It is with great joy that I welcome you to the Playing to Learn column here on Gallery Teachers. I invite you to join me every two weeks to discover the fascinating world of play in language learning.

In this twelve-post journey we will explore practical ideas and playful activities that can make your classes memorable, engaging, and fun. More than that, my intention is to awaken and strengthen your playfulness and empower you to create and live the play that can arise from your group.

Being a teacher of young learners, I truly believe that play and learning should always be together when we one learns a foreign language because play not only incredibly lowers the hindering effect of fear but also brings the relaxation and attentiveness needed for learning. A playful and affective atmosphere allows all learners to express themselves and validate each other using the target language in active and creative ways. As a result, the affective relationship with the language and the learner roles while learning that will be filled with joy, confidence, creativity, spontaneity, and pride. These are certainly the characteristics that all teachers want their students of all ages to display when using the language they are learning.

Play can happen from planned semi-structured activities to spontaneous moments in which participants make insightful connections. Play can also be present from a sentence that is regularly said to a semester project that requires more collaboration. You can imagine then that successful play in language learning requires then a great degree of awareness, presence, validation, and trust.

I believe that many teachers might steer away from play as a result of thinking that some students might find it not very appealing or productive. This point is certainly important to be talked with students to build a positive perception of play. Once learners feel the joy of playing, reflect upon this approach, and notice their learning, both teacher and students are more free to take risks, make suggestions, and build the path of their learning together. Having play in language learning does not mean that the process is easy or less demanding than a more traditional one. Quite on the contrary as relaxed, engaged, and creative learners can in my opinion reach higher levels of learning in safe environments.

Enough about the importance of play, I guess I have made my point. In this column we will explore when and how to play with a great variety of resources including pegs, balloons, flashcards, pictures, rods, games, stories, puppets, and many more.

Download activity sheets