The use of games to teach grammar interactively
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The use of games to teach grammar interactively










The advantages of using games 6

Integrating games into the syllabus 7

The preparation of the game 8

Organisation of the game 9

Teacher’s language 10


Group 1 Competitive games 16

Group 2 Cognitive games (Silent Way) 17

Group 3 Feelings and grammar 18

Group 4 Listening to people (Grammar in a councelling fame) 18

Group 5 Movement and grammar 19

Group 6 Problem solving 19




After several years in the wilderness grammar has been the subject of a renewal of interest in the last decade (Woods 1995:1).

In order to understand a language and to express oneself correctly one must assimilate the grammar mechanism of the language studied. Consequently, if a learner has acquired such a mechanism, he/she can produce correct sentences in a foreign language. Therefore, a command of English as is envisaged by the school syllabus cannot be ensured without the study of grammar, as pupils need it to be able to aud, speak, read, and write in the target language (Rogova 1975:134-135).

The term ‘grammar’ can be defined in a number of different ways, because different people mark different parameters. Looking at what some of the language teachers and grammarians say we can still find problems in setting the parameters in linguistic terms. At times it can be included into any aspect of language analysis, including morphology, phonology, discourse analysis, pragmatics. All of these have come under the umbrella of ‘grammar’ at one time or another (Woods 1995:2).

Leech sees grammar as a central component ‘which relates phonology and semantics, or sound and meaning. Another grammarian Huddleston says ‘the two most basic units of grammar are the word and the sentence, one subcomponent of grammar, called morphology, deals with the forms of words, while the other, called syntax, deals with the way words combine to form sentences.’ (ibid:3). Ur (1997,87) says that grammar is a set of rules that define how words (or bits of words) are combined or changed to form acceptable units of meaning within a language. Harmer’s view is that ‘the grammar of a language is what happens to words when they become plural or negative, or what order is used when we make questions or join two clauses to make one sentence.’ (Woods 1995:4).

What we, teachers, need is the simplest and shortest grammar that meets the requirements of the school syllabus in foreign languages. This grammar must be simple enough to be grasped and held by any pupil (Rogova 1975:135).

So, from the learner’s perspective, the ability both to recognise and to produce well-formed sentences is an essential part of learning a second language (Thornbury 2000:3).

However, there is more to language learning than the ability to produce well-formed sentences because grammar does not only affect how units of language are combined to make correct sentences but also affects their meaning (Ur 1997:76). Grammar communicates meanings of a very precise kind as it is a process for making a speaker’s or writer’s meaning clear when contextual information is lacking (Thornbury 2000:3).

There are at least two kinds of meaning and these reflect the two main purposes of language. The first is to represent the world as we experience it, and the second is to influence how things happen in the world, specifically in our relations with other people. These purposes are called,
respectively, language’s representational and its interpersonal functions (ibid:5).

These grammatical categories – subjects, objects, verbs, adverbials, tense aspect and modality – are just some of the ways in which grammar is used to fine-tune the meanings we wish to express, and for which words on their own are barely adequate. It follows then that in learning a new language learners need to see how the forms of the language match the range of meanings – both representational and interpersonal – that they need to express and understand (ibid:6).

The place of grammar in the teaching of foreign languages is controversial. Most people agree that knowledge of a language means, among other things, knowing its grammar; but this knowledge may be intuitive (as it is in our native language), and it is not necessarily that grammatical structures need to be taught as such, or that formal rules need to be learned (Ur 1997:76). Some people felt that instead of teaching grammar, teachers should teach functions (Harmer 1991:4).

However, in order to perform those functions students have to know grammar. That is why modern courses often teach a grammatical structure and then get students to use it as part of a functional conversation.

So, teaching grammar should enable students to assimilate the ways of fitting words together to form sentences while hearing and reading, to reproduce phrases and sentences stored up in their memory and say or write sentences of their own, using grammar items appropriate to the situation (Rogova 1975:138).

To achieve this teachers have to help students make the ‘leap’ from form-focussed accuracy work to fluent, but acceptable production, by providing a variety of practice activities that familiarize them with the structures in context, giving practice both in form and communicative meaning (Ur 1997:83). That is why teachers use different kinds of methodology and technique. One of the methods used in teaching is communicative approach, as the main effects of it has been the realisation that just getting students to perform drills or engage in controlled practise may be not enough to help them to stand on their own feet as users of English (Hammer 1991:5). Other types of activity are needed where students can talk (or write) freely and use all or any of the language that they know. One kind of such activities is a game.

The aim of this paper is to show the importance of using games in language teaching with a special emphasis on presenting groups of grammar games with examples.


