Online games as a tool for ESL teaching

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Almost every student loves playing games, and when games are integrated with learning – learning becomes all the more pleasurable. Trainee or novice ESL teachers would be well advised to familiarize themselves with a handful of game sites which can be used to stimulate learning or to act as lesson fillers.

If the novice ESL teacher is having difficulty in deciding what games to play, here are just five of the numerous online ESL game sites that might be worth visiting:

GameZone at http://www.english-online.org.uk/games/gamezone2.htm is a British English site that contains numerous grammar, spelling, and vocabulary games that cover all the CEFR levels.

Vocabulary.co.il at http://www.vocabulary.co.il/english-language-games/ is a vocabulary and games site that covers all age groups from elementary to high school: this site is appropriate both for native speakers and ESL students.

ESL fun games online at http://www.eslgamesworld.com/members/games/index.html is a site that is appropriate for all ages, and printable games can be downloaded for classroom use. The site provides games for spelling, vocabulary, and grammar ESL activities.

Dora’s Alphabet Forest Adventure at http://www.nickjr.co.uk/ is an entertaining site for introducing pre-school children to the basics of the English alphabet: it is appropriate for both native speakers and ESL students.

Vocabulary at Manythings.org at http://www.manythings.org/vocabulary/ is primarily concerned with vocabulary building and is most appropriate for adult ESL students and those ESL students who are at or above the B2 level of the CEFR. Although some of the old favourites such as the word scrambles and hangman are used, some of these games will present a challenge for your ESL students. Once the game has been chosen, it should be borne in mind that the computer/laptop should be connected to a large screen so that all the class can comfortably participate in the game.

The novice ESL teacher should also make it a rule to always play the game BEFORE playing it with the students and the choice of the game should be relevant to the work currently being done in class, for example: if the students are doing a lesson about people’s occupations, a game could be played that tests the students’ occupations’ vocabulary. As the game will be played on a large screen, the ESL teacher should be the only person keying in information into the computer: don’t let the students do it. Finally, for an added bit of fun – divide the class into two or three teams. The novice teacher should be prepared for some disruptive behaviour, whether intentional or coincidental, whenever games are played in the class; consequently, you should not get over-anxious if at times you lose control of the class during the course of the lesson. However, you should never simply give up control to the students.

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