On Saturday, October 21st, I will lead a TEFL Qatar workshop. This will be my first professional presentation in Qatar and the EFL setting. I am quite excited for the opportunity, and in lieu of my normal weekly blog post, I decided to work on my script for the presentation. So, this post is approximately what I will say during my presentation. I have inserted all my PPT slides throughout the post, and if interested, you may access all the presentation materials through the following link. Enjoy!
“Greetings, everyone! Thank you for choosing to attend this TEFL Qatar workshop. My name is Conan Kmiecik, and I have been working in international education for the past decade. I have worked as an ESL instructor, an IEP program coordinator, a developer of short-term summer programs, an international student advisor, and a SEVIS officer. And now, I have been working as an English instructor in the EFL setting for the past two months. Being so new to the region, I was deeply honored when asked by the TEFL Qatar planning committee to lead a workshop. I was told that I could present on anything that I had experience with, so I suggested employing and adapting tabletop games for the language classroom, and the committee was fine with this idea. But, because I was so new to Qatar, I didn’t know what challenges this topic would create for me. More about this later in the presentation.
“First off, I want to acknowledge some of the background to today’s presentation. I developed parts of this presentation back in 2015 in collaboration with Mr. Alex Hatheway, a colleague of mine at my previous institution, the University of Wisconsin River Falls. We were both instructors in an English language program and shared an interest in infusing our English courses with pop culture in order to motivate our learners. We were also enthusiasts of tabletop games and believed that these cultural artifacts could be employed to develop language skills and American pop culture schema. I owe Alex a debt of gratitude for his contribution to today’s workshop.
“Now before we get started, I want to review the learning objectives that I have for our time today. After completing the workshop, you should be able to understand the definition, styles, and current developments of tabletop games. You should be able to identify some potential tabletop products for the language classroom. You should be able to examine how to adapt elements of tabletop games. You should be able to play test some DIY language tabletop games that I developed for different learners in order to appraise the usefulness of tabletop games for the EFL context. And, lastly, you should be able to create your own tabletop games for your classroom contexts and learning objectives. Are there any questions?
“Let’s get started. So many of you are probably wondering, what is the difference between tabletop games and board games?
“Tabletop games can best be understood as an umbrella term for any games played on a table or flat surface. This can include board games, card games, dice games, and roleplaying games. Note: a game like charades would be classified as a party game, and games with the express purpose of winning money would be classified as gambling, even though gambling might be carried out on a table or flat surface and employ cards or dice.
“Now in the genre of tabletop games, some games can be classified in two distinct styles of play: German- or Euro-style and American-style games. If you have ever played Monopoly, then you have played a tabletop game that is very much an American-style game. The goal of the game is to try and drive the other players out of the game so that you can achieve your real estate monopoly and win. If you have played a game like Settlers of Catan, then you have played a German- or Euro-style games. Basically, all the players remain in the game until reaching an end or someone wins the game.
“The reason why I mention the two tabletop game styles is because I want to encourage you, when investigating or developing your own tabletop games, to pursue games that are more German- or Euro-style. Better yet, pursue games with a more cooperative style. Some competition is healthy; however, learners should not feel excluded from participation nor incited into aggressive behavior. It’s funny how a simple Jeopardy review games can sometimes create hard feelings in the class when a player is not awarded the points they feel they deserve.
“Despite the profusion of video games for computers, consoles, and even phones—strangely enough—in parts of Europe and North America, there has been a renaissance of tabletop games. People are seeking out opportunities for face-to-face social interaction. And, game developers have been able to use crowd-sourcing in order to raise the capital to bring their tabletop games to market. Comic book stores, bookstores, and big box stores all have an ample selections of tabletops to capitalize on the trend. In Doha—to my surprise when I started to prepare for my workshop—not so much. Why? Having not been in the country for very long, I imagine that there are cultural and material reasons limiting the spread of tabletop games here.
“Yet, regardless of the meager selection of tabletop games in Doha, I strongly believe that tabletop games or their elements can be incorporated into English language teaching for this EFL context. Plus, there is scholarship to support my position.
“Researchers and practitioners claim that games ‘engage’ students, providing for ‘an enjoyable learning experience,’ and allow instructors to assess our students in different ways.
“Moreover, games can be employed with adult learners, not just children or adolescents!
“One of the biggest obstacles to the incorporation of games in the language classroom might be instructors themselves because they don’t believe they have the creativity nor time to develop games tailored for their classroom.
“Still, there is no need to develop a tabletop game from scratch because a wealth of options already exists on the internet, and games on the market can be adapted for classroom purposes. The most important thing an instructor can do is find an opportunity to experiment with a game in their classroom and see if it achieves the desired results.
“So why adapt tabletop games for the EFL context? They can provide a reprieve from test-based, teacher-centered learning thus energizing the students by facilitating peer-to-peer classroom interaction. Games promote social communication, stimulate kinesthetic/tactile learning, and provide low-tech alternatives when students are inured by technological bells and whistles.
“When I pitched my workshop idea, I was planning on purchasing some games that I wanted to demonstrate during the workshop. However, as far as I can tell, after visiting several malls around Doha, the games I wanted are not available in the city.
“The list of games includes The Resistance, The Ungame, Wits & Wagers, Concept, and Telestrations. These are games that I have enjoyed with friends, and I have employed some of them in the classroom or at student events. I have embedded Amazon links to all the games in my PPT, so if you are interested in them, feel free to investigate and contact me if you wish to know why I feel the games would be useful in the language classroom.
“Even though there are a wealth of games on the market, not all tabletop games are entirely employable in the language classroom. However, if you have the opportunity to peruse a number of them, you might find ideas that you might adapt for your own classroom purposes.
“For example, when I purchased Never Have I Ever, I found that the majority of the conversation starters were a bit too raunchy for the classroom. But, I still liked the idea to teach the present perfect and the past participle. Would You Rather…?, with some careful screening, could provide offbeat prompts to spur classroom writing and speaking. And the most promising thing that I found in Pub Trivia, was the answer sheet. With the answer sheet as a springboard, I felt that I could create questions that would be more germane to my curriculum objectives.
“It would be very easy to recreate this answer sheet as a Word file, and then use the game as a way to review for a quiz or midterm.
“Now that I have discussed at length tabletop games, I want to leave some time for you all to play test some games that I have adapted for use in the English language classroom.
“At your tables, you will find the materials and instructions for one of four types of games: Vocabulary Parcheesi, Reading Dread, Roll and Write, and Visual Directions. Please review the instructions and play the game. I will come around and clarify any confusion that you might have. Additionally, if the game requires dice, would someone at each table be kind enough to download a free dice app? Unfortunately, dice are not easy to come by in Doha. Lastly, as you play test, feel free to appraise the game. What do you like about the game? What could be improved about the game? And, how would you adapt the game for your classroom or course?
“This brings us to the end of the workshop. Before we conclude, I have some additional suggestions if you are interested in employing and adapting tabletop games.
“Additionally, if you wish to create your own board games, a very easy way to create a board is to use PowerPoint. If you have ever created a poster for a presentation using PowerPoint, then you should be able to create a board for a tabletop game using the program.
“Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or feedback, and thank you for spending your Saturday with me. Cheers!”