2020

Exploring methods for online learning

Weeks 20-23

Still living through Melbourne’s second lockdown. My housemates and I have found a new way to break the everyday routine and have a little bit of excitement in our days of starring the screen: playing social games! So far, my favourite ones have been Monopoly Deal, and of course, the best Finnish outdoor game of all time – Mölkky – which by the way, is not “Finska” or “Battle Blocks” as they call it here in Australia.

The games got me thinking about all the social activities we used to have with my 5th graders in Sweden. That class just loved all kinds of games, challenges, and drama improvisations. And what they learnt through a game or other fun learning activities, they remembered later in the exam. It’s amazing how learning can be boosted by simply making it fun for the learners. So why not to try the same in online teaching! 

The newest project in my private teaching has been converting the good old social games, like Pictionary, Alias (a Finnish word explanation game), and classic card games into online versions in which the students get to practise Finnish vocabulary and structures. For instance, the best ice breaker game on the very first lesson with Finnish as a second language students has been the game called Kuutamolla (Two Truths and a Lie) where the student and I come up with some sentences about ourselves, some of the truth and some of them lies, and try to guess which ones are true and which false. 

In the small group of adult beginners, the game that made me and the students laugh the most was the Finnish Small Talk game which I invented when exploring the Monopoly Deal cards. In this game, I gave the students some questions and responses in Finnish and their task was to chat with each other by matching the phrases so that the conversation would make (at least some kind of) sense. With the wild cards like “No niin” (oh well / so / yeah) and “Mun pitää mennä. Moikka!” (I must go. Bye!), some excitement and entertainment were added to the game when a player got a new turn or made a funny match with the phrases.

Some people claim that small talk doesn’t exist in Finnish but I disagree. I created an online card game where the students use Finnish small talk phrases as cards to build a chat conversation. The “cards” were shuffled and dealt randomly to the players beforehand.

Playing games is not everyone’s cup of tea – or “pala kakkua” (a piece of cake) as we say in Finnish – but it’s certainly an effective learning strategy for those who enjoy it. I haven’t noticed any difference between children and adult learners in terms of the effectiveness of game-based learning. Adults might sometimes be surprised by how beneficial playing language games together with other students can be in terms of learning. Younger learners, on the other hand, are usually more open-minded for different teaching methods; they want to try new learning activities to see if they like them or not. Anyway, the feedback I often receive from adult learners is that they discovered or understood something new about the Finnish language when trying a different learning method as it gives them a new perspective to explore the topic. That’s why I want to encourage all students to try various learning methods. You never know if the new strategy motivates you to learn more!

I am starting four new Finnish courses for small groups in August: 

  1. Learn Finnish through games: adult beginners (CEFR A0-A1) 
  2. Learn Finnish through News: adult intermediate level (CEFR A1-A2) 
  3. Game Club: young Finns living abroad, ages 7-10
  4. Media Club: young Finns living abroad, ages 11-15

The beginner course Learn Finnish through Games and the Game Club for young Finns abroad focus on game-based learning. Meet other Finnish learners and practise everyday vocabulary, useful phrases, and basic grammar through activating social games. In News Club and the intermediate course Learn Finnish through News, the learners are encouraged to explore the Finnish language through various multimedia texts. By learning strategies to read, understand, and discuss Finnish news, the students improve their multi-literacy and communication skills in Finnish. To discover new learning strategies, check out the new courses on my website!

More information about the courses for small groups on my website https://www.teacherroosa.com/grouplearning.

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