The use of games in language teaching

The effects of games on students learning process and motivation

Term Paper, 2018

12 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Table of Content

1. Introduction
1.1. Essentials of Task-Based Language Teaching
1.2. Types of games
1.3. How games affect learning and motivation

2. The comparison of games
2.1. Quartet
2.2. Taboo
2.3. Kahoot it!

3. Conclusion

Reference List

1. Introduction

Some teachers love them, some teachers hate them. Games are a much-debated topic among teachers of all subjects. While some teachers consider them to be a waste of time and not worth their preparation time, others like using them – not only for relief but also as a means of learning. They argue that a playing student is a learning student. From my own school times, I remember popularly played games being Werewolf, Fruit Salad, and the probably most common game: Taboo.

In this paper, I am going to argue that using games in the language classroom can be highly effective. For my argumentation, I will have a look at the Task-Based Language Teaching and explain the effectiveness of tasks and activities. Further, I will elaborate on the effect that games have on the learning process and on the students’ motivation, distinguishing between different types of games in the language classroom. To do so I will use the definition of “intrinsic” and “extrinsic” motivation as described by Deci and Ryan in their “self-determination theory” and the definition of code controlling and communication games as described by Shelagh Rixon in her book How to Use Games in Language Teaching?

After the theoretical framework, I am going to examine the three different games Quartet, Taboo, and Kahoot it! and their possible use in an English language classroom. After classifying them according to the game definitions that I will have had introduced in the theoretical framework, I will address their appropriateness for school type and grade. Moreover, I will analyze whether those games can be used in their original version only, or whether it is possible or even necessary to adapt them to make them more suitable for a certain topic or age group. In doing that, I will also consider what skills those games stimulate and answer the question whether the games help build lexis or syntax. Finally, I will engage with the question of differentiation.

1.1. Essentials of Task-Based Language Teaching

Before going into detail regarding game types and their importance for language teaching, it is important to pinpoint the usage of games in the language classroom to a certain method or a certain approach. Most suitable, it seems, is the Task-Based Language Teaching approach, short TBLT. TBLT is an approach rather than a method. This means that it can be used in combination with different approaches, such as content-based or text-based teaching (Richards & Rodgers, 2014). Its main focus is, as the name already suggests, the usage of tasks. The kinds of tasks used in Task-Based Language Teaching are meaningful tasks that include real-world language (Richards & Rodgers, 2014). Because there is a broad variety of different tasks, it is necessary to mention that tasks in Task-Based Language Teaching are defined as activities with purpose that involve communication to achieve the goal (Richards & Rodgers, 2014). Here, the emphasis lies on the communication, thus on the process of speaking, rather than on the production or the correctness (Richards & Rodgers, 2014). While engaging in the meaningful tasks of the Task-Based Language Teaching the students have to negotiate for meaning, in order to establish to construct the meaning within their own understanding of the language (Richards & Rodgers, 2014). To negotiate for meaning the students need to use all their language resources and use language that was already acquired to be able to acquire the new language (Richards & Rodgers, 2014). The negotiation for meaning can happen in different ways. The teacher has to decide, whether the tasks are “one way” or “two way” tasks, or in other words, whether the information given flows in one direction or whether there is an exchange of information. Further, the teacher needs to settle whether there is a single solution or there are different solutions and if the task is “convergent” or “divergent”, convergent meaning that the participants need to reach a common goal and divergent meaning that the participants have to find different solutions. Additionally, the teacher has to instruct the students whether the task is collaborative, thus requires them to work together, or competitive, requiring them to work against each other (Richards & Rodgers, 2014). Tasks that can be distinguished by those factors are usually jigsaw / information gap tasks, problem solving tasks, decision making tasks, or opinion tasks (Richards & Rodgers, 2014). The students are both participants and monitors when participating in such tasks. This means that they produce language while simultaneously paying attention to the form (Richards & Rodgers, 2014). The benefits of Task-Based Language Teaching are, according to Richards and Rodgers, greater motivation of the students, the possibility to have repetition without the students getting bored (in contrast to drills), curricular flexibility, natural error correction (since the students are also monitoring their own and their peers’ language), and higher proficiency results (Richards & Rodgers, 2014). Tasks for the Task-Based Language Teaching can also occur in form of games. And since Richards and Rodgers suggest that Task-Based Language Teaching raises the students’ motivation, it is important to explore the types and definitions of motivation.

