For many years I have taught English Second Language, at High School and University level. I have used a great number of language games during that time, and it struck me, whilst wallowing in my bath this morning, how easily and effectively Twitter could be used in the ESL/EFL classroom to give some of these old chestnuts a new lease of life.
One of the key affordances of Twitter as a games mechanism, is that it removes some of the uncertainties surrounding the games process – something I struggled with in the chalk and blackboard era. As a language teacher, my major concern was always with the language and not with the game itself. For my students, of course, the reverse was the case. While my mind was always racing to the next question in a quiz type game, or the next situation in a role play type game, my students were more concerned about whether I had recorded the score accurately, or whether some-one had missed a turn. It’s not that I am particularly scatty when it comes to these matters, but human error usually becomes an issue, and remembering who should come next was never my strong point! It occurs to me that using Twitter brings a strong technological score-boarding element into any classroom quiz or game.
Another key affordance that Twitter might offer is the easy bringing together of oracy and literacy. Most ESL/EFL games are conducted orally or involve immediate and interactive forms of literacy, such as filling in the missing letters (Hangman) or words. Twitter, with its written format, but speech-like brevity and immediacy, mirrors this very well.
I have only experimented briefly with using Twitter as a quiz mechanism in the classroom. I found that it worked well. The class was divided into teams and had to tweet answers to questions that I tweeted. The quiz I ran was based on questions requiring Internet research, and teams had to tweet their answer with a hyperlink reference. There was no scoring of individual rounds, my emphasis was on answering all ten questions correctly first. The response from students was enthusiastic, and got me thinking about using Twitter for gaming generally. I suppose the ideas have been mulling around in my head for a while. I am not going to discuss quiz type games because these have been discussed in a number of blogs about using Twitter, for example http://t.co/UKMB5Eo. Rather I am going to make suggestions about two ESL/EFL games that I have often used: to date I have not tried the Twitter versions of these games.
The first game is called Who Killed Mrs Mudau?
In this game five or six students role play murder suspects. Each one is given a card describing what they know, and what they have done. One of these is the murderer. Obviously they are not allowed to reveal this to anyone, and must protest their innocence. All suspects have motive, means and opportunity. The rest of the class plays detectives, who must question the suspects, and at the end, vote on who they believe killed Mrs Mudau. The class ends with each player reading out their cue card. I get the murderer to read last, of course. The bell should ring just as the murderer is revealing that s/he did it. As teacher I play the Chief Inspector, throwing in red herrings in the form of new clues, or steering the questions if the class gets too lost. The lesson has always worked a treat, and results in a great deal of natural language use.
It occurs to me that one could run a Twitter version of the game as a variation. This would allow teams to ask questions of the suspects, and would tend to keep everybody more actively involved. The game should use a common hashtag, and the suspects should be logged on as their characters. The suspects would reply to each question asked of them by the teams, and the game would end with a twitter-poll. The session would then end with the suspects reading out their cards.
The second game is called What Am I?
It is a twenty question type game in which students in turn come to the front of the class and answer yes or no to questions asked by the rest of the class. The student tallies the number of questions and wins if what they are has not been guessed within twenty questions. This has always been a highly successful game, but I believe it could benefit from a Twitter treatment. It seems to me that this is the kind of game that students could well manage and play outside the classroom using twitter, and of course a common hashtag. I am thinking particularly of the weekend ESL classes I taught at Wits University, where students were often anxious to stay in touch over the week.
There is an excellent article by Ben Parr at http://mashable.com/2009/03/28/twitter-games/ with some links to games being generated on Twitter currently. Please comment by adding game ideas of your own. I would love to try them out as well!