Games are not the same as other communicative activities in the EFL classroom. The main difference between games and other activities is that games have a visible set of rules which guide the children’s actions, and an element of strategy – children must successfully apply their language (and other) skills (Lewis and Bedson 2002:5).

Gibbs gives the definition of a game saying that it is ‘an activity carried out by cooperating or competing decision-makers, seeking to achieve, within a set of rules, their objectives’, and divides games into two groups:

1) competitive games, in which players or teams race to be the first to reach the goal;

2) co-operative games, in which players or teams work together towards a common goal (Rixon 1981:3).

A few more grammarians and language teachers divide games the same way as Gibbs dose. However, others divide them applying different criteria and thus make different classifications.

Whatever the classification the aim of all games is to get students talking to one another rather than always addressing their remarks to the teacher or having him mediate what they say to one another. (Rixon 1981:5)

The advantages of using games

The pedagogical value of games at all levels has been well documented (Lewis and Bedson 2002: 5).

First of all, a language in games is learnt by using it – and this means using it in situations and communicatively because games provide a context in which the language is embedded. This context is ‘authentic’ in the sense that the game creates its own world: for the duration of the game, it replaces external reality (ibid:1). Thus, it is the context in which the language is useful and meaningful.

‘Meaningfulness’ is that the learners respond to the content in a definite way If they are amused, angered, challenged, intriqued or surprised the content is clearly meaningful to them. This way the meaning of the language they listen to, read, speak and write will be more vividly expressed and, therefore, better remembered (Wright et al 1991:1).

Then, language games are a healthy challenge to a child’s analytical thought, because children are required to make decisions and individual choices, based on specific language criteria which form part of rules of the game (Lewis and Bedson 2002:6).

Further more, language learning is hard work which requires one to make an effort to understand, to repeat accurately, to manipulate newly understood language and to use the whole range of known language in conversation or written composition. Effort is required at every moment and must be maintained over a long period of time, and games help and encourage many learners to sustain their interest and work (Wright

Moreover, learners want to take part for the fun and challenge provided by games, and in order to do so they must understand what others are saying or have written, and they must speak or write in order to express their own point of view or give information. Thus their motivation for learning is increased (ibid.).

What is more, by making the language convey information and opinion, games provide the key feature of ‘drill’ – the concentration on a language form and its frequent use during a limited period of time – with the opportunity to sense the working of language as living communication (Wright et al 1991:1).

Finally, games can be found to give practice in all the skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking),in all the stages of the teaching/learning sequence( presentation, repetition, recombination and free use of language) and for many types of communication(e.g. encouraging, criticizing, agreeing, explaining etc.) (Lewis and Bedson 2002:1).

Integrating games into the syllabus

If it is accepted that games can provide intense and meaningful learning of language, then they must be regarded as central to a teacher’s repertoire (Wright et al 1991:1). Therefore, they should not be regarded as a marginal activity, filling in odd moments when the teacher and class have nothing better to do, though there are such games (Lee 1991:3). So, games should be regarded as an integral part of the language syllabus.

Although it would be conceivable to teach an English course solely based on games, most teachers have an accompanying textbook which they are required to work through over the course of the year. That is why games can either supplement the core material or (depending on the flexibility of the programme) replace activities which they dislike or feel uncomfortable with. This way, after reading coursebooks or syllabus, a teacher may find that perhaps there are aspects of the language which are not covered in the core curriculum, and the game can fill the gap (Lewis and Bedson 2002:6).

Language games can be used to introduce new material, to practice recently learnt language items, to introduce or practice certain themes, or to relax or energize a class. Besides, the same game can be used several times and serve as a valuable backup if teacher goes through the material too quickly or if something unexpected happens(ibid.).

The preparation of the game

Teachers must be very clear about what they expect from the children (Lewis and Bedson 2002:6). It is essential to choose games which are appropriate to the class in terms of language and type of participation. Having chosen an appropriate game, its character and the aims and rules must be made clear to the learners, because if the learners are unclear about what they have to do, chaos and disillusionment may result (Wright et al 1991:6).

How a teacher uses a language game will ultimately depend on the ‘personality’ of the group of children. A teacher should consider such questions: Do the children have a long attention span? Are they very active? What is the boy/girl ratio? (Sometimes girls and boys will refuse to play on the same team.) (Lewis and Bedson 2002:6).

Also, a teacher has to consider external factors, such as the time of the day the English lesson is held, and what happens before and after it (is the lesson a part of the regular school day, or is it held in the afternoon after a long day of school, homework, and other activities.) (ibid.).

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