Adapting Board Games for Language Practice: A Workshop
Margaret Orleans (Seinan Jo Gakuin University)
Kitakyushu JALT, January 14, 2012
Following the advice of Guy Cook (1997) that students should be playing with their new language right from the start, Orleans gave us, and got us to think of, ideas of how to facilitate enjoyable repetition of useful vocabulary and grammatical structures, enhance awareness of lexical rules (and the extent to which they can be bent and broken) and ensure student investment through personalization of the target language. From her large collection of commercial board games, Orleans started with the popular Clue, eliciting opinions on its usefulness in the language classroom and how it might be adapted for specific teaching objectives. A principle recommendation was to have students devise their own materials as much as possible to encourage interest and ensure the level is appropriate. Other considerations are amount of exposure to language coupled with extent of encouragement of competition and argument to get the spoken language out.
Following this, in pairs and threes we learned new games and devised possible adaptations to share and discuss with the total group, then received printouts of rules for several more. On the whiteboard, Orleans illustrated examples of how she had stimulated her students’ creative writing by exploiting various board game materials.
Reports of our meetings. Click on a month to see details.
Adapting Board Games for Language Practice: A Workshop
Andy Boon started by defining motivation and then got us into groups to brainstorm and pool ideas about why Japanese learners may not be motivated to study English, which he then commented and expanded upon. He showed us Maslow’s hierarchal diagram of student needs, followed by Dornyei’s motivational teaching practice model, to introduce some of his ideas for animating classes under the following headings: Breaking the ice, Nurturing group cohesion, Creative use of classroom space, Making it relevant, Novel uses of traditional ideas, Creative use of classroom materials and Encouraging self-reflection. After this abundance of techniques and ideas for drawing students into interested participation in their language learning, Boon asked us to share techniques we had seen or used to generate and maintain motivation and then encourage positive retrospective self-evaluation.
As a student of library science working on his second distance degree, Hicks is well-placed to advise regarding the improving access to research materials for English speakers in Japan. He introduced four sources of materials: academic libraries, subscription databases, personal research budgets and free online resources. He recommended considering the research community that will be using the journals that you subscribe to with your research budget and balancing the content
Japanese academic libraries are well-resourced by international standards and tend to contain about 25-30% English materials. He walked us through filtering information to get the most from online public access catalogs (OPAC), by using links to publishers’ webpages for better indexing.
Hicks also pointed out that the English language pages of government websites are not translations of the originals but actually separate and considerably skimpier versions-- so it is more useful to translate the original with free tools such as Google Chrome.
You can sometimes access institutional subscription databases and print out what you need if you are physically present in the library. You can also carry out more fruitful searches by ignoring the results list and going instead to the list on the left which provides more helpful links and search terms.
Charles Ashley reviewed the history of error correction and reported on his experience with a workbook to correct common errors, concluding that his students’ level was too low for them to recognize the errors and that teachers must be aware of the Been Here Too Long syndrome, in which they no longer recognize some errors.
Ai Murphy talked about the brain theory behind anger management and how it leads to better learning for our students and children.
Paul Collett outlined three student approaches to learning--mastery, performance, and performance avoidance—and detailed their implications for the classroom. He emphasized the need to teach students goal-setting through modeling and scaffolding.
Matthew Jenkins introduced three quick activities that can be adapted for students of all ages—the Janken Bon Voyage Mixer, the Vocabunator, and Hot Potatoes quizzes.
Margaret Orleans explained how she tries to create an English atmosphere in her classrooms with bulletin boards, computer games, and displays of student work.
Robert Murphy unveiled his formula for creating champion students—a mix of emotion, curiosity, empowerment through choice, and adequate sleep.
Steven Herder describes his epiphany after many years of classroom EFL teaching when he took an MA course in the subject as, having dutifully followed the Presentation, Practice, Production (PPP) module for all those years, realizing that his students were simply “doing anything to get out of the classroom” and he needed to change that. Herder points out that “input can be controlled but output cannot be put in a can”—and that successful language learning first focuses on fluency, then accuracy and complexity (like kids do). Writing has an advantage over speaking in the luxury of time to work out how best to express what you want to say.
To this end, the first activity in his classes (duplicated in this presentation) is ten minutes of free writing—No dictionary, eraser, stopping or talking, with follow-up activities such as counting adjectives, words in the past tense or words using time-- and then putting them together in a scale. (Some classes double their average total word count over one year in this not particularly academically outstanding high school.) Herder then went on to describe a variety of innovative exercises which made a good personal introduction to his inspiring website: http://stevenherder.org
Rod Ellis reminded us that the main goal of second language instruction is to develop implicit knowledge-- because without it, you’re a lousy communicator. Implicit language learning occurs without intentionality, without awareness (beyond the level of noticing) of what has been learned—or that it has been learned, or how. This is how children learn their first language and their caregivers/ language teachers are providing all the input they need—without explicitly teaching them anything. (That comes later, in school, when they intentionally, consciously, explicitly try to help students become aware of the rules of grammar they have intuitively learned.)
