Games for Skills Development: Opportunities for Increasing Skills

by Gobo Battuul
Gombo Battuul is a Russian and English teacher at Hovd State University.  She teaches English phonetics, English literature and Russian syntax.

    Obviously, a child first learns to practice language through listening. Later, he or she uses language by speaking combined with listening. It is only when children enter school that they learn how to read and write.  So speaking and listening skills are the basic components of their learning activities, and there is a close relationship between them. We cannot develop the speaking ability of students unless we also develop their listening skills.
    Actually, without formal teaching, children learn language and speak intuitively through listening. I think listening skills influence this action because parents talk to their children all the time even if the children can not say a single word.
    Like parents, the teacher’s aim is to improve students’ speaking and listening abilities and to teach them in the most effective ways.
    Good teachers can choose a methodology which helps their students to speak and listen to English. The speaking and listening classroom should incorporate activities which are both communicative, where the students communicate with each other as much as possible, and cooperative, where the students work with each other in pairs or groups. There are a wide variety of activities to develop the speaking and listening skills of the students such as conversations, role plays, free discussions, dictations and songs.
    I teach world literature, American literature, and English phonetics to English majors at Hovd State University. So I need to use effective methods to increase my students’ speaking and listening skills.
Games are very important in a language classroom because they give students opportunities to interact with each other and to help, support, advise and encourage each other. Games also help students increase their communicative skills because they are played in pairs or small groups and give more class time to speaking to each other. There are many different kinds of games that can be used in the classrooms to develop students’ speaking abilities. Some examples are taboo, family tree, find someone, role play cards, and guess the pictures.

I like the following game for speaking lessons. We really had fun when we played this game:
  1. Put the names of famous people and animals on small papers.
  2. Tape one paper to each student’s backs.
  3. Students shouldn’t tell each other who they are.
  4. Students take turns describing the person or animal to another student who tries to guess the person or animal name that is on his back. 
Here is another guessing game:
  • One of the students thinks about someone or something from the classroom and describes it to other students using comparative and superlative forms of adjectives.  The other students try to guess what the student is describing.
During these kinds of activities, students’ speaking and listening skills develop at the same time.

Here are some more ideas to use with students to stimulate conversations.
  • Before the lesson, prepare a list of subjects for the students to talk about, such as hobbies, sports, cooking, family etc.  Put students into small groups.  Each student will choose a topic and spend one minute talking about it.
  • Students take turns looking in the dictionary for a word which seems very obscure and explaining the definition to the other students.
  • Each student has either a word or a definition on a piece of paper.  The students should match the words and definitions by questioning each other in English.
  • Give each pair of students two pictures which are identical except for a few differences.  Without looking at the partner’s picture, the student tries to find the differences in the pictures by listening to his partner’s description.
  • Students ask someone who stands next to them a question and take turns. If someone can’t answer and then ask another question, he or she goes out of the game. Questions should use the proper English tenses. For example:  First student: What were you doing at 5 o’clock yesterday? Second one: I was doing my homework. What were you doing when the bell rang?  The next student answers the question and asks another question using past progressive tense and so on.
    Nowadays students need to be exposed to a wide variety of resources from audio to on-line. These interests prepare them for the outside world.  Teachers should always try to search for more motivating sources for  learning.  Teachers should know that movies, CDs, cassettes and short stories are useful ways to develop students’ speaking and listening abilities.
    For story telling activities, we should choose short stories according to the students’ levels of English. I can use these kinds of activities for the lessons of American and world literature all the time. As an example, I chose the poem “Annabel Lee,” a romantic and melodious poem by Edgar Allan Poe, a famous American writer. 

“Before telling” stage:
  1. I asked the students to write down the first 5 or 6 words they think of when they hear the name of the poem, “Annabel Lee.”  They wrote “a beautiful woman, a kind man, a love story, kiss, hugs,” etc.
  2. I wrote the students’ ideas on the board.
  3. I asked the students to make sentences or a story  using the words and to have a free discussion on the topic.
“During telling” stage:
  1. I read the poem to the students.
  2. They listened carefully to understand the main idea  of the poem.
  3. Students wrote about the main idea. 
  4. Students orally compared their own stories and sentences with the ideas in the poem. 
 “After telling” stage:
  1. I asked the students about the characters and the mood of the poem.
  2. The students described how the poem illustrates the timelessness of love.
  3. The students wrote their own poems about love. 
  4. The students compared “Annabel Lee” with other poems by Edgar Allen Poe.   
  5. The students prepared questions about the poems and asked their partners the questions. 
     In my opinion, oral presentation is a great way for teachers and students to practice their English speaking skills. The extra pressure of knowing they’re going to be in front of the classroom provides students with some great extrinsic motivation.
     I usually start by going through oral presentation with the groups, then assigning an oral presentation every week for  the American and world literature lessons. I never allow my students to write their presentations, but I like to encourage them to use note cards or an outline of the presentation.
     Actually, an oral presentation is also the best way to evaluate students’ speaking skills. In the world literature lessons, we have a lot of topics such as   “Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark” by William Shakespeare,  “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” by Mark Twain, and “ The Old Man and the Sea” by Ernest Hemingway. My students read these books in simplified form and retell the stories.
     I copy the score sheets on page eight and give them to my students to grade a speaker’s speech.  Grading a speaker helps the students pay attention during the presentation and focus on particular skills.