Magazine topic: 
Sport

Sports and language learning

by : 
DanielT

At first, there may not seem to be many obvious connections between learning a language and playing a sport. However, look a little closer and you will see that there are in fact many similarities that can be used in developing both, and here are just a few below.

Working as a team: in most sports, you play as part of a team. Sometimes you need to help your friends, and sometimes they assist you. In the end, you are all pulling together to try and get the win. Language learning can use this idea in the form of team activities and games: some students may find visual games easier, while others may prefer auditory activities. In either case, the goal is the same. In the case of visual learners, a game such as Pictionary can be really useful. In this game, students have to choose a word at random from a selection and then draw the word for their teammates to guess. This can be something as simple as a cat or something more complicated such as Christmas or winter. For auditory learners, a game such as First Letter, Last Letter could help to develop confidence and improve vocabulary. In this game, a student will say a word in English, then the next will have to say a word beginning with the last letter of the previous word. For instance, if the first student says 'table', then the next student has to say a word beginning with the letter 'e', such as 'elephant'. If a player cannot come up with a word quickly enough, then they are out of the game and play continues until there is a winner.

The use of rules can help to both define and regulate learning in a controlled and well-directed manner, by using the rules of the game to steer the learning. One example of this is by using the game of baseball, making questions that vary by difficulty to reward students playing the game (so an easy question would allow a student to move to first base if answered correctly, or the student could choose to answer a question that is more difficult but would have a greater reward, like getting to second base/third base/home run). This approach can help classmates pull together to work as a team, using the strategy of the individual game to choose an approach that works best for the team. Another example of this could be to use basketball, where students choose to take on a question or activity for either 2 points (easier) or 3 points (more difficult). By discussing as a team, the students might be able to come together and make sure that each students performs to a level which is suitable for their confidence and ability at the time, and so have a better chance of winning the game.

So, it can be seen that by taking the basic elements of sports and combining them with the different skills required to develop in a language, the classroom experience can be made much more meaningful, relevant and hopefully fun too!

Discussion

Do you agree with Daniel that there are similarities between sports and language learning? Do you play games in your English classes? 

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