How To Motivate English Language Learners
Cutting-edge research on game-based learning may hold the secret to keeping your English learners motivated, even in the face of failure.
And for students trying to master a second language, learning how to overcome failure can boost in-class achievement and long-term success.
Here’s how you can put this simple strategy to work for your students:
In Reality is Broken, author Jane McGonigal argues that games can revolutionize learning by keeping students motivated.
During her research, McGonigal observed that while most people hate to fail, gamers spend roughly 80 percent of their time failing — and having a great time doing it.
So what motivates gamers to keep trying despite repeated failure?
And how can we use that same strategy to motivate learners in the classroom?
According to researchers at the M.I.N.D. Lab in Helsinki, Finland, the answer is simple:
“When we’re playing a well-designed game, failure doesn’t disappoint us. It makes us happy in a very particular way: excited, interested, and most of all optimistic.”
In other words, “fun failure” doesn’t discourage game players — or learners. Instead, it helps them to develop mental toughness and keep trying again and again.
Apply this same idea to language learning, and you’ve got a recipe for success. When students learn through games, they’re more willing to fail, an inevitability when it comes to developing language skills. And if students are willing to try again and again, they’re more likely to master new material. Here are a few game-based learning strategies you can use to boost motivation for your English learners.
Transform the everyday into a game
In one New York City charter school, everyday tasks are transformed into elements of a game. Students receive ranks — anywhere from pre-novice to master — rather than grades.
And instead of completing assignments, learners take on missions, which allow them to work in groups to overcome complex challenges.
By putting the everyday into a gaming framework, you can boost motivation for your language learners.
Next time you design a spelling assignment or vocabulary worksheet, consider reframing it as a mission to conquer a dragon or a chance to become a knight of the vocabulary round table.
Let smart software do the work for you
Programs like Imagine Language & Literacy use principles of game-based learning to keep kids engaged as they attempt difficult tasks and master new skills.
If your students use Imagine Language & Literacy, let the software program do the work of turning learning into a game. Have students practice new skills by using Imagine Language & Literacy on their own, or get the whole class involved by having a “Galactic Goal” competition or a “Word Chop” showdown.
You can even let students compete for ranks as a reward for good behavior.
Use your projector or interactive whiteboard to play an activity in front of the whole class, and have students battle for a high score.
Then reward the winner with master or black-belt status.
Have you used game-based learning to help your language learners stay motivated and master new material?
Are you interested in putting the research to the test?