I have been dealing with ICT tools in ESL for quite some time and still get surprised at some PC users’ reactions and web trends. Among the latter, Facebook – as a social networking tool – has been the most influential on different groups. Hence, it has been popularly used by teen learners , a situation that cannot be avoided , from which teachers should take advantage. Teachers ought to use Facebook to promote the practice of the target language outside the classroom. Teenagers are generally the most reluctant groups to work extra time on their English studies. There are different types of activities that can be set up within a facebook framework but social games have turned up to bridge that gap. I have done it and it worked!
Have you seen the Disney Animal Kingdom Explorers game on Facebook? It is worth a look.
Why I like the game:
1. Sole version in English -for the moment- The Spanish version would spoil it as students would feel tempted to use it. Students’ need to go through a language barrier –there’s an endless set of animal related lexis – which forces them to move forward if they want to advance within the game.
2. Colourful pics / icons on a virtual context resembling a live one. One extra point for finding the game attractive.
3. Highly motivating approach which contributes to keeping the vocab items in the long term memory : Players need to go through different stages of the game over and over again, spotting items which may have been new to the learner at the beginning but turn out easily recognised after several instances which facilitate vocab acquisition.
4. As you advance in the game not only does your own reserve grow -you get more animals / plants / land- but also new chapters are added to the story of explorers (lovely characters battling against environment destruction)
5. The game fosters collaboration: You need neighbours who will contribute to your performance. You will help them as well. The class dynamics will find this highly beneficial as this creates a better atmosphere in the group –they play outside lesson time but the game keeps the class united -They have one more thing in common-not only the English Lesson, also the game-which appears far more motivating. Is there any better hook?
6. You can use it to create several types of activities. For example:
• You capture one picture (one chapter) and students have to provide correct words to match the corresponding pictures.
• You get the students to read the story which lies beneath the chapters (you open different chapters of the story while playing / advancing in the game) get them to answer comprehension questions, true false activities, and even advanced vocab activities (puzzles, crosswords,specific word searches, etc)
• You can offer more background to the game, based on reality (some elements of the game do exist in a fictional / real context such as the tree of life and the animals in Disney Animal Kingdom) and from this point you can outline some writing skills practice.
• You can get students to compare and contrast their own reserves –good chance to practice Speaking Skills. (e.g. A and B)
At the moment I am using “Gardens of Time“. It has got a similar approach to that of Animal Kingdom Explorers. I am using it with a lower level group (Elementary +). They are thoroughly enjoying it.
I am in favour of promoting social games in the English class as long as the teacher – as a guide- paves the road to successful outcomes which make students convinced that learning is possible through playing and having a good and challenging time.