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Gaming in Education

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 4365 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The effectiveness of game playing activities helps students retain English vocabulary


Vocabulary is a key element in the second language class. Without vocabulary, no message is conveyed. In communication, vocabulary plays an important role, it requires learners have to acquire many of the words and know how to use them to communicate effectively.

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Although Vietnamese students realize the importance of learning vocabulary, they neglect in some English courses. In a vocabulary lesson, a vast amount of teaching time is consumed by explanation and definition, classroom blackboards are often littered with masses of new lexical items, and students compile page upon page of word-lists that they rarely have chance to practice. Obviously, vocabulary arises in the classroom regardless of the chosen activity, and in spite of any conscious design on the teacher’s part. As the result, most students, not just those with learning problems, rarely retain the meaning of vocabulary items. That is why, for most students, learning vocabulary in language lessons is time of failure and disappointment in which they gradually feel boring, often resorting to misbehavior in the classroom and a gradual rejection of the work that the teacher is doing for them. Nguyen & Khuat (2003) state that students study the second language, vocabulary learning is regarded as boring because of remembering unfamiliar vocabulary and their learning habits.

With the increasing emphasis on vocabulary in foreign learning, nowadays, various vocabulary teaching methods have been introduced to help students to retain vocabulary items. And it is my experience, as a teacher of English, that vocabulary has to be presented in a way that helps students find language lessons, especially vocabulary lessons more interesting and comprehensible for them to learn, I have chosen the topic: The effectiveness of game playing activities helps students retain English vocabulary.

Game playing activities not only can help reinforce students’ vocabulary, grammar, but also can create a non- stressful and effective learning atmosphere. This paper will aim to investigate the effectiveness of game playing activities in English teaching in my College.

1.1. Background of the school and the students.

As a teacher of English for non-major English students at Viet Hung Industrial College (VIC), I can clearly see the present situation of students’ English knowledge and vocabulary at VIC. The students’ ability to use English for communication is still limited. This is due to: the students’ level of English when entering college is low and of mixed ability. Many of the students come from the rural areas, they did not have a lot of chances to practice English at the high school. Some of them have learnt English for the three years or seven years at the high school where only written English is taught. Therefore, they can hardly ever communicate in English. They often feel shy because of poor English knowledge and vocabulary. As a result, the teachers often find it confusing to teach to improve individual skills for the students. Thus, my school has used basic material to teach, that is: New English File – Elementary. This material integrates four skills, it helps students revise knowledge and practice skills, which is important to their career.

1.2. The aims of the study.

The study aims to investigate the effect of using game playing activities in teaching and learning English vocabulary at VIC.

It is also to find out the students’ interest and progress toward game playing activities in lessons.

1.3. Research questions.

1. Are game playing activities effective in teaching and learning English vocabulary at Viet Hung Industrial College?

2. How do the students react upon the use of games in lessons?

1.4. The scope of the study.

There are a lot of activities that help students to retain vocabulary. However, in this study I would focus my research on game playing activities in term of English vocabulary teaching and learning in order to help students at VIC to learn vocabulary effectively.

1.5. The significance of the study.

It is hoped that the findings of the study will be useful for the researcher as well as other teachers at VIC to help students’ vocabulary retention be effective. It is also hoped that students and teachers will have a good habit of using interesting and active activities in teaching and learning vocabulary at VIC.

1.6. Structure of the report.


2.1. Teaching and learning vocabulary.

2.1.1. What do learners need to known about words and word learning?

Gain & Redman (1986) show that learners should attend to two large aspects when studying a word:

– Word meaning (conceptual and affective meaning, style, sense relation, collocation, idioms etc).

– Word formation (grammar, word building, and pronunciation).

For word meaning and word formation, we find: Word meaning.

In teaching the meaning of word, teachers should teach students that a word have more than one meaning when used in different contexts. For example, the word “string” has at least fourteen different meanings when used in context. It has four meanings as a verb, five meanings as a noun, and five different meanings when used with prepositions as phrasal verbs. One can say “The string is very dirty”; another “He strings in the tree”. Teachers should make the teaching and learning vocabulary process clear and easy for their students when learning any meaning, otherwise students feel bored with learning vocabulary. Nation (1990) suggests that teachers teach meaning to students, they can use techniques and activities to motivate students such as: demonstration, pictures or verbal explanation. Word formation.

