New in Town (http://apps.facebook.com/newintown) is a Facebook game which has been getting a lot of attention recently, and was nominated for an award at the recent Gamelab conference.
It is a life simulation game, similar to the Sims in nature, but with less of a focus on building and decorating your house.
About: You play the part of someone who has just graduated from college, who moves to a new town and starts to build a life there (hence the title). You find a job, build a career, study, explore places, make friends, and find love.
Location: At home (and the connected classroom if you have access to an Internet-enabled computer). Mainly, it’s a game you’ll want to recommend students play in their free-time, and then you can use the game elements as examples in class.
Language focus: Various including vocabulary (clothes, shops, food, etc.) and directions, as well as being a platform for basic discussion.
New in Town is an engaging game that will no doubt appeal to your students if they like games and use Facebook.
How to use it: I recommend you start playing the game yourself to get an idea of how it works and become familiar with the gameplay, characters, and situations. Please note, if this isn’t something you think you can spend time doing, then this game is probably not for you or your students – most of the value of this game in the classroom is that you can use the places, characters, and situations in class later, but you and your students will need to be familiar with them for it to be worthwhile. So, suggest the game to your class, and if they take to it, then make use of it, and if they don’t then don’t force it on them. Having said that, I predict that many of the students will become hooked on the game, and even if it’s only some that do so, then they will pick up some useful English while they are playing even if you do nothing else with the game in class.
Example activity 1: Prepositions of Place and Directions
The students don’t have to be familiar with the game for this activity (so you can do this to introduce the game to them, for example). Use the town map (either live in the classroom or use a screenshot) to practise prepositions of place and directions. For example, show them the map and ask them to remember where everything is then, hide it from view and you can ask the following questions:
Where is the city hall? (answer = it’s in front of the Italian restaurant)
Where is the college? (answer = it’s next to / to the right of the pet shop)
Where is the cafe? (answer it’s between the solarium and the clothes shop)
As for directions, you can ask the students to give instructions how to get from one building in the city to another and then check the answers. If you have access to an IWB, you can annotate the route on the game using the pen tool.
Example activity 2: Daily routine
What do they typically do on both a working day and their day off. They should be able to talk about their job, studying to improve their skills, meeting friends, eating out (which of the places do they prefer?), going to the cinema, etc.
You can also look at the vocabulary (e.g. the food) available in the game and talk about this and the prices, etc. Which is best value for money? Which is the most healthy?
If the students really take to the game, then there are lots of other activities you can do to practise language with this game.