September 1998 — Volume 3, Number 3
Edutainment: How to Teach Language with Fun and Games
Ian E. Hewitt (1996)
Tokyo: Language Direct
ISBN 0-9586492-0-0 (paper + audiocassette)
US $34.95; Japan yen 3400
The idea of classroom games no longer meets with disapproval, so another book about language teaching games and game-like activities seems hardly to need justification. That disapproval always did have a dreary and unenterprising air about it and arose in part from lack of observation and knowledge of how pupils learn–as thoroughly on occasion by means of what is called play as by means of what is called work.
Nowadays many teachers believe that in foreign language learning enjoyment and success go together. The essence of many games lies in outstripping, in friendly fashion, someone else’s performance, or in bettering one’s own. There is a zest in trying to do this. The goal is visible and stimulating. Outdoing others, and improving on oneself, are by and large enjoyable pursuits. Enjoyable also is active cooperation with one’s classmates or fellow learners. In group or team games rivalry and cooperation go hand in hand. Fun and excitement, in language-learning as in most adventures, can be profitable and very much in place.
Another point about language learning has to be noticed: a language is learnt through using it, through using it in authentic situations. Disembodied words or sentences don’t get learners anywhere. Parallel with the danger of monotony and boredom runs the danger of mechanical drills, the danger of blind parroting and of meaninglessness. A foreign language must be brought to life in situations by gestures, by handling or touching things, by actions and incidents, by pictures, by dramatization, by interesting stories spoken or in print, and not least by contests and games.
Edutainment: How to Teach Language with Fun and Games has been compiled for teachers of English as a foreign or second language. It contains a diversity of games, and aims to provide for all levels, from absolute beginners to advanced pupils. Hewitt has successfully tried to give simple instructions with pictures for games of the “old fashioned” instructional kind, games that work well requiring minimal preparation and minimal technological resources or equipment. Owners of the book are granted the non-exclusive right to copy the teaching materials where indicated. The author’s definition of a game is simple and persuasive: a) it must be fun, b) it must teach or reinforce a language skill, c) it should be competitive and a score should be awarded, and (d) a winner should be nominated and some sort of award given (p. 11). These games are more than just [-1-] relaxation. Although they do not practise important grammatical structures, they do train pupils in fluency and are excellent for increasing language skills, since they offer teachers enjoyable ways of letting their pupils practise what they have learnt. They are useful supplements to a broad program that is alive with authentic, interesting, and stimulating learning opportunities. After teaching in junior high schools, companies, and colleges for some years, Hewitt developed his own system of game-based teaching, profiting from his experiences with Japanese learners. He offers the reader a mixed bag of games (traditional, known, and less known) in which language is used without concentrating on a particular language-learning point. The 100-page manual and audiocassette were designed to reflect the most successful teaching techniques and practices using games in English classes in many countries around the world. Although emphases will certainly differ from school to school and from country to country, the games all reach their common goal: to help students develop their foreign language skills, thus keeping abreast of modern and highly effective methods in language learning and teaching. The book is a valuable TESL resource collection because of its contents and variety of classroom procedures, offering many useful activities which can easily be adapted to the needs and expectations of learners of all ages. Edutainment games and songs work well and are easy to use, which is why many teachers appreciate them and have sent positive feedback to the author.
After these words of justified approval, some points of criticism must be made. Unfortunately the author has not seized the opportunity to supply teachers with games “off the beaten track” or to take into consideration recent developments and offers found on the Internet. Too many of the games contained in the book are familiar to many teachers. Nearly all the games have been tried out at one time or another with classes, by the author, his students, or by other teachers. Nevertheless, in some circumstances they will need adaptation; not all are suitable everywhere, regardless of the kind of classroom or class. This is meant to be a practical book, but it should not therefore be used blindly. A good teacher’s thought and imagination are required to adapt the games to individual needs.
Hewitt’s task of selection and evaluation was certainly a most difficult one due to the great number of language games available. Although there is a brief table of contents at the beginning of the book, it does not help the teacher find a suitable game at a glance, since the nature of the games is not indicated. Neither is there an index at the end of the book, which would have helped to make the structure of the book more lucid. The descriptions of the games show the level(s) for which they are best suited and offer possible alternatives and variations. Despite the fact that the author claims his games to be “suitable for all levels” (book cover), it is doubtful that the given range of options is broad enough to really challenge a mature learner. [-2-]
A tape of seventeen Edutainment songs is included, plus words to copy. The songs are original high quality recordings of old favourites (pop songs, “oldies but goldies”) sung by The Beatles, The Animals, The Monkees, Diana Ross, Simon and Garfunkel, The Mamas and the Papas, The Carpenters, and The Hollies. Songs are a good way to teach in an entertaining and agreeable way, since they incorporate different language skills. Hewitt supplies the lyrics as text sheets with simple cloze exercises and answer keys at the bottom of the page. Students love doing cloze exercises, but here the contribution would have been more remarkable if more imaginative variations, different instructions, and well-balanced assessments had been given. Hewitt hardly hints at the complexity of using songs in modern foreign language teaching. The perspective he gives is far too narrow and must definitely be widened.
Language teachers who have direct access to the Internet can quickly find and easily use materials suited to a communicative style of teaching. That is why the reviewer regrets the lack of a short descriptive bibliography at the end of Hewitt’s book, with at least some useful URLs containing EFL/ESL language games. Such indications would certainly be appreciated by teachers wanting to ease the process of learning and teaching. Second language classroom games and ideas can be shared and sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lessons, games and songs can be found at
- Second Language Classroom Games: http://www.westonka.k12.mn.us/germangame.htm;
- Vocabulary Exercises and Games: http://members.aol.com/eslkathy/esl.htm; and
- Ernie’s Activity Page: http://www.lingolex.com/userpages/Ernie.html.
Teachers are invited to form their own impression of Hewitt’s games at FREE Sample Edutainment Games:
They will certainly share the opinion that Hewitt’s package is of interest to everybody looking for materials designed to develop learners’ skills within a relaxed context involving interaction. They can also easily compare the author’s reasonably priced teaching package with competing materials downloadable free of charge or at a low rate. No matter what they choose, one thing is certain. Including an activity which is fun (and somehow connected to the subject dealt with) does not cost much of the teachers’ precious time. Teachers should be encouraged to provide activities which are entertaining, yet a bit out of the ordinary, because they increase pleasure and make students feel at ease.
Westf. Wilhelms-Universitaet, Germany
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