Monthly Archives: October 2014

Games in the Language Classroom – #eltchinwag summary – 6/10/14

An #eltchinwag summary written by Lou McLaughlin (DELTA, MA(ELT), PhD 


Lou McLaughlin

Lou has been working in the ELT sector as a teacher trainer, DOS and Director for nearly twenty years. She has worked abroad in Turkey, Spain, Italy, Russia, Kazakhstan and China in the ELT sector. Her main interest areas are teacher cognition, young learner teaching/ training and management as well as online training. Lou is a frequent speaker at international conferences e.g. TESOL, IATEFL. She is the network coordinator for the IATEFL YLTSIG and is also the president of ELT Ireland.

Classroom Games for the ELT Classroom

There were plenty of “fun and games” during this #eltchinwag with lots of good ideas being examined and discussed. Before we got to the meaty part of the games themselves, we looked at a few other questions in relation to the use of games in the ELT classroom:

How do you define “games” in education?

There were a number of takes on this but they all made reference to the same elements of fun, learner engagement and a degree of competition. The definition was expanded to include the practice and recycling of language.

The notion of “competition” was discussed and @ChristineMulla explained that the competitive drive allowed her students to forget about the “learning” for a while. @EdLaur questioned whether the competition element was always essential and many (@LahiffP, @McLaughlinLou, @KateLloyod05) agreed that this was not the case. @Lahiff P pointed out that songs, chants and roleplays are not competitive but can still be seen as games. It was agreed that the introduction and set up of the activity for the learners often determines whether something is a game or not.

@Sarahdeteechur talked about using #gamification in her classes and explained that she “turned the class into a game with levels, points, badges, etc.”. @LahiffP developed on the idea of #gamification telling us of a TEFL talk with Jane McGonigal on how gamification could save the world.

Are games helpful for adults as well as for YLs?

An interesting point was raised in connection to adults having games in the classroom:

  • @EdLaur: “My last school told us never say games with the adult Ss, they might think lessons too frivolous. Ss of all ages LOVED games”.
  • @McLaughlinLou: “Strange how this still happens…adults can normally see the purpose behind it and get on board”.

This is something which still happens in many private language schools. However, @ChristineMulla made a good point, indicating that if the connection between learning is shown/seen/understood then majority of adults will have no issue with this. @McLaughlinLou pointed out that although this was true, it could vary between cultures with some more willing than others to take part. @ChristineMulla gave the example of “Chinese Ss who worked well in teams, but wouldn’t try beat each other 4 fear of taking face”. @Sarahdateechur and @McLaughlinLou had come across this before and felt that, depending on circumstances, games had to be modified.

With all of this in mind, the #eltchinwaggers felt that games were helpful for all, both adults and YLs. @LahiffP: it has helped with the level of engagement, focus, and collab.

What is the difference, if any, between a game used with adults and one with YLs?

This question sparked plenty of discussion and it was felt that the following areas would be approached differently by the teacher depending on whether they were introducing the game to adults or YLs in the classroom:

  • Types of games: This can vary across cultures with some games not travelling between countries e.g. snap (@KateLloyd05), Xs & Os (@ChristineMulla). However, most adult students have had previous exposure to games, moreso than YLs.
  • Timing of games: Although YLs can become fixated on a game, it often has to be something which is short due to attention span limitations.
  • Instructions: These should be clear for all but YLs may also need an actual demonstration to ensure complete understanding due to language limitations.
  • Degree of complexity: This relates to focusing on all of the skills and abilities. Very young learners are still developing both physical and cognitive skills and, as such, may be hindered in this regard.
  • Classroom Management: In general adults know how to “play together” whereas YLs are often still in the process of working this out and need supervision.

Everyone agreed that all students, whether adults or YLs, do enjoy the competitive element of a game!

Are there specific times for games during lessons?

@MicaelaCarey: A warmer game is always a good idea. @KateLloyd05: Starts lessons on a high. @KateLloyd05: beginning, middle and end! @ChristineMulla: nice to open and close with!

The general consensus here was that games are a nice introduction to the lesson but that they can be used at any stage as long as the learners are engaged. The idea of being confident with new games also came up during this discussion. @EdLaur: The key to success is to feel confident/comfortable with whatever you plan on trying out. @McLaughlinLou pointed out that it was “also worth being prepared for the first time to be a little shaky…second time will improve”.

Ideas for games in the classroom

As expected there were many ideas for using games in the ELT classroom but as was pointed out, those with less preparation and material were the best:

@EdLaur: I got very sick of games from books, cutting strips of paper up, etc. I need a bank of spontaneous, minimum prep games.

The following list are all games which can be prepared quickly and easily and as @MichaelaCarey point out “Quick, easy to do and takes very little time out of rest of class – nice for revision”

  • Hangman
  • Board games
  • Card games e.g. bingo cards
  • Quizzes e.g. Kahoot
  • Games on IWB g.@ESLGamesPlus has pre-built interactive games for different levels
  • Improvisation / Drama warm ups
  • Sound maze for pronunciation
  • Vocabulary cards e.g. teacher/students describe a word, first team to guess correctly win the card, most cards win
  • Taboo
  • Talk show / Press conference
  • Making words with bodies (from vocab)
  • Board races / Running dictations
  • Roleplays e.g. Oscar nominations
  • Just a minute (radio game)


Thanks to everyone who took part in this #eltchinwag. Looking forward to seeing you all at the next one on Monday 20th October at 8.30pm GMT+1