Games in the Classroom – pro or con?
By Mark Hershey
Mark Hershey has lived and taught in Asia for over a dozen years and is currently teaching in Vietnam. He has a Master’s Degree in TEFL and is especially interested in theories of learning.
One of the first workshops I attended in language teaching could easily have been called “Language Teaching Through Games.” Or perhaps, “Games!!!…..and a bit of language learning to boot!” Every activity involved a competition of some kind – a race to the board, a puzzle to solve in the fastest time, a slapping of hands so quickly on the table all I saw was a blur of flesh. Shortly after this workshop I came across a fascinating book by Guy Cook titled “Language Learning, Language Play.” Cook’s definition of play went far beyond competitive games but the themes in the book touched on similar underlying themes of that workshop: games were fundamental to the human condition as all cultures engaged in some form of game playing. Much of the maturation process of the child is sparked and mediated through role playing games. Therefore, it would be quite odd to suggest that game playing and classroom learning remain in separate spheres.
On the other hand, game playing in the classroom has its detractors. Some critics, for example, have wondered if slower learners have more to lose than gain by competitive game playing. But rather than exhaustively limn both sides of this debate, I thought it would be more interesting to hear from the teachers on our blog.
What’s your view of game playing in the classroom? To what extent do you think it is essential to or a distraction from learning? Are there types of games that are conducive to learning and other types that hinder the learning process? Do all students benefit equally from game playing? Are there contexts or periods of time or amounts of time spent playing that restrict your own use of games?
Please respond to one or more of these queries in the comments section below.