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Monkey Madness Speaking Activity

Level: Pre-intermediate

Location: Connected Classroom

Skills Focus: Speaking

Language focus: In-game vocabulary

Game: Monkey Go Happy

In my experience I’ve found that young language learners can assimilate and produce language above their level if they have an incentive to do so. Many times forms of digital play provide this incentive and learners can respond both to the challenge of the game as well as the language elements.  Here’s such a game.


Download the Monkey Go Happy Presentation (see below).  It’s worth nothing that there are some language elements here that are generally above the level of my learners.  You could pre-teach some elements but while learners are engaged and enjoying an activity I prefer to deal with language reactively.  Sometimes if you give your learners a chance to produce language freely like this you can be pleasantly surprised.

There’s also a Monkey Madness walkthrough here if you need help.  The questions on this webpage can be clearly seen but you have to highlight the hidden text next to the numbers to see the answers.

NOTE There are 17 slides of which 15 are screenshots of the different stages of the game Monkey Go Happy.


  1. Tell the class they are going to see some pictures from a game they are going to play later.  Either do the activity open class or, if they are up to it, tell them to discuss the answer to each question in small groups.
  2. Show each slide for thirty seconds before moving to the next.  Help your learners with any language difficulties.
  3. When all the pictures and questions have been covered, OR when your learners start to lose their attention, stop the activity.
  4. As a follow up you could test your learners’ memory and ask them to write down words from each of the screen shots.  You can show the pictures again for 30 seconds to help them.


  1. Put learners into pairs or small groups.
  2. Elicit how to do each stage of the game from a pair/ group.
  3. If they do well let them come up to the board together and take turns to complete a single screen of the game.

Post Play

  • Learners test each other on some of the new vocabulary.
  • Learners make a game dictionary and translate words into their native language.
  • Learners choose one of the screenshots and write about it (the instructions, a story etc)

Monkey Go Happy Presentation (PDF)


Valentine’s Typing

Level:  Primary

Language Focus: Alphabet

Skills Focus: Pronunciation

Game: Valentine’s Typing

This game is used to practice and consolidate the pronunciation of the letters of the alphabet.  It can be played either in a connected classroom or a computer room.

Hearts float up the screen with a letter inside.  Type the letter in and the heart disappears.  Stop the hearts from floating up to the top of the screen.

Pregaming Activity

Lower levels
To do this you need to have a data projector, a computer with internet access and Flash player installed. Seat the class in rows in front of the data projector. Go to the game and skip the instructions so that the game is started as quickly as possible.

  1. As the hearts start to float up look at the screen and call out the letters. If you want, don’t touch the keyboard and point to the letters. This means that you lose the game but encourage the learners to call out the letters as this is happening.
  2. When the game ends start again and encourage the learners to call out the letters but this time you move to the keyboard and type in the letters that the learners call out. At this stage it is not necessary for you to look at the game on the data projector.
  3. When you have finished a game ask for a volunteer or nominate one of your learners to come and stand by the keyboard.
  4. Start a new game. The learner at the keyboard now listens to the others calling out the letters and the learner types in the corresponding letters on the keyboard.
  5. Move to the computer room so the class can play the game in pairs (see gaming activity below).

Higher levels
To do this you need to have a data projector, a computer with internet access and Flash player installed. Seat the class in rows in front of the data projector. Go to the game and put the instructions on the board. Choral drill (all the class reading at the same time) the instructions on the screen. Then start the game. Pretend you don’t know how to play the game at the start and elicit from the class what you should be doing? As the class tells you what to do play the game. Then conduct the game from stage 3) above.

Gaming Activity

In the computer room sit two learners (A and B) to a computer. Learner A sits in front of the screen with their arms folded. Their role is to “look at the letters and tell your partner”. Learner B sits in front of the keyboard and CAN NOT see the screen. Start the game and monitor to ensure that Learner A is calling out the letters in English (correct pronunciation) and learner B is not taking a look at the screen. Once a pair completes a stage or loses a life the learners can swap roles/ seats.

