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designing an ESL learning game

Posted: Wed Oct 15, 2014 2:21 am
by dcsan
I'm working on a game to learn english, and grappling with the best way to organize the course. My experience is mostly game design/development, so I'd love to hear from the pros here on how to design a good course and organize the lessons, mainly the grammar.

I built a site for learning japanese (JGram.org) and the grammar there is much smaller chunks. For example this list of "level 2" items: http://jgram.org/pages/viewList.php?lv=2

has patterns like "despite / just / it seems / because / without / it's decided " ... These are more like useful one-off sentence patterns, not quite idioms or phrases, but I'm wondering if there's any way to organize those types of items at a higher level? I've considered:

1. by difficulty level
split grammar up by level. eg start with "simple past" and move to causative or passive until later. same for all other grammar types. this allows a flow, but has repetition as we repeat each topic in more depth.

2. by grammar grouping
eg verbs / noun forms / modals / pronouns ... and the various sub-types of each. modals of advice/requests/ability would be a subtopic of "modals" etc.

3. by random grouping
Group topics together that fit well together, to make lessons with more flow and variety. eg put conditionals and comparatives together, so you can teach something like "If you pick the largest one..."

If there's a better forum for this type of question, I'd love to know, otherwise any comments appreciated!

Re: designing an ESL learning game

Posted: Tue Oct 28, 2014 10:45 am
by Brodek
Dear Susan,

I think you are doing a very earnest effort to find a good system of teaching grammar.
I also think that teaching grammar by games is a very good approach, but I do not share your opinion that we should try to find an ideal system of grammar and teach it to the students.
Grammar always relates to a content and is only - as the didactical grammarian Widdowson states - a tool to generate correct sentences. On behalf of defending the communical approach in language teaching Widdowson writes:
'Knowing what is involved in putting sentences together correctly is only one part of what we mean by knowing a language, and it has very little value on its own: it has to be supplemented by knowledge of what sentences count as in their normal use as a means of communicating'.
More than being concerned about grammar and its system - which can be fascinating to deal with - teachers should be concerned about the students and about the topics which are meaningful to them.
I like grammar, but I also like using games and game-like activities in my lessons e.g. this link http://www.teachingenglishgames.com/esl-for-adults - (also published as an Amazon paperback) always helps me to find inspiration: There you can find activities which practically train all language skills and under the category of grammar there are plenty of grammar games - practically for each important grammar points - which you can creatively change and adapt for your own usage. I recently had a lesson about National Day in Germany - the great day of unification of Germany which does not mean anything to my teenage students. But I used activities like 'Comparatives get in order', 'Getting to know you', 'Bucket Game' and a variation of Simple Simon from this source to evoke an understanding of different cultures and practise the language.
So, please, think over your approach. In my opinion, it might not serve your teaching so much.
Good luck.
Heike