THE NAME OF THE GAME

My early TEFL/TESL teaching years back in the 1990s were the most rewarding in my life; probably not so much in terms of cash – compared to a lawyer’s career, for example – but invaluable when it came to creating connections and, most importantly, the job satisfaction coming from the visible, measurable results: when having a decent conversation with a student in English after a few months of intense but fun learning, which started at the ABCs.

As someone who has spent many years Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL)*, I have made observations that are hardly surprising: turns out, adults love playing just as much as children do! In my own experience, no more than two percent of my students ever questioned my slightly unconventional methods of learning, which incorporated English language puzzles, charades, contemporary music hits and so on. Occasionally, there would be a serious guy asking why we were wasting our time matching words
with pictures, but later he would get down on all fours on the carpet, make a story with the group – and forget about the traditional ideas of learning (which are associated with pain and suffering along the way!).

ESL – the dangerous misconception

There is a huge misconception about language games, music and all visual media in the classroom, as sources of entertainment and nothing more**. On top of this, young TESL learners are presumed distracted and unwilling to learn. Connect those two, and you have the solution: if your students are lacking in interest or motivation, the reason is most likely boredom. The traditional textbook-workbook-pen-chalk-blackboard concept may be still good, but it most definitely is only a small part of the arsenal an EFL/ESL teacher can use in an attempt to make the classes a success. 

It’s a proven psychological fact that we retain much more when we are interested in the subject of learning. Our memory is very selective this way. Events and experiences that have impressed us or moved us deeply are engraved in our memory years and decades later, while we all have boring subject exams we have passed and completely forgotten about within weeks. Take a sports fan who knows every detail about his favorite team or player, plus stats and goal situations, championships, positions on the field, etc. I could never even try to remember that, since sports are not even remotely interesting to me. But ask me about my favorite musicians, and I will tell you about every album, every landmark in their lives – believe it or not, I know
every word of every song of my favorite band from the time I was growing up (it’s too embarrassing to mention but I like them to this day), and I have won contests and prizes because of my useless trivia knowledge, based on pure interest in the subject.

Mix it up in the ESL classroom

Dear fellow teachers out there, please do not be afraid to venture out of the book, lesson plan, subject matter – or whatever else you have planned for your day or session. There has never been a better time to incorporate fun into EFL/ESL learning, and resources have never been more abundant. Take those clips off the internet, use them to prove a point (“I don’t know nothin’ about no stolen paintings!”, from a movie, took care of “using double negative”, and made us all laugh, because this example is even triple!) – then go ahead with the planned practice. You’ll be amazed at the results.

Ask your ESL students about their interests and bring class materials that would not only engage them, but make them look forward to that class. Preparation is minimal, and you can use the props multiple times. Silliness and fun can be the surprising allies on your way to achieving excellence in teaching
English.

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*
In most countries out of North America, English comes as a third, maybe
even fourth foreign language. There are differences between EFL and ESL, depending on location and surroundings.

 **I have a very well-sold book on the subject (“Don’t Worry, Be Happy –
or how to learn English while enjoying yourself”, 1992)



 

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Educational Summer Camp
8AM - 1PM

A mix of languages, game activities, arts and crafts, music and photography – all created and supervised by our own teachers.

Price per week: $280

Tax receipts provided upon request.

Summer 2024: week of August 5th