Spotlight on Digital Play Innovators #7 Steven L. Thorne

Steven L. Thorne is the Associate Professor of Second Language Acquisition at Portland State University and also works for the Department of Applied Linguistics at the university of Groningen, the Netherlands.

We wanted to write about Steven L. Thorne ever since we saw him give the plenary speech at the 46th Annual International IATEFL Conference & Exhibition in 2012 in Glasgow.  We were impressed by his knowledge, expertise and his ability to wax lyrical on the topic of Awareness, Appropriacy and living  language use’ and have considerable things to say about research conducted within many games, specifically World of Warcraft.

Steven L. Thorne is an academic (and virtual world) champion for the use of video games in language acquisition and development.  His talk of the collaboration, debate, communication and social engagement endemic within such game genres as Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) stresses how all this is mediated by language.  For this reason, gaming could prove a very interesting avenue for language teaching.

You can watch also Steven L. thorne presenting a very interesting talk entitled ‘Intercultural engagement and the new frontiers of language learning’ .


A Christmas Game Gap Fill

Level: Intermediate+

Location: Computer room

Skills Focus: Reading/writing (gap fill)

Language focus: Christmas vocabulary

Game: Monkey Go Happy ChristmasPreparation

  1. Print off a copy of the Monkey Go Happy Christmas Gap Fill Activity.  Keep the Teacher’s copy for yourself and make a copy of the gap fill activity for each pair of learners in your class.

Pre Play

  1. Hand out the Gap fill activity and ask pairs to circle any words they don’t know.
  2. Learners compare the words they have circled with another pair.
  3. Ask class if there are any words they don’t understand and describe, define or translate them as necessary.
  4. Ask pairs to look at the spaces on the page.  Ask class what word do they think is missing from the first line.  They can write their guess in pencil.  Accept any that are linguistically correct rather than on your copy.
  5. After covering the first three lines in open class get learners to work in pairs to guess and write a possible answer in each space.
  6. Learners compare with another group.


  1. Ask learners to bring their gap fills to the computer room.
  2. Tell learners they are going to play a game and correct their guesses with the answers in the game.
  3. Learners play the game and correct any of the sentences as they see fit.
  4. Stop the activity when they have finished the game and the gap fill activity has been completed.

Post Play

  1. Learners compare their answers with another pair.
  2. In open class discuss the answers and decide if any different answers are wrong or if both are right.
  3. Learners compare their answers with the original Monkey Go Happy Christmas walkthrough and discuss any differences.






A Teacher Gaming Dictation

Level: Pre-intermediate/ Intermediate

Location: Computer room

Skills Focus: Listening/ Gaming dictation

Language focus: Guessing meaning from descriptions

Game: The Smurfs’ Last ChristmasPreparation

Print off a copy of The Smurfs’ Last Christmas walkthrough for yourself.  You’ll use this to base your dictation on.  Read the walkthrough and think about how you might define or describe the objects listed in the walkthrough.  You may want to play the game using the walkthrough so you get a better idea of the objects.  That is, what they look like, where they are etc.


1. Explain you are going to dictate a picture.  If they don’t know any of the words they should ask “What’s a _______?”

2. Dictate the following picture:

3. There’s a room.  In the middle of the room there is a bench(a).  On the bench there is a basket (b) with some red berries(c) in it.  To the left of the table there is a violin(d) and a musical score (e).  On the right of the bench there is a handsaw (f) and a pair of tweezers (g).

Definitions I used were:

a. It’s like a table.

b. You use it to carry a picnic in.  Little Red Riding Hood carries one (I then explained who she was but my learners are generally familiar with the story).

c. A kind of fruit.  Small like this (demonstrated by drawing it on a whiteboard) and grow on trees.

d. A type of musical instrument (mimed playing one).

f. You cut wood with it and it makes this sound (made the sound then elaborated with a mime).

g. Small metal things you use to pluck your eyebrows (another mime here – “Ouch!”)


