoid using general, standard praise as nothing discourages students more than not being seen as individuals.

Finally, as active student participation does not happen naturally when learning a foreign language, its success depends not only on careful planning and varied approaches, but also on team working and exchanging ideas with other teachers. One way to do so is asking a colleague to observe your class. Frequently, outside observers can recognize patterns that hinder participation, but which may not be apparent to you. Take notes of your peers’ advice so that you have a record of what went well and what you should change in order to improve your students’ participation and heighten their confidence and fluency in the use of the language they are learning. After all “Teaching is a strategic act of engagement”. – James Bellanca

The AMT Experience: B“log” entry 3

“Positively charged “ defines the ambience which transpired throughout the third and last day of the conference. The first speaker set the tone for the rest of the day’s events with much laughter at his seemingly trivial anecdotes which made us reflect on how fixated we tend to be on academic success and rather forgetful about other equally important aspects.  Thus, we were reminded of the significant qualities such as resilience, effort and perseverance in achieving goals, the ability to interact and build relationships and curiosity have on increasing students’ motivation to succeed both educationally as well as socially. Furthermore, the role we teachers play in generating and implementing positive emotions in our classrooms was pointed out as being crucial for eliciting interest, pride, hope, joy and gratitude so that  our students  can develop constructive life skills and flourish as individuals.

Being amusement the most contagious emotion of all, many were the laughs and chuckles at the idea that we needed to be more “permalicious” in our schools, creating a more cheerful  working environment where communication, trust and optimism are the cornerstones of a thriving school. As homework is synonymous with teaching, we too, were set a homework task to ensure the above-mentioned items go beyond the theory and are actually executed.

Right after lunch, we were encouraged to “eat that frog first” in order to achieve better time management skills and become more productive. Naturally, having tailor-made, ready-to –use templates for our varied professional tasks, save us time so we can sit back and enjoy a “cuppa” at the end of the day. Yet, before we could do so, we were introduced to three distinct approaches to teacher development. While the first focused on the systems which have been adopted to allow novice teachers to develop without neglecting the training needs of more experienced ones, the second underlined the problems Academic Managers face in dealing with the “dinosaurs in the staffroom” and how they can be incited out of their comfort zones to adapt new teaching techniques and given the appropriate support to avoid further  hibernation, the last, presented by our own Sandra Luna, had us looking in the mirror and questioning whether  we can reach all teachers through carefully developed teacher training programmes.

As much as I’d like to invite you to read the next entry in this experience, or sit back and watch another episode of “Star Wars”… this is the last B”log” post about the AMT’s uplifting and enriching sessions… but my “WOOP” is to keep you posted on the events and advances in Teacher Training at IH Porto.

For now, here are some reading suggestions about some of the above-mentioned topics:

https://medium.com/@torbjorn/permalicious-b142a7976c5b#.vemrksvko

http://www.briantracy.com/blog/time-management/the-trut

h-about-frogs/

https://characterlab.org/goal-setting

The AMT Experience: B “log” entry 2

 

sums up the main focus of today’s conference talks, focusing not only on how students with SLD (Specific Learning Difficulties) adjust to the challenges of having learning differences by adopting strategies which facilitate coping with the demands of school, but also on the role teachers play in making the students’ voyage on “HMS Schooling” smoother by being mindful educators who are engaged in implementing good practices in our classrooms.  After all, isn’t reaching out to every student our objective as teachers?

Furthermore, harnessing the winds of change will result in a greater awareness of what high quality teaching can represent for 21st century students who need to globalize their learning experience so as to become fluent bilingual or multilingual speakers, who are the helm of their academic and professional development and appreciate the linguistic and cultural variety garnered from having both native as well as non-native language teachers.

Bearing in mind the split between the vocabulary students understand, and the words they use when communicating in English, the afternoon sessions covered the implications such a divide may have on students’ progress and put forward activities and techniques which aim to overcome this differentiation.

Moreover, planning flexible lessons which take into consideration the unexpected language which emerges during a lesson was highlighted as a means of maximizing the learners’ communication opportunities. On the other hand, by being active listeners to their students’ exchanges, teachers can optimize the emerging language to broaden their lessons so as to incorporate it in their teaching approach and promote greater interaction among students.

We all know teaching isn’t “all fun and games”, so set the record straight the distinction between fun and enjoyable classroom activities was addressed in the last session for today. Focusing on the positive effects learning through fun can have on students, such as building confidence and motivation, engaging students to be concentrated on the task on hand and being more constructive and cooperative, we looked at ways of converting potentially “boring” activities into fun tasks.

Finally, today’s “agenda” ended on a fun note, providing teachers the opportunity to mix and mingle, show off their ability to work as a team, and “cheat” in quizzes so as to win the much coveted trophy, and awe colleagues with their singing and dancing skills. As “time flies when you’re having fun “ the coach had long turned into a pumpkin when everyone turned in.

