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Nedomova assumes that children have their own ways of thinking and learning, which are entirely different from the ways in which adults think and learn. There is no doubt that children are less experienced than adults and their cognitive ability of abstract concepts has not been fully developed. However, they have some certain characteristics which make them learn faster than adults do.
First of all, children are creative. They are not only creative with grammatical forms but concepts as well (Halliwell, 1992). Lightbown and Spada (1999) present an example in their book to illustrate the creation of children as follows:
Kyo: I'm hungry.
Dad: We'll have some poppy seed bread in a little while.
Kyo: No. I want it now.
Dad: We have to wait 'til it's defrosted.
Kyo: But I like it frossed.
The child in the example recognizes the prefix "de-" as negating the root word, so his version of the opposite of "defrosted" comes out as "frossed". It seems that children have the ability to communicate in spite of their relatively limited vocabulary. Therefore, games can be rather useful and important because they may maximize the use of vocabulary and grammar of children. Games help children to be creative in the language they learn, which naturally leads to the development of their communicative skills.
Another characteristic is that children have the capacity of indirect learning. They can learn without being aware of it. Young learners tend to remember the peripheral things happening around the class better than what they are supposed to learn. One typical lesson often lasts for 40-45 minutes, however, most children can only fully concentrate for 10-20 minutes before they start to get bored and tired. Therefore, games can be utilized as an appropriate method to encourage children's aptitude for indirect learning. (Nedomova, 2007). For example, teachers may use the method of "guessing" to teach new phrases and structures. Young learners will focus on find the right answer rather than what phrases and structures needed to be learned. However, teachers can be satisfied because they notice that students can actually use the grammatical items without difficulties.
Last but not least, children love talking. This is considered as the most important characteristic of children to which teachers must pay attention (Halliwell, 1992). As we can see, one of the most common problems in the classroom is that the students often talk to each other during our lessons. However, it can be a powerful motivator if teachers know how to cope with this situation. Teachers should choose appropriate activities to take advantage of this problem. For example, teachers can organize information gap activities in which the students have to talk to each other to find the necessary information; or encourage them to tell a story by having them one by one take turns to make up a story. By doing this, children can develop not only their communicative skills but also the ability to use phrases and grammatical structures correctly.
Based on those above mentioned characteristics, it can be concluded that using games is a suitable method for teacher to help young learners know the rules of English language without having to use complicated grammatical terminology, which are very difficult for children to understand.
The advantages of using games in teaching English grammar
It is undeniable that games may bring a number of advantages in teaching English grammar to young learners.
The first advantage is that games can increase students' interest and motivation. In a typical grammar lesson, teachers just follow the tasks given in the book and students have to complete the tasks in writing and reading. Students may sometimes be frustrating because of a serious and hard-digesting grammar lesson. However, if teachers know how to use games to teach grammar, learners may actually learn while they are playing and they are willing to learn more. Avedon and Sutton-Smith (1971, p.28-29) believe that:
"The main reason why games are considered effective learning aids is that they spur motivation and students get very absorbed in the competitive aspects of the games; moreover, they try harder at games than in other courses."
Learners' interaction may increase as games are often organized in pair work or group work. According to Rinvoluci and Davis (1995), games are excellent for promoting cooperation and mutual help within students. The students must be engaged in the game and communicate more with their teammates so that they can beat other teams and become the winner. Tuan and Doan (2010) state that students may be more willing to ask questions, to discuss and think creatively about how to use English to achieve the goal. Therefore, the competition in games gives student a natural opportunity to work together and communicate in English with each other a lot.
Another benefit of games is that games promote active learning process of students. During a game, learners often have to make resolutions or decisions. It is stated in Yu's thesis (2005) that evaluation, discussion, reflection, and application all occur during playing games and all promote learning. Games allows the students to have active control of the learning process and also promote prompt feedback from their peers (Allery, 2004). Through active learning process, students can retain grammar rules for a long time as according to Holler (traas cited in Yu, 2005)), using games in grammar teaching are valuable tool for enhancing learning. He states that we remember only 10% of what we read, 20% of what we say, but 90% of what we do. Therefore, games provide more opportunities for students to practice in a meaningful linguistic situation. This contributes to greater retention and more satisfactory learning outcomes.