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Educational Language Game for kids

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Midnight_Carnival's picture
Joined: 06/17/2015

How I got to school this morning:

Ok, the object of this game is quite simply to learn better English (or whichever language you translate the game into), it is cooperative with competitive elements.

You need:
1 Teacher proficient in the language and properly qualified.
A whole lot of maps which can be drawn, downloaded and printed or taken from other sources
Lots and lots of cards with words on them, they must be colour coded or (if different colour card is not available, shape/margin coded
and last but most importantly a group of more than 10 energetic kids who will learn the language.

The teacher divides the kids into at least 2 groups, smaller groups are better.
Each group receives a map (not necessarily the same map although the same one is preferable for many reasons) with a “home” and a “school” in diagonally opposite corners, there are various obstacles depicted on the map. As the children get older or more proficient in English a grid can be introduced and a number can be assigned to each obstacle, this represents the number of squares the obstacle represents (this is more competitive and presumably the same map is preferable in this case).
It may be that in some maps the obstacles' names (nouns) are printed on the map.

After each group has a map, the group will draw a number of cards; in more complex versions of the game in which there are different types of cards used, the group will draw a number of cards from each category in play.

The cards could be verbs: “run”, “climb”, “walk”, “tunnel”
They could be – hmmm, what is it again, prepositions? - I don't know words like “over”, “around”, “under”, “through”, “across”, “along” - I'm supposed to know that!
They could be adverbs: “quickly”, “carefully”, “cleverly”.
The cards will be put face down on the table or floor (any surface will do).

Once all the groups of kids have enough cards the teacher will tell them “begin” and they will turn their cards over so they can see the words printed on them. They must then begin a 5-15 minute group discussion in English (or the language being taught) in which they decide which path they are going to take to get to school, the Teacher will walk around offering help (translation, answer questions) and checking that each group is in fact deciding which way to go in English (or the appropriate language) rather than discussing a football game, etc.

At the end of the discussion period the teacher will say “ok, quiet now” and the kids will have to stop talking. The teacher will then move between the groups and ask them to describe how I got to school. The word cards should be arranged in the correct order and the kids will elect a group member to describe their path to the class. The teacher will provide assistance (correction, clarification) when needed. Alternatively the groups could be kept the same and the member who describes their path could cycle. In the competitive version, the group which provides the shortest route “wins” although the kids who learn the lot end up winning far more in the long run because the kids who weren't interested end up working for them when they grow up.

The game can be adapted to teach kids many different things about the English (or whatever) language, with different types of words and where they should fit in the sentence (sentence structure, grammar, syntax) the game could quite easily be transformed into “How I will get to school tomorrow” or “how I'm going to school” to teach kids about different tenses.

The kids can all shout out as many of whichever class of word they know and the teacher can write them on the board ('coz we know how much kids like to shout stuff and have adults do things for them!) They can then be given cards of the appropriate colour/shape/margin and be told to write words from the board on the cards, this gives them the sense of determining the course of the lesson or being more in control of the game, it saves the teacher time and doubles as a spelling and writing exercise.

In more advanced competitive versions of the game, certain words could have a negative value associated with them (this is actually a good thing) the number of squares and the numbers represented by the obstacles can be reduced by using the words in their proper order. For example, each square on the grass or path could have a value of 1, the “scary wood” can have a value of 10 but if you “walk” (-1) “quickly” (-5) “through” (-3) the “scary wood” your trip could give you a value of 7 instead of 16.

For more chaotic fun in the classroom, groups could be given or instructed to make noun cards with additional obstacles and before the game begins they could go and place these on the maps of other groups.

On a monitor/electronic projector, transparency with projector (old style) or a board, the teacher can plot the path of each group in different colours repeating the words used and sentences constructed.

I know it's not as fun as watching movies in the language and playing the various computer games which teach you other languages, but not all schools everywhere have the facilities to use these and my board game should be simple and cheap to produce, I hope it will be entertaining enough that some kids will learn a little more than they would have otherwise. Further, assigning a value to different words in the competitive version should teach kids to 'value' the words and want to learn more, an incentive could be given, eg: after the cards are made from all the words on the board, if any group supplies a word not on the board, they can use it in their games and if we have a value associated with those words, the value can be higher for ones not on the board.

I welcome comments, suggestions, questions and criticism from people who want to make the game more interesting and fun as well as from any teachers who have some idea of how this game would work (or not) in a classroom.


Arthur Wohlwill
Joined: 05/30/2015
Re; English Language Game for Kids

This sounds like a great idea, I would definitely give a try. I will just say that I have had success with a number of games based on "Timeline" in which players have to put events in order. In the original "Timeline" game the players have to put historical events in order. In my biology classes, the players work together to put steps in biological processes in order. In your class, you could have a simple game in which the players are given words on cards and they have to make a sentence that is correct in the language being taught). One way I have done this game is to have each card have a letter on the opposite side. When the team is done, it will spell out "Good Job Team" or something similar on the other side.

Joined: 03/02/2014
Are they supposed to be

Are they supposed to be making sentences that make sense? Or more like Mad Lib sentences? There's a little bit of an issue with English, in that it is so tolerant of alternative sentence structure. (Like Yoda we speak.) I'm concerned that it makes it too easy.

If the cards have pictures that indicate the word, then I agree it would be a pretty good educational tool. Students would be looking at the picture, so thinking of the concept while they're trying to use the word in a sentence that is constrained by the things around it.

Another issue: by putting it on a map, it will be hard to include verbs that have nothing to do with motion.

Midnight_Carnival's picture
Joined: 06/17/2015

Indeed, English is a tolerant language, but for people who are not familiar with the language to understand it properly, it is usual to ask them to create sentences which follow the "subject, verb, object" model which most English sentences do.

I don't know about the pictures, the idea is good but I was hoping the kids could make the cards themselves and asking kids unfamiliar with English to draw "quickly" may be a bit unfair.

I accept what you have to say about the map restricting verbs to those assocaited with motion but what I think is more important is that they learn how to use verbs in a sentence in English (the more common and less creative ways, those can follow in due course) - for that purpose it doesn't really matter what the verbs are about as long as there are a few of them and they pick up the general trends.

A W - thanks for the feedback, I'll look into those games, variation is a good thing inside and outside the classroom.

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