Signed off at 2.59.

Sign in tomorrow for b”log” entry 3.

#IHConfAMT

The AMT Experience: B “log” entry 1 by Edite Abrantes

“Make hay while the sun shines”… the sun did shine in charming Greenwich as if to say “Welcome to IHWO AMT Conference” and a warm welcome it was indeed. Meeting up with old friends and making new ones amidst learning novel approaches to teacher development, assessment techniques, navigating the students towards excellence in the IELTS exam, reviewing blended learning approaches and much more, the first day proved to be a professionally enriching experience which deserves to be recorded for future reference.

The day’s work started with an animated and live recorded video message wishing IHWO’s COO, Lucy Horsefield, a speedy recovery from her bout of tonsillitis. Just what the doctor ordered…actually it was what Monica Green, IHWO’s CEO ordered, but who’s concerned with semantics when it’s the thought that counts?! In true IHWO team spirit, Monica stepped in to cover for Lucy and addressed the significance of preparing students for jobs that are yet to be invented and the impactful mission IH schools have in assisting language learners in achieving their goals. After all, with 76 schools spread over 33 countries, why would students go elsewhere to learn a foreign language? Moreover, the array of Teacher Training opportunities, the concern for the younger students’ wellbeing and safety, the focus on providing a meaningful Customer Experience and the involvement in charitable projects such as those proposed by the newly set up International House World Foundation ensure that being part of the IHWO team is more than just a job but a way of “Succeeding Together”!

The underlying theme in the morning sessions was that of being bold in our exam preparation methods so that we can harness the ability modern “screenage” students have for multitasking and using it to develop their competence in the use of a foreign language, while circumventing the pitfalls of merging to need to teach with that of assessing, testing and preparing students for internationally recognised exams such as those of Cambridge University or Trinity College.

In the afternoon, the attention was mainly on sharing teaching practices which promote Teacher Professional Development, be them through informal meetings which result in greater self-reflection regarding strengths and areas to build on, drop-in observations that raise teachers’ awareness to the fact that teaching is a continuous act of learning and improving and the manner in which role-playing can be an effective developmental tool.

Signed off at 23.51.

Sign in tomorrow for b”log” entry 2.

#IHConfAMT

Guidelines on managing challenging students by Edite Abrantes

We all know that encouragement and good rapport do much more for a positive classroom environment than reprimands and scolding. After all, the aim is to help students enjoy the lessons, feel good about being there and consequently adopt less disruptive behaviour in the classroom.

Unavoidably, though, students misbehave, are mischievous and even troublesome at times. When they do, don’t rush into rebuking and giving extra homework as punishment, count to ten and bear the following pieces of advice in mind:

  • Take a deep breath and do your best to remain calm.

It’s natural to become frustrated, stressed and angry over irreverent students who simply “ignore” your requests to behave and do their work. However, such feelings affect your rational and inevitably your agitation shows and becomes contagious. So, take a deep breath, or several if you must, try to remain calm and collected and think before responding. Remember, students look up to you, so try to adopt an assertive posture, model an appropriate, exemplary response which clearly indicates that you care about them and their problems. However, where warnings are necessary, state them clearly and quietly so as to avoid disrupting the class.

  • Treat allstudents respectfully and amicably. 

Be consistent in what you let students say and do and be careful not to favor certain students. Avoid labeling students as “good” or “bad.” Instead describe their behavior as “positive,” “acceptable,” “disruptive,” or “unacceptable.” Moreover, give the unruly student a chance to respond politely by explaining not only what he or she is doing wrong, but also what he or she can do to correct it. In addition, seat the student near to you so a glance or a hand on his or her shoulder will let the student know he or she is stepping the line.

Don’t forget to promote the students’ self-worth by praising them often but sincerely. When it’s necessary to speak to a student about his or her behavior, try to do so in private; especially when teaching teenagers who must “show off” to their peers. Publicly lecturing them may trigger exaggerated, face-saving performances which can snow ball into unmanageable situations.

  • Set the example.

Are you as respectful of your students’ feelings as you want them to be of yours and their peers? Are you as organized and on-task as you tell them to be? Are your classroom rules and consequences clear and easy for students to follow?  Be firm and consistent about your rules, and express displeasure with the students’ behavior without criticizing them. Model the behaviour you expect from your students so they can have a reference and an example to follow.

  • Be an active listener and observer.

Try to understand where the “odd” behavior is coming from. Is the student distressed by a personal situation such as the parents’ divorce, new baby in the family, learning difficulties in other subjects or in a particular area of the syllabus, or some other daunting experience? Speaking to the student’s parents may shed light on the crux of the problem and help you develop a closer rapport with the student through understanding and sympathy. Whenever possible, make the time to speak to challenging students privately and show your concern for them.

