Teach English in Zhangzhuang Zhen - Yangquan Shi

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Games have always been a popular activity, captivating the attention and enjoyment of children and adults alike. Since the advent of chess, games have been used to entertain, educate and form social environments. These three pillars provide a solid foundation for a dynamic, creative and educational classroom. As games have evolved, so too have their practicality within a classroom environment, due to new game-mechanics and technology facilitating an ever-growing variety of teaching practices. It was Friedrich Fröbel who first initiated the creation of kindergartens, where young children were given simple toys, such as blocks with printed numbers and letters, used to initiate learning and creativity. From there, teachers have learned to adapt popular games, as well as educational games, to fill their lesson plans with alternatives to more conventional practices. Board-games, such as Scrabble and Cluedo, have been a mainstay of classrooms for a very long time, enabling growth of problem-solving skills, pattern recognition, as well as listening and spelling skills, to name but a few. It’s not just board-games that provide teachers with powerful teaching tools, but also more socially captivating games as well. Hangman, Charades and Pictionary are easily adapted for all kinds of educational purposes. By following the topic of the lesson plan, these games can provide lightweight activities to engage the students into thinking about the various aspects of said topic. Building up a Pictionary exercises around verbs or household objects, for example, can be a great lesson starter; to build up a bit of excitement and interaction with the students before moving on to more studious activities. The same can be said for more intangible games, where there are no need for physical resources whatsoever; with games like Call my Bluff and I Spy providing excellent opportunities for students to build rapport with one another, while practicing their speaking and listening skills. Now that we are in the digital age and as technology becomes more affordable, there has been an influx of computers in the classroom. This has provided a huge wealth of opportunities for versatility and innovation in teaching. From research, to teaching resources, all the way to inspiring students to find their own motivations for learning; the computer is a powerful tool in studies, coursework and homework alike. Although, computer games have often be stigmatised for being the bane of productivity in the past, there has recently been a revolution in the way we think about them. Educational games have come in leaps and bounds over the past couple of decades; from the old classics such as Oregon Trail, to the wonderfully creative and recent Scribblenauts, there truly is a wealth of topics and mechanics to choose from. Also, the advent of VR must also be mentioned, enabling participants to explore and create new worlds with ingenious developments, seen in the likes of Tilt Brush and Discovery VR. But, it’s not just strictly educational games that have made a new home in the classroom. Games such as Minecraft haven taken off in a big way for both young students and teachers alike. Giving students the agency to create and find their own inspirations, has allowed for an immersion in learning that some may say is unparalleled. One could imagine an exercise, where students are asked to draw their perfect home, explain the different rooms along with the accompanying furniture and then give reasons, as to why they have chosen the aforementioned. Minecraft enables the student to create this imaginary house in their own 3D world, give other students (and the teacher) a tour of their house, while explaining along the way the features of the house and why they chose those features. This is just one brief example of tool that is essentially only limited by one’s imagination. It could easily be adapted to lessons revolving around learning directions, shopping trips or even wildlife and conservation. Minecraft has now become a widely recognised teaching tool, to the extent where there are now entire websites dedicated to creating and showcasing teaching plans based purely around it. Providing students with an engaging, open-ended and player-driven world, all wrapped around educational principles is not something that should be so easily dismissed. It is rather captivating to think of the potential that games have now, as well as what the future holds for the marriage of entertainment and learning. While it must be said that games cannot and should not provide a complete replacement for conventional teaching methods and is still very much outside the realms of a complete scope of any given subject. There is still something to be said for the power that games can hold in unleashing a student’s potential, while also recognising how far they have come in providing powerful tools and resources for teachers. It certainly wouldn’t be too bold to say that games, as educational applications, have come a long way and only continue to evolve in new and exciting ways. References: Friedrich Fröbel: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedrich_Fröbel Oregon Trail: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Oregon_Trail_(series) Scribblenauts: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scribblenauts_Unlimited Tilt Brush: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TckqNdrdbgk Discovery VR: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CecZb5DjGKg Minecraft Wildlife and Conservation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=38&v=xfey5YUVATE Minecraft Lesson plans: https://education.minecraft.net/how-it-works/in-the-classroom/