CHANGING THE GAME

Adapting activities is a task that most teachers perform and games are no exception. On the whole, we may rely more on intuition than on a particular rationale when we tailor an activity for a certain class, but if we reflect on how we modify the activity, we may discover a basis for adapting other activities in ways we hadn't thought of before. Below are three games activities that I have adapted and , in each case, I have sought out the underlying rationale for adapting the activity.

BOARD GAMES

In many resource books today there are examples of board games of the type in which the object of the game is to go round the board and be the first to reach the finish. For some learners, especially adults and older children, this type of game may not be very inspiring. They will often engage in such an activity and enjoy it for the opportunity it gives them to speak but, as speaking is the enjoyable part of the game, quite often the person who arrives first at the end and wins may actually feel like the loser.

Taking this into account, the objective of the game, and consequently the board, can be changed. In this type of game, the game part (going round the board) is not dependent on the language part but only on whether the question has been answered correctly or not.

Consider the board below (and imagine it has various questions on each square). The aim of the game now is to capture as many squares as possible. A player throws some dice and counts off to the next square, s/he answers the question and if correct (or acceptable if it's a fluency question) then the learner claims the square and leaves a token on it. The game continues, going round and round the board, until all the squares have been captured. If a learner lands on a square that has already been captured then s/he stays there waiting for the next turn. The winner is the person with the most captured squares at the end of the game. The game now ensures that all the learners will be kept in the game till the end and that all questions are answered.

Greater control over the game can be given to the players by adding variations to the game such as allowing the choice of throwing one or two dice, including special cards which allow players to take off or add a certain number to that shown by the dice, and to the board by adding short cuts, 'miss a turn' squares and possibly other loops with questions of varying difficulty.

BOARD EXAMPLE AND SET OF CARDS IN PDF FORM This particluar board is designed to practise irregular verbs. First deal out the plus and minus cards. Then each learner, in turn, throws a die and counts off in any direction on the board. In order to capture the square landed upon, the learner must use the preterit form of the verb in a sentence of his/ her choice. The cards can be used, as mentioned above, at each turn to give greater choice to the learners over the squares they wish to acquire.

BATTLESHIPS

A classic game and an excellent way to practise numbers and letters. Although not new to the language classroom some teachers may refrain from using this game as it is so time consuming. In its original format with a grid of 10 by 10 squares (100 in all), it can take up to one hour to complete the game. By reducing the size of the grid to 6 by 6 or even 5 by 5 reduces the number of squares to only 36 or 25. Now the game doesn't take so long and, despite the reduced grid, can still be made beneficial by focusing on the numbers and letters which cause your learners problems. For my French learners I could choose A,E,I,J,G and Y and for the numbers;13,30,14,40,15 and 50. You can choose for yourself the size, shape and number of ships for your grid.

I find that in the context of a game like this learners are more inclined to use communication strategies (such as saying 'E for England') than they do for a dictation activity.

EXAMPLE OF BATTLESHIPS GRID

WHO ARE YOU?

This idea came from a commercially produced board game my daughter has. It's basically a variety of twenty questions to discover a hidden identity. It is also similar in principle to the communication game with pictures where one person has a set of similar pictures, a second person has a copy of only one and the first has to find out which picture the other has.

In my daughter's game both players have a set of the same pictures which show faces of drawn characters. Each player takes a card at random from a pack composed of the same pictures and this becomes the hidden identity for the other to guess. To find out the hidden identity, each player asks yes/no type questions of the sort 'does the person have brown hair?' and depending on the answer the player discards all those who have brown hair or all those who don't. The game is played in this manner until one player has discovered the hidden identity of the other. This particular game could be useful for students who want to practise ways of describing appearances but I have adapted the game by changing the language focus.

The game functions by having a set of people in which there are groups of similarities in a specific area. In my game below, the area of focus is holiday experiences. The language focus is the present perfect and the past simple.

On each card there is a list of various holiday experiences and when they occurred. So the questions that each learner has to ask are of the sort 'have you ever been on a cruise?' and if the answer is yes, a subsequent differentiating question could be 'did you go on a cruise this summer?' The learners can assume the hidden identity or not depending on whether the teacher wants to practise second or third person questions. To play the game all you need is three photocopies of the sheet below for each pair (one each and one cut up and placed face down in a pile to provide the hidden identities) and to follow the procedure outlined above. It's also better if each players cuts up his cards as it makes discarding them easier, all you have to do is turn the card over. Make sure your learners are familiar with the expressions go on a cruise, go on a safari, go skiing, be travel sick and have your passport stolen before they play.

WHO ARE GAME?