Reflection on the post-play “Analysis” lesson

First up, this is the order of activities that students complete as part of this lesson:

  1. Check English errors
  2. Translate JP to EN
  3. Presentations
  4. YouTube viewing

Set up

Before this class, students played a game and recorded the audio during the play session. For homework (or for the time remaining in the previous class) they collectively transcribed the audio and wrote down how many times each member spoke English in a tally.

Checking errors

The first activity of the class is for students to collectively look at their transcriptions for any mistakes they made in English. Of course, it is not obvious to them when they are making mistakes and I often hear the lamentation 「間違えているか分からないよー」as I walk around. However, they can easily pick up on the fact that they are mostly interacting by using single words (Open. Who? Werewolf. This. You? Next.).

I walk around the class looking at students transcriptions, marking areas that I think they should explore further.

Today I pointed out the following expressions as areas to look into:

  • I want you to…
  • Because / because of / so
  • Should / shall
  • He said / who said…?
  • There is / there is no…
  • There’s a good chance…
  • “a” and “the”

The students also realised that they used a lot of Japanese unnecessarily. Things like ‘そうだね’ or ‘これとこれ’ really shouldn’t be being said in Japanese. It’s not like they don’t know how to say such simple things in English, they just didn’t realise that they were using Japanese until they listened back to the audio and made the transcriptions.

Taking the game ‘Insider’ in particular, the group noticed that the main part of the game occurs after thekeyword has been guessed correctly. They also realised that this was the stage where they pretty much only used Japanese. However, I told them that it was not a problem. Certainly not a negative. The fact that they transcribed all of their Japanese discussion for use in today’s class is great. Why? Because it gives them the opportunity to think about how they could do the same discussion in English. I also told them that some students don’t transcribe the Japanese parts they spoke because they think it’s ‘against the rules’ to speak Japanese or that it is not important for the post-play analysis. Realising that the L1 can be a launchpad to thinking about the L2 is a great step here. That is the purpose of this lesson: to critically evaluate their previous performance and to collectively try and improve their knowledge for the next play session.

Presentations

Each class does the same third stage, which is to present any interesting things they found during the first and second stages. Using the whiteboards that they have available to them, they write out a few English grammar points and Japanese to English translations.

But why present their findings?

I think there are two positive outcomes of presenting.

  1. They reinforce their knowledge of items,
  2. They provide other groups with useful expressions that may not have come up in their own discussions.

I want to write a few thoughts regarding 2) above by referencing what happened in today’s class.

One group (the Resistance: Avalon group) introduced the expression ‘I want you to ….’ I then asked other groups in the class how they could use the same structure in their own games. The Captain Sonar group realised very quickly that the engineer could use this structure. Another group introduced ‘Shall we….’ and ‘You should’ which was picked up by the Avalon group as something they could use when deciding who should be picked to go on a quest. This continued until all groups had introduced some useful expression, phrase, or word that could be used in their games.

The point here is that although the games are different, there is great learning potential in getting students to share their findings because other groups may benefit from incorporating the expressions into their own context. It’s impossible for me to give precise grammar instruction to all groups (or at least, it would take [number of groups] x 90 minutes), so for them to instruct each other is a great compromise, and the laidback, community-based environment is one that I think the students enjoy. It is a real pleasure to see.

Issues:

A criticism of this activity is that students are generally only looking up one-to-one translations for expressions meaning that instead of introducing structures (as shown above) they will introduce extremely specific sentences translated from Japanese, or just one to one lexical items such as ‘当たった is Hit! in English.’ My next goal is to get them looking more deeply at the grammar behind what they want to say.

YouTube viewing session

This is possibly the most difficult part of the class for the students and as a result, very difficult for me to provide guidance. Here’s why:

Issues

  • YouTube auto-translations are incredibly unreliable.
  • Videos sometimes don’t exist (like for Insider)
  • Videos with subtitles are rare.
  • Native speakers talk too fast and interrupt each other a lot which means that the listening activity is too advanced for the students
  • Students don’t take time to pause and reflect on what they are hearing.

However, it is not all doom and gloom(haven).

Although there are not many games that feature subtitles on YouTube, some generous, kind and wonderful people do include subtitles. Subtitles can be accessed by pressing “filter” on search results:

I also had a really interesting experience last week doing this class. One group played Mafia de Cuba, and so watched a YouTube video of native speakers playing the game.

This video:

What was so amazing was that having played the game themselves the previous week, watching the video was a real pleasure for the students. They got to see other people’s tactics, see how the game unfolded, and were enthralled in watching. We spoke about it afterwards and came to the conclusion that because they were deeply interested in the content, and wanted to know how the game would conclude, it didn’t feel like traditional “English class video-watching.” The group were instructed to rewatch the video more critically after the first viewing to understand what was being said, and look for expressions that they could use in their own gameplay.

Therefore, students do pick up expressions from the videos, write them down, and finally share what they found with their group, further increasing their potential repertoire for the next class. However, this whole section needs more work.

Final ideas

Possible ways to improve the class:

  • Provide common grammar error handouts to complete for homework

Such handouts could be created by myself, or the students could be pointed to specific websites to study grammar. The only issue I see here is that, unless they are really motivated to learn the grammar, I can’t see a lot of students being excited to do this activity.

  • Dedicate time to explain how to look for grammar guides online.

As mentioned, Students just look at Google Translate for one-to-one translations, not websites that explain the details behind the how and why of English grammar. I think it would be beneficial for students to learn how to use digital tools to help them acquire correct grammar rules during class time. I also think they should be expected to explain grammar rules to other groups as part of the their presentations.

Possible extensions to the class:

  • Quiz each other at the start of the following class before replaying the game.
  • I could make a short test based on their findings and make a more structured quiz also.

As always, thanks for reading. Comments welcome.