Remember all games we liked to play while growing up (and still like to play now)? There was Scrabble®, Yahtzee®, Sorry®, Monopoly®, Twister®, Ker Plunk®, and many others. I am finding that even with the invention and arrival of all of the new computer and video games on the market, kids are always content to play the classics once in while. I think that they are intrigued that you can move game pieces or read a card without having to plug anything in. This has inspired me to use these classic games in my classroom with my middle school students, with some modifications of course. The addition of a language-learning component can easily turn these “games” into an enrichment activity. Sometimes I use the game pieces or the game-board and make up my own rules. You can be very creative with these “raw” materials. I simply try to find a way of using a game that I have enjoyed (and have access to) that can have a language objective.
I was recently introduced to the new game LCR® (Left Center Right). The game is simple and requires very few materials. There are three dice, each marked with an “L” for “Left”, a “C” for “Center,” and an “R” for “Right.” The other sides have a dot.
Each player (there should be at least 4) gets three tokens or chips. Player one begins by rolling the dice. If he gets an “L” he must pass a chip to the person to his left. If he gets an “R” he must pass a chip to the person to his right, and if he gets a “C” he must put a chip in the center of the table. If he rolls a dot he keeps the chip. The game continues clockwise until one person is left with a chip(s) and he is the winner. The game is fast-paced and the players constantly say, “two to the left” or “one to the right.”
This is a great game for world language classes, helping students to learn and practice the words for left and right (and sometimes finally be able to distinguish their left from their right.) I found some blank wooden blocks at a local craft store. They were very inexpensive, about $4 for a bag of 50. I took a black marker and wrote the letters “G,” “C,” and “D” on the blocks and put dots on the other sides. I now have the French version of the game (Gauche, Centre, Droite). I did the same for my Spanish classes, marking the cubes with “I,” “C,” and “D” (Izquierda, Centro, Derecha). The students play in a group of five and I give them bingo chips.
This is just one example of using a common game in the classroom. There is probably a way to use just about any game since communication is typically required.
Task-based activities are activities that require the use of the target language in order to complete a task. The goal is the completion of the task, though the expectation is that the target language is being used to complete it. We often create activities for our students that focus more on practicing language than on using the language. Language practice can be beneficial, but we need also provide students with opportunities to do something with the language.
Linguist and second language acquisition specialist, Bill Van Patten, describes “exercises” as activities that focus on language mechanics and often use language out of context. “Tasks,” in contrast, are activities that have a product, goal, objective or outcome that require using the target language to achieve it, but are not focused on mechanics. With tasks the goal is independent of language. Research overwhelmingly shows that language used in context is most beneficial to language acquisition. Tasks are an effective way of providing communicative activities to students.
Here are some examples of Task-Based Activities in the Foreign/World Language Classroom:
The teacher begins by cutting the strips of paper on the dotted line and giving five students a slip with two pictures on it. These students go to the front of the class without revealing their pictures to the rest of the class.The other students in the class each receive the first sheet and begin by writing down the names of the five students in the front of the room. One at a time members of the class take turns trying to guess who has which picture on their sheet. All students record the answers as they are given. An order of students should be established by the teacher and this order will be repeated until a student has correctly identified all the people/pictures on his/her turn. If the answers are not correct the questions continue. Students should be informed that each person has only two pictures and that no two people have the same picture.
All players start at “Début” or “Comeinzo.” Taking turns, each player rolls the die and moves the number of spaces rolled. The object is to land on the numbered boxes in the correct order (1-12). They can move in any direction, but they can’t use the same box twice in a turn. They can share a box with another player. The winner is the first player to land on square #12. The game can be made longer by having players return to “Début” or “Comienzo”and work toward #12 a second time.
Begin by distributing 6 cards to each player. The rest of the pile remains face down in the middle. Player 1 starts the game by asking any player if he has a card (picture or verb form) that he needs to complete a family (Half Dozen). The player may only ask for cards for a name that he has in his hands. If the player asked has the card, he will give it to player 1. Player 1 will ask again. If the player asked does not have the card, he will say “Pioche” or “Recoge” and player 1 will take a card from the pile, and play will continue with the next player.When a player collects all 6 pictures or all 6 forms of a verb, he announces it to the group and puts the cards down for everyone to see. When there are no more cards in the pile, the game continues without players picking up new cards. The player with the most names completed at the end of the game wins.