  • Be realistic.

Sometimes, despite our best intentions and efforts, we find ourselves unable to get across to one of the students in our class. The student may be rude, disruptive, or plain annoying. Remember, it’s human nature and some personalities clash. But instead of feeling guilty about being unable to manage the situation better,  take positive steps to minimize disruptions and handle them as best as you can for …

CEFR Illustrative Descriptors – Proposed extended version

The Education Department from the Council of Europe is asking teachers to take part in a survey on a new extended version of the CEFR illustrative descriptors.

The CEFR was officially published in 2001 and has since become one of the most popular Council of Europe policy tools. The new version has been extended in two ways.

1.updating and filling gaps in the 2001scales
2.creating new scales for mediation (plus online interaction, reactions to literature, and exploitation of plurilingualand pluricultural repertoires).
Teachers are invited to give overall feedback, and even suggest or comment on the descriptors.
You can read more about the questionnaire here.
To take the English version of the survey, click here.
To take the French version of the survey, click here.
IHLanguageRainbow

Talking about Games by Sandra Simões

We all know that games are very useful to teach a foreign language. As teachers we have already experienced that using games in the classroom makes students feel more motivated to learn as well as providing a non-threatening environment. Moreover, games are a tool to promote cooperation amongst learners allowing them to reinforce their knowledge and articulate their skills. That is to say that, playing a game makes students speak, listen, read and often write in English in a way that they do not associate to “learning in the classroom” so this will also allow the teacher to assess their strengths and weaknesses more effectively.

Therefore, if we are used to using games like Scrabble, Tic, Tac,Toe, crosswords, Hangman, and so on, why not use computer games? According to Dr. Patrick Felicia, lecturer and researcher from the Department of Computer Science, Waterford Institute of Technology, in Ireland, “digital games were associated with many stereotypes and alleged to have negative effects on gamers’ physical and mental health. However, later studies have shown (…), if good gaming habits are followed (eg. appropriate time, environment, moderation of online games, etc.) they can be considered a safe and fulfilling activity.” Computer games, can be therefore a very useful and powerful learning tool.

There are a lot of games that can be used in class and to start I usually use the ones that everybody knows in order to make it easy. In fact, to prepare a lesson based on a gaming activity may not be very simple at first because there is a lot to bear in mind and to research when you are not a gamer (which is my case!).

Here are some suggestions that I found very useful:

  • Start with something that you know or that you find easy to use for example “Snakes and Ladders which is a traditional and widely known game that you can adapt to almost every topic that you teach. If you don’t find a suitable version you can always make your own game or even better, you can plan a lesson for your students to make it. Go to La Vouivre and download the free software. After that you just have to fill it in with the questions you want and the possible answers for each question. If you decide to make your students participate in making the game, you can divide the class into groups and each group is responsible for a different topic. While they are asking and answering the questions, they are consolidating what they have learnt.
  • If you have the chance to use consoles, you can use some movement games like “Just dance” or “Wii sports resort” and once again you use groups to play in turns and the other groups have to watch and take notes of what is done during the game playing. After that you can deepen the topics of sports, music, healthy habits, food and drink, daily routines, etc.
  • If you don´t have consoles or computers available you can use the student’s smartphones and make them download applications like Duolingo, Fluent U, Bravolol or Mindsnacks.
  • If you can use a classroom computer, try to plan a lesson using Minecraft. Go to Minecraft Education (it is free now) and plan a lesson according to your students’ needs and level. You can always make a plan that makes your students follow your directions in order to build a village in the game.
  • If you are a fan of simulations you can use Slim city and make your students describe their world or use the game as motivation for a creative writing activity.
  • With young learners, Class dojo works very well and although it is not only a game, kids usually see it like that and like to use it. Class dojo also allows you to work with parents and share with them what is done in class.

Hope these suggestions make your teaching much more interesting not only for your students but for you, also! Don´t forget you must know the game before you use it so if you want to try it but you have never played it before, you must do so first.

To sum up, games are in fact very useful but you also have to be aware of their age and language suitability. Some might be appropriate for all ages but others might not, so if you are not sure about it go to pegi.info/en/ and search the game you want to use to check if it is the right one to use in your classroom.

Here are some links, in case you want to learn more:

http://www.europeanschoolnetacademy.eu/web/games-in-schools-3rd-round/reto

http://games.eun.org/2009/09/teachers_handbook_on_how_to_us_1.html#more

https://www.nfer.ac.uk/publications/FUTL25/FUTL25_home.cfm

https://www.classdojo.com/pt-pt/?redirect=true

https://education.minecraft.net/

Happy playing, I mean, teaching!

IHLanguageRainbow