Every Tuesday and Thursday night, various adults from our community can be found playing games at Mano en Mano. They are practicing English and enjoying themselves, too. The “class” is really a non-traditional set of activities designed to help students relax, use English more naturally, practice specific skills or vocabulary in a variety of ways, and feel competent while doing this.
One recent evening, three students were playing a board game to practice using verbs in sentences by answering a question, “What is Juan doing now?” A player picks up a verb card and forms the answer: “ He is playing soccer with his son now.” By listening and answering this question with various verbs, students master this particular tense more easily than if they were simply filling out worksheets.
Another student and a volunteer were sorting sentences and questions that needed “do, does, don’t or doesn’t” in them. Then when the cards were separated into correct piles, the volunteer asked the student each of the questions and the student answered (Does a fish have hands? No it doesn’t.) This is great practice for Spanish speakers who don’t always remember to add the subject in the answers.
When playing games and doing the informal activities, students don’t worry about making mistakes, interact with several people and once and get to hear lots of English. Almost all activities are self-checking, too, so students know right away whether they have answered correctly and do not have to wait for a teacher to check work.
The great variety of games and activities we have and continually add to cover many aspects of English. Activities are mostly organized around topics —weather, money, food — and some, such as long vowel Go Fish, are designed to support reading and pronunciation skills. If a student comes in with a special request—to learn vocabulary for his or her job, for example—activities are created for that student to use to practice.
Not long ago, students were asked whether they would like to return to a more traditional, book-based class or stay with the activities and games. All of them said they preferred the activities and games. “This is really fun!” said a newcomer recently.
The success of the games and activities is much enhanced by the participation of volunteers. We welcome anyone who would like a pleasant evening with the students. You don’t have to worry how much English grammar you know or whether you speak Spanish. You will have a very pleasant evening and make some new friends as you support students’ English practice.