Improving learning with educational games: Scrabble with seniors to learn French vocabulary

ISP students from the Grade 6 and 7 French Initiation class partnered with seniors from the Club Les Ternes for an initiation to French scrabble lesson at the ISP library.

Annie, Eugénie et Maria, seniors from the Club Les Ternes, played with students and helped the students understand the rules of French scrabble. Students learned new French vocabulary and were able to compare scrabble with similar games from their home countries. At the end of the lesson, they were asked to communicate the results of the game as well as express their feelings and opinions about this intergenerational experience. For some who recently arrived at ISP, it was the first time having participated in an intergenerational learning class with seniors. Grade 7 student Jillian expressed "I was happy to learn new things from seniors. This meeting reminds me of my grands-parents who are far away." The seniors were pleased to share their knowledge with international students and to integrate into a new social environment.

Educational games in a foreign language class can be used to learn new words or to review either a current or past lesson's vocabulary. Games also serve as an excellent way to informally check for understanding. Scrabble, baccalauréat, loto—all of these games have a positive impact on students, including increasing interest and motivation, improving learning and achievement, and also developing empathy and respect toward the elderly.

In learning a foreign language, vocabulary plays an important role. It is one element that links the four skills of speaking, listening, reading and writing all together. In order to communicate well in a foreign language, students should acquire an adequate number of words and should know how to use them accurately.

Lee (1995) lists several main advantages when games are used in the classroom, including "a welcome break from the usual routine of the language class","motivating and challenging," "effort of learning," and "language practice in the various skills." Ersoz (2000) holds that games are highly appreciated due to their amusement and interest. Teachers can use games to help their students further practice their communication skills. In addition, Uberman (1998) also affirms the helpful role of games in vocabulary teaching after quoting and analyzing different opinions of experts. From her own teaching experiences, Uberman observed the enthusiasm of her students in learning through games. She considers games a way to help students not only enjoy and entertain with the language they learn, but also practice it incidentally.

Educational games such as scrabble, loto, and baccaluréat are effective tools that ISP language teachers apply in their classes. The use of vocabulary is a way to make lessons more interesting and enjoyable.

"Games are used not only for mere fun, but more importantly, for the useful practice and review of language lessons, thus leading toward the goal of improving learners' communicative compétence" (Asian EFL Journal).

Monica Devos

ISP French Teacher