#30GoalsEdu: Learn to play

I’m really excited about the latest goal for two main reasons. Firstly, I’ve always loved playing games. Board games, word games and lately HOG games have been on the top of my list as a fun and relaxing way to unwind. In fact, I wrote a post about ways to teach through Hidden Object Games some years ago (you can read more about it here: Teaching through Hidden Object Games)
  Secondly, I was lucky enough to try Dave Dodgson’s idea in practice back in 2007 when I was still a young, (inexperienced) teacher. It helped me so much both as a person and a professional that it inspired me to incorporate more game-based activities in my teaching routine. I saw it as a really interesting way of having teachers and students switch roles; for me this is essential if we want to discover how we can vary our teaching strategies so that they can benefit our students more.
 Back in 2007 most of my students -as well as everyone else their age- were obsessed with the latest World of Warcraft game (I think it was the Burning Crusade one). I remember they talked about it all the time, especially when we did story writing together. Their most frequent complaint was that the plot of the game was simply much more intriguing than any other plot we thought of in class. Being an avid video game player myself, I couldn’t help but ask them at some point to show me how the game is played and explain to me the rules/strategy to remember. What followed was 2 weeks of fun, excitement, but also confusion and despair (mostly on my part 🙂 However, it was still a great lesson to all of us for the following reasons:
·        Communicating what you know is more difficult than it seems. They realized that knowing something and teaching another person about it are two totally different stories. This became apparent when I struggled to understand how the different locations of the game are structured and what players were practically asked to do.
·        Teaching is a big responsibility. I remember them preparing short guides and extra tips so that it would be easier for me to understand what the game was about. It was their duty, as they often told me. For most of them, it was the first time they got the chance to be the masters of
·        Learning (and teaching) can be fun. Talking about their favourite game made them much more motivated to experiment with new things in English. Once I had grasped some of the basics of the game, we had a class debate on whether or not such games promote critical thinking. It was the first time they had ever held a debate and they loved it despite the fact that the topic was really challenging.
·         The obvious isn’t always that obvious. I remember feeling frustrated when I realized that what was obvious to them was simply too complicated to me. Those 2 weeks made me reflect on how I approached everything I taught them, especially grammar, since I had to rethink how straightforward and clear my teaching actually was.
·         Being a student can be really stressful. I was a young teacher at the time and it was the first time I realised how stressful it is for students to learn new things. I remember googling things up so that I could impress them with how much I’ve learned about the game and make them feel proud of their “student”. I also remember studying the rules and roles so that I could be “tested” the next day. I had forgotten what it means to be a student and how much is often expected of you. That’s when I started designing more stress-free activities for my students.
·         I wasn’t a perfect student. Being a student again helped me focus on my own weaknesses. I often left homework for the very last minute and I have to admit I wasn’t always paying attention in class. Once the teaching period was over, I openly discussed my weak points with them and invited them to share their “bad” student habits with me. Then, we looked on how we can both improve and become better learners.
Although it’s already been 7 seven years since the “Warcraft” lessons, I still remember how they shaped a new learning environment for my students. It was an experience that helped me grow as a professional and reconsider the role of games in my teaching.

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