Students also need to know word form like word grammar and word building in order to use them. For example, for the common prefixes and suffixes, if students know the meaning of un-, dis- and able, this will help them guess the meanings of words like unhappy, disadvantage and sustainable. Another way, vocabulary items are built by combining two words (two nouns, a gerund and a noun, or a noun and a verb) to make one items: a single compound word, or two separate, sometimes hyphenated words (bookshelf, stand-by, air letter). Lewis (1993) points out that vocabulary, which includes not only the single words but also the word combinations that we store in our mental lexicons. Therefore, word formation is a very important in teaching vocabulary.

In conclusion, relating to words students have to attend to variety of lexical areas such as word meaning, word formation, word grammar and word use, etc. However, which of these areas the teachers choose to highlight depend on the item they are teaching and the level of their students But to whatever word or what level the students are, word meaning and word formation are the first two areas they must acquire well.

2.2. Games for teaching and learning.

Linguists, teachers and students think that language games are a negative activity or a waste of time. Many of them, who have not tried using language games yet, still doubt if these language games would be useful or practically possible with their students. However, there are views which are far different from those above. For them, in teaching and learning, games are one of the most useful strategies to encourage language acquisition. They have been used to promote students’ language proficiency in variety of aspects: grammar, vocabulary, writing, speaking etc. “Games should not be regarded as a marginal activity filling in odd moments when teacher and class have nothing better to do” (Lee 1979: 3). In this part, we will explore a clear understanding of game in the classroom.

2.2.1. Definition of games in teaching.

In order to understand the concept of games in teaching, we see ideas of the researchers about games in general.

Deesri (2002) gives the definition to game as one kind of effective activity that you do to have fun. Hadfield (1990) says that game is a language activity with the rules, goals and elements of fun carried out by cooperating and competing players. Greenal (1990) also defines games as an element of competition between students or teams in the language practice.

Thus, we can see that games consist of plays governed by rules, relaxation, cooperation and competition. Games can motivate the students to focus on learning, because they do not feel forced and stressed. For this, games are used for developing skills, vocabulary, or grammar, etc.

2.2.2. Advantages of using games in language classes.

Games have advantages and effectiveness in the language classes. What are these advantages?

Games are used to motivate students very highly, whenever they have opportunity to play a game, they are encouraged to choose their players and this motivates them to participle in playing game. However, sometimes, choosing the player is made by the teacher in order to help the weaker students interact with the more able ones. As a result, the weaker students are helped to gain confidence or knowledge by being guided by their fellow students. Games are also an element of competition between players. According to Saricoban & Metin (2000), games provide competition to enhance the motivation of the students. I-Jung (2005) also suggests that games create the competition for students having opportunity to work together and communicate using English with each other. Thus, competition will help students pay attention to learning and engage in the activities in the class much more. And Nguyen & Khuat (2003) also point out that games involve friendly competition and they make students interested. These help the motivation for students of English to get involved and participate actively in learning.

Students always feel tired of grammatical lessons, words and long time learning periods. Games are used to change learning atmosphere to help students reduce the stress in the classroom. As a result, games will bring students fun and relaxation, they will study more effectively. Richard-Amato (1988:147) shows that “games can lower anxiety, thus making the acquisition more likely”. It is clear that students naturally want to play language games because these games can help them practice their language through playing. Therefore, it is the right time to offer them a game when they are tired of acquiring new lessons that they do not want to continue. Carrier (1990) suggests that games can be used to emphasize long formal teaching units and renew students’ energy before returning to more formal learning.

Games stimulate students to work together in role-playing, talking, arguing and debating, and using the language in a variety of contexts. Even when played competitively, games demand a high degree of cooperation. It proves that student-student communication is created. On the other hand, when using a game, the teacher acts as a helper. He helps his students what they need to complete the games, such as: new words, new structures or some suggestions. Carrier(1990) claims that games are often used in the classroom to encourage students’ participation and corporation and can remove the inhibitions of those who feel intimidated by formal classroom situations. When using games with classmates in groups students do not worry too much about mistakes or they will be corrected by other students. In addition, to each game more proficient students or less proficient ones have their strong points so they can corporate to one another to get their team’s goal. Therefore, games help students improve their team-working and group-working spirit.

Finally, games help increase students’ proficiency, so when students play a game they have to work with others, they interact and use skills concerning language. To complete the game, all the members work together to score as many points as possible. To win the game or to solve the problem, students have to think and answer the questions addressed by the teacher or other students. In order to do so they must understand that the teacher or the classmates order to practice. Games in the language classes can enhance students’ ability in practicing language because students can use language in the situation provided (Deesri, 2002). Zdybiewska (1994) agrees that games are the good way to practice language, they supply for learners to use the language in the real context.

