Teacher Trout’s games were created as teaching tools in the English as a Second Language classroom (reduced groups). They combine the fun of board and card games with educational materials that are adaptable to the levels and ages of the students. Given the increased demand for ESL materials world-wide, and with many countries adding English into their curricula, the games fulfill a special need for materials developed specifically for children.
Every ESL teacher has been confronted with the difficulties that a second language presents. One must include grammar and sentence structure, pronunciation and vocabulary yet present these concepts in a way that motivates the children and aligns with their current level. On the other hand, to only teach these concepts is not enough because without practice, the information is not acquired and the student will not be able to make use of the information they have learned when they need the language to actually communicate. So, the students must be able to put all of these elements into practice and they need to feel a real desire to do it. Because of this, working with young children can be difficult because they do not have the same motivations to learn a second language as older students. For this reason, I, Beth Trout have developed a set of board and card games that assist in second language learning – and make it fun!
The board games are aimed at children between the ages of 4 and 12 and can be easily adapted to be more challenging as the child is learning. The way this is achieved is through levels that are designed to gradually progress with the children so that they can build upon prior learning.
The games are suited for more than 1 player at a time but an adult that understands English (or whatever language is being learned) must be present. The student earns points or advantages for correct answers during play. Wrong answers are not punished per se, but no points are awarded or no advantages are earned, which impedes the progression of the student along the board. Play lasts between half an hour and an hour, depending on the difficulty of the questions and the level and number of the students.
English Refinement: The games have as their principle objectives the refinement of English, applying grammar rules and sentence structure that have already been learned in a classroom setting, while also incorporating new words, favoring the deductive capacity of the student. If the grammatical elements that the game presents have not been learned at any point, the teacher must present these concepts before using the games.
Creativity: They are also meant to allow for creativity, since fluency in a language is generally acknowledged as one’s ability to manipulate language and make it one’s own. This means that all of the games (with one exception) do not provide a series of possible answers; rather they allow for the students to create their own answers.
Vocabulary: Furthermore, the games enrich the students’ vocabulary by incorporating new words. Since these new words are integrated with grammar and vocabulary the students already know, they can easily deduce the meaning of the new word through the interpretation of the context in which it is used.
Teacher Trout games seek to fill the growing need for ESL materials for children aged 4-12. They are specifically designed for this age group, keeping in mind things that they are interested in and the subjects they are being confronted with in their English classes at school.
Once children are elementary school-aged, people have a tendency to forget that they still enjoy playing games and being children. Although in this country, many classrooms are adapting and creating spaces that allow a child to be a child, in other countries this is still not a reality. The games were created to allow the children to enjoy their private classes without feeling the stress that extracurricular classes tend to put on them. I considered their need to play yet also kept in mind the educational aspect of the class and the expectations of their parents.
Teach Trout games are meant to practice both grammar and vocabulary, not limiting the game to one or the other (the creator has found that children get bored very quickly with these types of games or that they are simply too easy).
The games are meant to foster creativity while refining grammar, which is what language is and why it is able to evolve. A person’s ability to mold language to their own personality is what makes it so important for ESL students to learn to manipulate the language in different ways. Many times, a child has answered a question in a way that I did not expect when I wrote the question and was surprised to find that, given the children’s ingenuity, they were able to invent an answer and defend it with an explanation as to why it was correct. Although this was what I was hoping for, I did not expect it to allow for such diverse answers.