1.2. Types of games

When talking about games in language teaching teachers distinguish between two major groups of games: code controlling games and communication games. Code controlling games are games that focus on the production of correct language or the correct interpretation of language. Within those games, the utterances are usually limited and do not exceed two sentences. The language is often monitored by the teacher and correct answers are rewarded. This kind of games is a good alternative to drills, as it is usually the same grammatical or lexical feature that has to be produced by the learners. (Rixon, 1981). Examples of code controlling games are I went shopping or Simon says.

Communication games do not focus as much on the correct production of language, but rather, as their name foreshadows, focus on the communication and achieving a goal while doing so. To achieve the goal the students need to use all of their language resources until the goal is achieved. Because there is a goal to be achieved there is no limitation of utterance length. The act of speaking is only over when the goal is achieved. Because the students need to achieve a goal they can measure their own success by the time they need to achieve it. Teacher’s monitoring is not needed. Communication games open different possibilities: turn taking is negotiated by the students, so is the way of achieving a goal, as there are usually multiple ways to achieve it (Rixon, 1981). Communication games deal with bridging an information gap or interpreting the same piece of information. Similar to the tasks described by Richards and Rodgers (2014), communication games can be distinguished by the flow of information (one way or two way), type of goals (common goal or different goal), and type of work (collaborative or competitive). Games that are considered communicative games are Taboo and Spot the difference.

Another, less frequently mentioned, type of game is the quiz. The quiz is neither a code controlling game nor does it require much conversation. Quizzes can have different objectives. It can focus on factual knowledge, for instance, facts about Britain or British history, but quizzes can also examine whether the students have understood a grammatical feature, for example passive, by providing an active sentence and different options of what a passive sentence might look like for the students to pick the correct one. Without drilling certain phrases or vocabulary and without much conversation quizzes are a good way for teachers to screen the students’ understanding of the syllabus without the pressure of a test.

However, there are of course other games that do not fit in either of those categories. Some games are just games. Further, there are so-called “icebreakers” and “interventions” that are also used in the classroom but serve other purposes. Icebreakers are used in new groups for the new peers to get to know each other, while interventions are small games that are used for relief or when there is time left. Of course, language learning games as code controlling games, communication games, and partly quizzes can also be used as relief and as time fillers, but they are often used as a task as its own.

1.3. How games affect learning and motivation

In their studies self-determination theory, Deci and Ryan (1993) distinguish between two types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic (Deci & Ryan, 1993). Actions that are evoked by intrinsic motivation usually occur spontaneously and are driven by interest, curiosity, exploration, and joy. Intrinsic motivation does not count on consequences or rewards. Students, who work with intrinsic motivation are driven by the wish to master something and by their own interest in it. In contrast, extrinsically motivated actions do not occur spontaneously. Extrinsic actions only take place when asked for. Extrinsic motivation works with incentives, may them be positive (rewards) or negative (punishment). This means that students who work with extrinsic motivation either expect a benefit from their action, such as a good grade, or they expect to avoid the punishment for not doing their task (Deci & Ryan, 1993).

How do games influence student’s motivation? According to Julia Khan (1991), it is children’s nature to play games. And since children want to play naturally, games can be motivating (Kahn, 1991). She argues that although extrinsic motivation from the parents or the society might to some extent be enough to motivate a teenager or an adult to learn harder to achieve a good grade, extrinsic motivation will not lead to that much success among younger children. Because of that, it is necessary to create an atmosphere where the children want to learn because they are interested in the subject instead of forcing them into learning while putting them under pressure. The children have to be “actively involved” (Kahn, 1991, p. 144). Khan explains that there are different ways in which games affect the learners’ motivation. On the one hand, it is the natural wish to play games mentioned above. On the other hand, children have the urge to master the game that they are playing and by mastering the game they are learning. Additionally, children get interested in what they are good at and vice versa – they are good at what they are interested in (Kahn, 1991).


Excerpt out of 12 pages


The use of games in language teaching
The effects of games on students learning process and motivation
Bielefeld University
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
Games, EFL Classroom, EFL, Didaktik, Inklusion, Spiele im Unterricht
Quote paper
Liliana Ozeryanska (Author), 2018, The use of games in language teaching, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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