The Disadvantages of Using Language Games in Teaching Vocabulary

Written by felicia lee
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The Disadvantages of Using Language Games in Teaching Vocabulary
Learning new vocabulary isn't all fun and games. (Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Memorising new vocabulary words can be boring for many students, but learning them through word games can make the task fun for both students and teachers. Word and language games not only make class time go faster, they improve students' rates of learning and retention. Still, effective vocabulary teaching isn't all fun and games. When considering language games as part of a lesson plan, teachers should be aware of a few potential pitfalls.

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Planning and Organization Time

Not all games will work for all pedagogical purposes. Choosing or designing the right game for the lesson you want to teach can be more time-consuming than planning a traditional vocabulary lesson. Teachers should take this extra workload into account when planning their lessons.

Complexity of Games Can Be Distracting

Another potential pitfall of games in vocabulary teaching is that the game itself could distract students from its intended pedagogical goal. If the game is structurally complex (for instance, a video game that involves role-playing), players may become too distracted by the mechanics of the game to learn vocabulary effectively, even if vocabulary-related tasks are part of the game.

Games Can Be Viewed as Busywork

Because games are fun and game play involves a lot of relaxed and informal interaction between students and teachers, some teachers and even students may view them as unproductive busywork. When done strategically, though, teaching vocabulary through games can be more effective than teaching through traditional methods of drill and memorisation.

Games Require Resources to Develop

For some teachers, availability of resources can be a factor in whether or not to use games in the classroom. Educational video games, for instance, require computer access, and even technologically simple games such as custom-designed crossword puzzles may involve extra design, printing and photocopying costs. Low-cost alternatives (chalkboard games such as Hangman, for instance) are available, and could add to your students' learning experience.

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