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ELT Game Corner

Welcome to my Game Corner. Here I introduce a game for you to use in your classes to help make English come alive.

November 01, 2003

Suspense

suspense.jpg No matter how many times I play Suspense I am always amazed with the strength of its appeal and the depth of its range. It guarantees to naturally beckon and capture the interest of children (and adults) in learning English. Here's how:

Motivation
The key to motivation with this game is its suspense. After the first student goes, all the other students try to remember the faces of the cards that were picked up and turned back down. It never fails. Students are too busy trying to memorize all the face cards and their positions to speak Japanese or fool around.

Procedure
To start the game, all the students should be in a circle around the table or on the tatami. The cards are placed face down. Moving in a clockwise direction, one student at a time turns over two cards and names the objects shown. If the cards match, the student keeps them and goes again. If they do not match, they are turned face down and the next student to the left goes.

English Focus
Young learners (3-5) simple say the nouns (i.e., "cat-duck") as they turn the cards over. Elementary school students form simple sentences, such as, "This is a cat. This is a duck." More advanced elementary school students can add a color before the noun and say, "This is a gray cat. This is a yellow duck." More advanced students can say, "This is a cute gray cat." The possibilities are endless. The teacher just adds on more difficult syntax manipulation depending on the level of the class.

Grammar Points
Students learn grammar by experiencing it as opposed to listening to explanations, which take away from the pleasure of playing the game. Under the guidance of the teacher they learn to use the article "a" in front of countable nouns and use the article "an" in front of words beginning with a vowel. As they get more advanced they learn to use "the" in front of "sun" and to use no articles in front of non-countable nouns. As they advance further they can even start to use plurals. "This is a pencil; these are pencils."

Interaction Skills
The game promotes social intimacy by virtue of the students being huddled around in a circle. It fosters respect for peers by giving each student the opportunity to concentrate and select two cards without being interrupted by the other students.

Behavioral Control
Students NEVER speak Japanese when Suspense is being played. If a student does speak Japanese, then he loses his turn. This sets the English mode for the rest of the group. People want to play this game badly enough to NOT speak Japanese. As time goes on, students not only speak and understand controlled English, they also receive recognition from their teacher and peers for their ability to succeed within an English framework. Before long they are confident about their ability in English in this game scenario.

Ending the Game
After all the cards have been picked up, the students count in English how many pairs they have collected. The one with the most pairs wins. Suspense enables everyone to be a winner in one way or another. The students think winning is important, but we as educators know all those who play the game in English are the real winners.

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