Skip to main content

University Challenge game

Some teachers tell me that they think we've gone too far down the gamification road in language teaching. They may be right, although my first response is that a game or game-like activity is just another language practice task with a purpose. The fact that games often involve a bit of fun and competition adds to the motivation factor. Needless to say, a good language game needs a decent learning goal and behaviour needs to be right.

"University Challenge" is a long-running British television quiz show where teams of four students from rival universities pit their knowledge against ecah other. This is a high-level quiz show! The team members answer questions from Greek mythology to advanced mathematics, to quantum physics, to medieval history.

This format works brilliantly in language lessons, particularly with advanced level groups. You divide your small group into two teams. If the group is larger, some students will be mainly listeners. You prepare a long list of questions about the culture of the target language country. Divide the questions into categories, e.g. geography, history, famous people, food and drink, language, industry and agriculture, tourism and entertainment. You'll need at least 100 questions.

The teacher asks a TL starter question and a member of each team tries to buzz in. (A tap on the table will do if you don't have buzzers from the science or tech teachers.) No conferring between team members is allowed at this stage. If a player buzzes in before the end of the question and makes an error, they lose 5 points. A correct answer gains 10 points. If a starter question is answered wrongly someone from the other team can buzz in and have a go. Make the starter a relatively easy question. Whichever team gets the starter question right has the chance to answer three follow-up questions - conferring between team members is now allowed. (You could involve onlookers/listeners to supply answers if the team does not know them.) These follow-up questions can earn 5 points each.

After the follow-up questions have been answered you ask the next starter question and so on. A game might last about 30 minutes provided you have a large supply of questions.

This is a great game because all the communication is in target language, the students get to show off prior knowledge, learn new stuff about the TL culture and, importantly, you can tailor the level of questions and language to the class, probably incorporating work you have done in class. To make answers accessible you can give three options, multi-choice style. Don't forget that, for our purposes, you can ask plenty of linguistic questions: " What's the opposite of...?" "How do you say.... in (TL)" etc. Fans of comprehensible input should love this!

I kept a bank of questions and usually saved the game for the end of term. I used it with advanced students, but could have adapted it for intermediate level, but you'd have to make sure the onlookers are engaged somehow. They could write down answers to be tallied up at the end for a winning score.

So I wouldn't diss games in general, just bad ones.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The latest research on teaching vocabulary

I've been dipping into The Routledge Handbook of Instructed Second Language Acquisition (2017) edited by Loewen and Sato. This blog is a succinct summary of Chapter 16 by Beatriz González-Fernández and Norbert Schmitt on the topic of teaching vocabulary. I hope you find it useful.

1.  Background

The authors begin by outlining the clear importance of vocabulary knowledge in language acquisition, stating that it's a key predictor of overall language proficiency (e.g. Alderson, 2007). Students often say that their lack of vocabulary is the main reason for their difficulty understanding and using the language (e.g. Nation, 2012). Historically vocabulary has been neglected when compared to grammar, notably in the grammar-translation and audio-lingual traditions as well as  communicative language teaching.

(My note: this is also true, to an extent, of the oral-situational approach which I was trained in where most vocabulary is learned incidentally as part of question-answer sequence…

A zero preparation fluency game

I am grateful to Kayleigh Meyrick, a teacher in Sheffield, for this game which she described in the Languages Today magazine (January, 2018). She called it “Swap It/Add It” and it’s dead simple! I’ve added my own little twist as well as a justification for the activity.

You could use this at almost any level, even advanced level where the language could get a good deal more sophisticated.

Put students into small groups or pairs. If in groups you can have them stand in circles to add a sense of occasion. One student utters a sentence, e.g. “J’aime jouer au foot avec mes copains parce que c’est amusant.” (You could provide the starter sentence or let groups make up their own.) The next student (or partner) has to change one element in the sentence, and so on, until you restart with a different sentence. You could give a time limit of, say, 2 minutes. The sentence could easily relate to the topic you are working on. At advanced level a suitable sentence starter might be:

“Selon un article q…

Google Translate beaters

Google Translate is a really useful tool, but some teachers say that they have stopped setting written work to be done at home because students are cheating by using it. On a number of occasions I have seen teachers asking what tasks can be set which make the use of Google Translate hard or impossible. Having given this some thought I have come up with one possible Google Translate-beating task type. It's a two way gapped translation exercise where students have to complete gaps in two parallel texts, one in French, one in English. There are no complete sentences which can be copied and pasted into Google.

This is what one looks like. Remember to hand out both texts at the same time.


English 

_____. My name is David. _ __ 15 years old and I live in Ripon, a _____ ____ in the north of _______, near York. I have two _______ and one brother. My brother __ ______ David and my _______ are called Erika and Claire. We live in a _____ house in the centre of ____. In ___ house _____ …

Worried about the new GCSEs?

Twitter and MFL Facebook groups are replete with posts expressing concerns about the new GCSEs and, in particular, the difficulty of the exam, grades and tiers. I can only comment from a distance since I am no longer in the classroom, but I have been through a number of sea changes in assessment over the years so may have something useful to say.

Firstly, as far as general difficulty of papers is concerned, I think it’s fair to say that the new assessment is harder (not necessarily in terms of grades though). This is particularly evident in the writing tasks and speaking test. Although it will still be possible to work in some memorised material in these parts of the exam, there is no doubt that weaker candidates will have more problems coping with the greater requirement for unrehearsed language. Past experience working with average to very able students tells me some, even those with reasonable attainment, will flounder on the written questions in the heat of the moment. Others will…

Dissecting a lesson: using a set of PowerPoint slides

I was prompted to write this just having produced for frenchteacher.net three separate PowerPoint presentations using the same set of 20 pictures (sports). A very good way for you to save time is to reuse the same resource in a number of different ways.

I chose 20 clear, simple, clear and copyright-free images from pixabay.com to produce three presentations on present tense (beginners), near future (post beginner) and perfect tense (post-beginner/low intermediate). Here is one of them:





Below is how I would have taught using this presentation - it won't be everyone's cup of tea, especially of you are not big on choral repetition and PPP (Presentation-Practice-Production), but I'll justify my choice in the plan at each stage. For some readers this will be standard practice.

1. Explain in English that you are going to teach the class how to talk about and understand people talking about sport. By the end of the lesson they will be able to say and understand 20 different sport…