The Importance of Assessment, Rapport and Games
Diary submitted by Laura H. Valencia
How can I, as a teacher, make lessons for students less overwhelming and more inspiring?
In many classroom situations, it can frequently pose a problem for teachers to adequately engage the students. For learners, course materials, grammar points and the prospect of having to speak with the teacher can seem quite daunting. However, the situation can be ameliorated for both the student and the teacher by using different strategies. Assessment, rapport and games are vital in creating more stimulating lessons.
In my lessons, gauging a student’s abilities, building up a friendly connection and utilizing various icebreakers and warmers are also major elements. As soon as a student enters the classroom, I attempt to determine the student’s level of proficiency. By doing so, I know right away whether a student will struggle with the course material and the content. It also gives me the chance to adjust the course of the lesson to the student’s needs. Where the strengths and weaknesses of learners lie can be easily determined. Innocuous questions about a student’s favorite pastime, about their job, their family or their pet are very useful to get a first impression of the student’s abilities. What is more, such informal questions put students at ease, and they help me to create a convivial atmosphere. Establishing a good rapport with the student is another one of my methods to keep the student interested and motivated. I always try to show my students that their opinions and their interests matter to me. In my opinion, students who feel appreciated are more willing to participate, to contribute and, most importantly, to improve. Progress can also be fostered by integrating games into a lesson. Both warmers and rounding-off games are most effective. Whenever I have a tense student, who is afraid of speaking and opening up, I use icebreakers, such as guessing games or word- association games. I also believe that games in which students have to use newly acquired grammar structures, like role-play, are a good way to finish off lessons. Over the course of a lesson, students should feel confident and able to improve themselves. Thus, I attempt to make the teaching experience as stimulating as possible by adjusting the lesson to the student’s needs and by creating a reassuring environment in which games are a welcome distraction.
These techniques are also elaborated on in Kathleen Graves’, Betteridge’s and Buckby’s works. Kathleen Graves attaches great importance to the ideas of assessment and rapport in the classroom. She underscores that evaluation helps to tailor not only the materials, but also the content to a student’s needs. In her opinion, a student’s learning strategies should also be adequately assessed in order to modify the lesson plan accordingly. Furthermore, Graves points out that perception and attention are qualities of a good teacher. They help the teacher to identify weaknesses, and they also help the teacher to sense whether a student is disinterested and demotivated. Lack of interest and motivation need to be combatted immediately by the teacher. In order to do so, teachers need to be aware of a student’s preferences and interests.
When teachers know their students, they can instantly come up with a plan to fight lassitude and disinterest by addressing something that appeals to the students on a personal level. Betteridge and Buckby propose another strategy to make lessons more interesting: games. For them, games play an essential role in the learning process. Betteridge and Buckby highlight that learning a foreign language is an immensely exhausting undertaking. Playing games is therefore a good method to loosen up a lesson. According to the authors of Games for Language Learning, games also force the learner to activate and practice different structures of the foreign language. Learners are forced to take risks and to make mistakes, which is highly significant for successful language learning.
All in all, teaching a language is a complex, multi-faceted process. For me, it is vital to move the students’ needs front and center in the classroom. Students should have the chance to experience a lesson in which they can grow and in which they are confronted with materials and content appropriate to their language level. The classroom should be an environment in which they feel appreciated as individuals and in which they are allowed to make mistakes. I strongly believe that creating such an atmosphere is the best way to combat boredom and to facilitate a student’s progress.
- Designing Language Courses: A Guide for Teachers. London: Heinle and Heinle. Graves, K. 2000.
- Games for Language Learning (3rd edition). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Wright, Betteridge & Buckby, 2006.