The Game is on

carcassonneGamification is this week’s theme for session 3 and we will TELL you all about it this week in class. Personally I am a big fan of games, but mostly games played with other people, such as board games. What I like about games is the social aspect combined with some brain training. One of my favourites is Carcassonne in which you try to build new towns, roads, monastries and farm land to win points. It is a combination of strategy, competition and luck: ideal game elements. I prefer to play this game with one other player, but I also have the game as an app on my smartphone. You can play solo or also compete with other players, just like in the original board game.

Another game I recently started playing again on my phone is ‘good old’ Wordfeud. Being a language teacher, I obviously like word games and creativity. Since I do not always have people around to play Scrabble, I play some Wordfeud games with strangers instead. The only drawback of Wordfeud is that it accepts some non-existing words, which is why I sometimes drop out of a game.

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The most social and fun game to play with friends for me, is Koehandel, a variation on the Happy Families card game. It is really funny every time we play it, especially the part when the bids for the animals go up. At first a donkey is only worth €10 and later on in the game you are happily offering fifty times the amount or even more to complete your donkey family. You can also try to swap it for a more valuable horse, for instance. This game is all about planning, negotiating, interacting, competing and also of winding each other up. We have already infected many people with this easy to play party game.

Of course Happy Families is typically a game that can be used in the classroom because of the categorising element in it. It is suitable for all sorts of categories like animals, clothes, hobbies, sports, school subjects, and even useful phrases for specific language functions. I have been looking for online or interactive versions of this game, in which technology is used, but so far have not been able to find any. Perhaps this is one of those types of gamification which can do without a digital tool?

Summarising, it can be said that games provide great opportunities for learning. Pupils generally engage more with the language and input than during traditional teaching as they focus on the task at hand more than on the form they use while they are at it. Games give learners autonomy, they often require creativity and problem-solving skills (higher order thinking), provide challenges and competition, and stimulate learners to interact in the target language. Gamification can seriously enhance the pupils’ intrinsic motivation.

If you would like to explore some sites for educational gaming, check out this Top 10. If you like to read some more on gamification, check my blog post on Gamifying ELT from last year.

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