I've been having a great time over the past week or two using the Australian edition of Monopoly with my beginner level adult language learners.
I'd only ever used Monopoly before with students in the upper elementary to higher levels, and I was a little sceptical at first how accessible and effective using it with beginners might be (even when I removed a variety of the more complex rules -- for example, taking away the whole houses and hotels upgrading thing, and considerably simplified others -- like the Chance and Community Chest results).
Going with a flexible approach, taking things as they came, roughly four hours of Monopoly, interspersed with a variety of short language activities, have yielded great results with this class. In essence, they've gone from a workable "social game" vocabulary consisting of yes/no, basic pronouns, good/bad, happy/no happy and like/no like to very fluent use of sentences and phrases including:
- Whose turn is it? / It's (not) your/my turn.
- Can you move my marker for me?
- Yes, I'd like to buy it / No, thanks.
- How much is it? / Do you have change?
- That's my property. Please pay the rent. It's _____ dollars.
- Do you have enough money?
- Here you are / No worries.
- Skip three turns / Skip two more turns / Skip one more turn.
- Cities, noteworthy locations, and states of Australia.
The process here was relatively straightforward, but I guess could be explained in four stages:
(1) Play the game, with the teacher doing almost all of the talking, and learners just doing/following along. As properties are purchased, there are brief digressions to show where on a map of Australia the places are, and how to pronounce them properly.
(2) Pause to introduce key phrases and expressions that embodied most of the actions being undertaken (and up to this point being said mostly by the teacher), working through them on the whiteboard, with learners taking them down in their notebooks to study later at home as well.
(3) Continue playing the game, and ask students to try to use the expressions as the natural/required opportunities in the game came up, with reminders, help and modelling from the teacher.
(4) Continue playing the game, with the teacher using something akin to the Silent Method -- simply nodding, shaking the head, pointing or using other forms of non-verbal language to help prompt the learners or confirm or question their use of language as the game progressed.
By stage four, the learners were getting seriously good at using almost all of the language chunks I listed above. My role in the game was just playing banker and finding entertaining ways to simplify and convey the curve ball situations thrown up by the Chance and Community Chest cards.
To me, the clear success factors in this approach are:
- The learners genuinely enjoyed the challenge of the game, for pretty much unlimited hours of classroom time;
- The chance for a silent period, while still doing things that involved participating in a social game;
- The abundant chances for meaningful, non-boring repetition -> I believe the game and approach here satisfied a lot of the priorities mentioned in Scott Thornbury's recent post about Repetition.
So yeah, a useful discovery that: Monopoly as a game for language learners isn't limited to just intermediate levels and higher...