Ellis encouraged us to consider the extent it is possible to facilitate the (essential) implicit understanding of a second or foreign language and its relationship with explicit instruction. He feels that confidence in communicating comes from building up implicit knowledge and that the lack of access to it by adult learners outside the classroom must be offset by appropriate exposure to it inside, with students discovering implicit rules for themselves. With a combination of presentation and discussion, Ellis guided us from awareness-raising through brainstorming of ways to facilitate that, which went way late and spilled over into a nearby café.
In a day so packed with presentations and discussions that attendees had to take notes while eating, but were fueled with Turkish coffee and cookies, about fifty people explored the implications of brain research for the EFL classroom. Robert S. Murphy began by comparing neurons to the reproductive system, in that excitation has to happen for transfer (of information) to take place. Students’ emotions have to be engaged, as in the scene from Dirty Harry curiosity had to be satisfied. Curtis Kelly followed up with an explanation of how to create a rewarding dopamine rush for students. Christopher Stillwell led an activity that simulated a cocktail party to help students realize how successful their listening can be even when they don’t understand 100% of the material. Marc Helgesen recapped the elements of happiness--which has more to do with people’s attitudes toward life than with the number of happy events in their lives--and showed how it enhances learning. Tim Murphey introduced the notion of mirror neurons, which are responsible for altruistic behavior, and screened a very moving appeal by his students to the Ministry of Education to improve the teaching of English. Hayato Mine and Suguru Goto explained a system of communication using pictures that is helpful for disabled children and those on the autism spectrum. Group discussions led by the presenters and sprinkled throughout the day helped attendees consolidate what they had learned and apply it to their own teaching situations.
Michael Philips gave us a zany and fun glimpse into the principles of test construction (and an invitation to see it again in its entirety online at http://prezi.com/zx8dwynovou3/testing-times-ensuring-success/), insisting we anticipate answers for our as-yet un-posed questions, in groups, in a quite effective way of teasing out the knowledge we might have about the subject—such as, how and to what extent diagnostic, summative and formative assessment impact learning--and to mull over the overlapping meanings and relative importance of Evaluation, Measurement and Testing. He ran us through types and purposes of tests, pointing out that while certain high-stakes tests may rate someone as having a high level of achievement, that score does not necessarily translate into real-world fluency. Washback, which is the students’ attitudinal reactions to testing, is a big obstacle to reliability (the replicability of testing results). For him, the most interesting part of the testing cycle is testing for learning, rather than learning for testing. Philips finished up with a great little video reminder of what teaching and learning should feel like.
Thomas Robb started his reading program at Kyoto Sangyo University in 1988 with popular foreign English youth literature, having students write summaries @ 1 notebook page per 40 pages read. However, syntax, vocabulary and slang in children’s books are often beyond the ability level of EFL readers, thus failing to stimulate interest in recreational English reading. And summaries may be more challenging and daunting than quizzes. Next was Accelerated Readers and in 2007 Version 1 of Moodle Reader was developed-- and implemented into the English Department in 2008.
Students have other priorities for their time, so reading quickly is good-- with less down time for dictionary searches, so they read more and get more exposure to lexis and syntax. Starting at a lower and more accessible level helps break the translation habit while, hopefully, maintaining interest. However, the bottom line is that if there is no way to check, many students will not do it. The MoodleReader quiz program lets students complete quizzes, and teachers check them, online free of charge. Each student has a personal page on the website that records their progress in books and number of words read.
Robb finished off by walking us through the simple processes for implementing this excellent tool into a school curriculum.
In true Dogme fashion, rather than telling us what the approach is about, Sakamoto had us co-construct a definition by sharing in groups what we already knew about it and formulating questions to ask her. We came to the conclusion that Dogme teaching is conversation-driven, materials-light and focused on emergent language. We then did a typical group conversation activity (answering three questions about our names) while also taking notes on useful vocabulary and patterns that emerged. In order to give students an opportunity to practice the language in a subsequent lesson, we designed student-centered tasks. Finally we discussed possible roadblocks to Dogme (which was adapted for European language teaching from a Danish film movement) in the Japanese environment and how to deal with them.
Links to more Dogme ELT resources can be found at http://teachingvillage.wikispaces.com
Because our October meeting will be a PechaKucha Night, we also enjoyed a brief explanation and demonstration of PechaKucha by Jose Cruz.
(Reported by Margaret Orleans)