Kim (1995:35) summarizes the advantages of using language games as follows:

1. Games are a welcome break from the usual routine of the language class.

2. They are motivating and challenging.

3. Learning a language requires a great deal of effort. Games help students to make and sustain the effort of learning.

4. Games provide language practice in the various skills-speaking, writing, listening and reading.

5. They encourage students to interact and communicate.

6. They create a meaningful context for language use.

2.2.3. Advantages of Vocabulary Games

It is not enough if only advantages of using games in language classes are considered in this study. I have decided to study the advantages of vocabulary games, too. These advantages can be understood as follows:

Vocabulary games make fun and relaxation for students in learning words because they are not alone in learning process, they are learning in exciting atmosphere of groups. This activity motivates students to enrich their vocabulary. Nguyen & Khuat (2003) also affirm that games create relaxed and fun atmosphere for learners, thus, they help learners learn and remember words more easily. According to Urberman (1998), after learning and practicing vocabulary items, students have chance to use language in an unstressed way.

Vocabulary games help English used in the classroom be flexible and communicative through real world context which is useful and meaningful. Frost (2002) says that using pictures, interesting contexts and stories can help memory and giving the students the opportunity to practice the new vocabulary in personalized and meaning tasks are also essential tools. The idea is that if the students are asked to analyze and react personally to new information, it will help them process the language more deeply, facilitating their ability to retain it better.

Vocabulary games provide students some chances to discover the meaning of words and the form of words by themselves and efforts to understand them, therefore, new words will be remembered and understood much faster and better. Hadfield (1990) states that when introducing word games paid much attention to reinforce vocabulary. In his opinion, to retain a word in one’ memory after presentation of it, learners should go through three distinct processes: fixing the meaning of the word in their mind, making the word their own by personalizing it so that it takes on a color and a character for them and become part of their individual word store, and then using it creatively in a context for themselves. Therefore, he classified the games in accordance with these processes: memorization games, personalizing games and communication games.

Vocabulary games include many encouraging exercises that really help students revise the learned words effectively. “Word games are useful for practicing and revising vocabulary after it has been introduced” (Haycraft 1978: 50). Frost (2002) suggests that some activities and games as using word cards, word bag, word tour, etc and with which students can revise words in a funny and meaningful ways. He emphasized that by encouraging the students to retrieve the words in subsequent lessons and repeatedly re-exposing them to what has been presented, teachers are able to counteract the effects of forgetting. Teachers are advised to do this as many times as possible. Uberman (1998) also agrees that games are useful for revising any types of words or aspects of word in a more amusing way than most of the other techniques. Playing a game is a great opportunity to repeat the material in a way which is encouraging and not intimidating.

Therefore, games in teaching and learning vocabulary are very useful in the classroom and the use of vocabulary games is a factor to create the lessons more enjoyable, interesting and effective to motivate students to learn vocabulary.

2.2.4. When to use games?

Games are necessary for language practice opportunities for both general and specific language skills, and they should be seen as a necessary part of a teaching program, and their use should be planned and monitored. Carrier (1990) suggests that games can be used to open or close a lesson, to relieve tension after a test or concentrated practiced session. Rixon (1981) also shows that games can be used for stages of the lesson. Thus, games can be use at any time that the teacher feels appropriate. It is important they are used positively, to give students enjoyment and useful practice, as well as being used as a thing that reduces harmful aspects in situations where students’ interest or motivation is flagging. Although games should be used regularly, this should not become a meaningless habit. The elements of surprise and variety should be carefully maintained.

However, the mount of teaching time for games will depend on the individual teaching context, but it will probably be a relatively small proportion of the total teaching time. According to Deesri (2002), teachers have to cover contents and materials that the curriculum asks, and it is difficult to combine games into the class.

Nevertheless, games become one of the means to achieve teaching objectives and improve students’ communicated ability and help them gain their goals. The difficult task for a teacher is how to choose the suitable type of game, the time devoted to it, and the opportunity of using it.


This chapter provides readers the detailed description of the study, namely the research methodology, the data collection instruments, the data analysis and discussion of the findings.

3.1. The English teaching and learning situations in VIC.

English have been taught in VIC for….years, however, English department has been formed for 4 years with 14 teachers.

The learners in VIC are mainly vocational students; their need of English learning is very low. In particular, the students of technical departments with about 100 percent male students, they almost have no interest in learning foreign languages.

In recent years with the development of the college, VIC has trained a lot of students in tourism and business administration, who with high need of English learning. It is a good signal for the college in general and the teachers of English in particular.

