Monday, August 22, 2016

Playing Games in the EFL Classroom - Report on Maria Karatsali’s Session

On 25th June 2016, at the TESOL Macedonia- Thrace Northern Greece Summer Event, Mrs Maria Karatsali, successfully demonstrated the significance of incorporating games in the learning process in her exceptional talk titled "Playing Games in the EFL Classroom". 

                                                                                                                                                                     Photo by Efi Tzouri
After sharing with us how deeply she understands the value of playing games herself and the profound impact they have on learners’ learning process, she continued by presenting some interesting facts from the past. To mention a few: starting with Ancient Greece, Plato highlighted the importance of games in education 2500 years ago and Socrates, for some the greatest teacher ever, was teaching through games. Vizyinos introduced Europeans to the importance of games in education in the 19th century. In fact, his dissertation changed entirely the until then strict European pedagogical approach. As we can see then, games is very much a Greek story.

What is also true about games is that they are not a "simple thing". They are not just having fun with our students. With the right handling, learners can be benefited by improving their speaking, writing, listening and grammar skills in a remarkable way. However, how easy is it to start one in a full classroom? Do we need some meditation? Do we have to clear our minds a little bit first? According to Mrs Karatsali, this is the key to success in a game. She immediately went on to help attendees reach a deeper state of consciousness by encouraging them to start counting up to fifty and backwards while enjoying some relaxing music. A few minutes later feeling relaxed and comfortable, the people in the room came alive when she let the Games begin!

                                                                                                                              Photo by Efi Tzouri

Flip the Picture, Describe and Draw, Palermo, Treasure Hunt, Bag at a Bus Stop and Pictionary were presented, all participants were instantly carried away and it wasn't long until a lively, playful atmosphere was created. To top things off, she not only explained each game carefully, but also joined attendees in the game fun! 

And now for the games themselves! "Flip the Picture" is a game that focuses on practicing writing, speaking, grammar and vocabulary. Students see a picture and try to note down as many words as they can in order to describe it with what they can remember of it. Then, they should exchange paper sheets and compare their descriptions to others'. "Treasure Hunt" is a fun way to improve writing, vocabulary and reading simply by searching to find the well-hidden treasure in spots around the classroom.

                                                                                                                               Photo by Efi Tzouri

Are your learners good at painting? Then, why not use the "Describe and Draw" game? It is also an excellent way to practice speaking, listening, grammar and vocabulary! Are you feeling a bit lazy and want some action? Do you think it is high time you added an element of surprise and anticipation in classroom? "A Bag at a Bus Stop” is a fun TPR game that can bring some suspense, yet help your learners remember that tricky vocabulary. Last but not least, “Palermo” is the right game for those who are into investigating and need a gentle push when it comes to their speaking and grammar.

Of course, Mrs Karatsali did not stop surprising everyone. She really rejuvenated us all when she kindly asked us to close our eyes, pick a favorite place and stay there for a while. We tend to be happier when we find ourselves in a place we really enjoy.  But most importantly, she reminded us that we need to remember to laugh. Besides, she asked us, have we ever wondered to what extent games can change the way we assume control of our own lives?

                                                                                                                             Photo by Efi Tzouri

Back to their value for teachers and learners alike, we can see that games help us all. Teachers can reflect on their teaching process and experience in a number of brilliant ways: games help us focus and achieve goals. They can promote optimism within the classroom and help students and teachers establish stronger relationships. Games make us better people and what is more, within the EFL classroom they develop trust, promote collaboration and most importantly encourage problem solving. Mrs Maria Karatsali closed her inspiring and really motivating talk by reminding the attendees of one simple yet fundamental teaching principle; Teachers Paint the Future of the Children. They Paint the Future Children. We can make it Dark or We can make it Bright - Our Choice, Our Game…

Report by Dimitra Christopoulou

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