The course book is being used in the college is New English file-Elementary. This course book consists of nine lessons with grammar structures, vocabulary, pronunciation, and skills to get students speaking English. A curriculum has been designed to teach the units in the course book in 1 semester and in 75 lesson periods. During the semester, students are required to do three tests that concentrate on grammar, vocabulary, reading and writing to be given marks. At the end of the semester students have to do the written final semester test and the speaking test that of course given marks to be qualified together with 3 marks mentioned above.

3.2. Research methodology

3.2.1. The subjects.

The subjects in this study were the teachers and the students in VIC. The teachers:

There were 14 teacher subjects in this study. They were all trained in universities in Vietnam with MA in English. Among of these, two teachers have had BA and three have been doing a BA course. They are teaching English to non-English major learners at VIC. They are from 30 to 52 years old with at least 5 years of teaching experience. The students:

In this study, there are 100 student subjects were selected randomly from different classes represent different departments in VIC. Their ages vary from 18 to 25.

3.2.2. The instrumentation. Interview:

The interview questions (Appendix….) were formatted and used for all the subjects in two separate group interviews (the group of the teachers and the group of the students) to discover their opinions, problems and progress toward the games in vocabulary teaching and learning. Observation: A self-observation:

A self-observation checklist was created (Appendix….) to ask the teachers and students about their teaching and learning abilities. Real observation:

The researcher observed the classes of three teachers at VIC to discover how they teach vocabulary and how their students learn.

3.3. Data analysis and discussion of the findings.


4.1. Summary and review of the main findings

Games have much more advantages, they are used both entertainment and educational purposes. Using game activities is a useful technique in teaching and learning the English language to non-native students because it creates fun, interesting and motivation in lessons.

The research aims to investigate the effectiveness of game activities and the real situation of teaching and learning of Viet – Hung Industrial College. The experiment was carried out with the participation of two groups (the group of the teachers and the group of the students) at VIC during a period of 8 weeks. An interview and observations were used as data collection instrument.

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The result of the experiment shows that in retaining vocabulary, games are the most effective and games also receive positive attitude from the students in the experimental group. Although few students did not really like games, the majority of the students agreed with the use of games in vocabulary classes. Based on the findings, it can be concluded that games should be used for vocabulary teaching and learning at VIC because they can bring about a great deal of benefits to learners. However, the teachers have to pay more attention to some unanticipated problems during the conduction of the activity in order to get successful results.

4.2. Limitation and suggestions for further study.

Although the paper has accomplished the objectives set at the beginning, the research can not avoid some limitations. The shortcomings of the present study are essentially about the subject of the study and the content of interview and observations. Apart from that the interview and observations focus mainly on the investigation into games activities based on teaching techniques, so there are possible inadequateness of their content. Besides, the research is carried out in a very limited scope in term of classroom based vocabulary teaching and learning: game activities that help students retain vocabulary. In fact, there are a number of activities that help students of all level retain vocabulary. The research will serves for further research on activities that help students retain vocabulary.


I-Jung, C. (2005). Using Games to Promote Communicative Skills in Language Learning. The Internet TESL Journal, 11(2). Retrieved November 5, 2009, from http://iteslj.org/Techniques/Chen-Games.html

Frost, R. (2002). Presenting vocabulary. British Council. Retrieved November 8, 2009, from http://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/think/vocabulary/present_vocab.shtml

Uberman, A. (1998). The Use of Games: for Vocabulary Presentation and Revision. English Teaching Forum, 36(1). Retrieved November 5, 2009, from http://exchanges.state.gov/forum/vols/vol36/no1/p20.htm

Richar-Amato, P. A. (1988). Making it happen. New York. Longman.

Saricoban, A,. & Metin, E. (2000). Songs, Verse and Games for teaching Grammar. The Internet TESL Journal, 6(10). Retrieved October 30, 2009, from http://iteslj.org/Techniques/Sarecoban-Song.html

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Haycraft, J. (1978). An introduction to English Language Teaching. Halow: Longman.

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Kim, L. S. (1995). Creative Games for the Language Class. 33(1), (p.35). Retrieved October 22, 2009, from http://eca.state.gov/forum/vols/vol33/no1/P35.htm

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Nguyen, T. T. H. & Khuat, T. T. N. (2003). The Effectiveness of Learning Vocabulary Through Games, Asian EFL Journal, 5(4). Retrieved October 19, 2009, from http://www.asian-efl-journal.com/dec_03_sub.Vn.php


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