1. Before you go to a computer room explain you are going to continue this dictation but instead of drawing they are going to play a computer game.

2. Stress they will need to continue to ask you about difficult words.

3. Go to the computer room and use the walkthrough to dictate learners through the game.

4. If learners find a word difficult repeat a sentence to encourage learners to identify and isolate the word to repeat in a question.


Teacher: “Add some unfreezing dust to the bush on the left.”

Learner: “What?”

Teacher: “Add some unfreezing dust to the bush on the left.”

Learner:”What is* unfreezing dust”

Teacher: “It’s in that blue bottle you got from the first house in the village.”

Learner: “Ok”

Teacher: “Add some unfreezing dust to the bush on the left.”

Learner: “What is a bush?”

Teacher: “It’s like a tree but it’s very small. Can you see it in the forest there?  It’s white and on the left.”

*may need a little work on explaining the use of is/are with countable/uncountable nouns and plural/singular nouns.

5. Continue until interest wanes or a time you decided on before the class (20 minutes to half an hour) has elapsed.

Post Play

  • Test learners on some of the vocabulary in a fun light way.
  • Make a copy of the walkthrough available (either a photocopy or access to the online version) for learner’s to use at home to complete the game.

The Smurfs’ Last Christmas walkthrough.doc



Argument Wars

Level: Advanced+

Location: Computer room

Skills Focus: Reading/ Discussing choices

Language focus: Guessing meaning from context

Game: Argument Wars

In this game you play a lawyer working on a case in court.  You have to choose and present your arguments to the judge while also arguing with the opposing lawyer.  The lawyer who presents the best argument wins.


Teachers have been using this game at our school for over a year and they think it’s not only great reading practice but also a great platform to present and discuss some very important issues.  This game is a little complicated with lots to read and do but the nice thing about this game is that there is a tutorial at the beginning which teaches you how to play the game.

There are 8 different cases to take on and play which include (by name of case and theme):

Brown Vs Board of Education           School segregation based on race.

Gideon VsWainwright           Should criminal defendants pay for their own lawyers.

*Hazelwood Vs Kuhlmeier     Should students be able to write what they want in a school paper.

*In Re Galt Vs California           Juvenilles in courts have a right to have a say.

Miranda Vs Arizona          Criminal suspects have the right to remain silent.

*New Jersey Vs T.L.O.          Students have the total right to keep things private at school.

Snyder Vs Phelps          All people have a right to express their opinions publicly.

Texas Vs Johnson          Is it right to burn the American flag?


By the way, you can register if you want so that your games will be saved but if you only plan a short stint on argument wars then answering ‘no thanks’ on the ‘sign into your account’ means you play an unregistered game.


I’ve found the best way to introduce these themes is to have each one written on the board.

Discuss each one open class and then choose the theme that generates the most language and interest.

Divide the class into two groups and get one to prepare arguments for and arguments against.

Place students in pairs of one student from each of the group and ask them to present their arguments to their partner and make a decision.

Take a class vote on which argument was the most convincing.


Students access the game on multiple computers in pairs of like minded students.  That is, two who were against the idea or two who were for the idea.

Students play the game making a note of any difficult language for later.

Post Play

Back in open class students discuss the game, how they did, what arguments were the strongest (on either side) and any language they made a note of.

A different case could be set for homework or alternatively students prepare their own cases based on agreed themes in the class.






An Online Game For Halloween

Level:  Intermediate

Location: Computer room

Skills Focus: Reading

Language focus:  In-game language

Game: Darker Ride Escape

Here’s quite a spooky online game to use with your class right in time for Halloween.  You find yourselves trapped inside a haunted house train ride at the fair and you need to solve various problems to be able to escape.


You may like a copy of the Darker Ride walkthrough for you to help any learners who get stuck while playing the game.  I never recite from this walkthrough but rather read, take in the information and then ask them questions that’ll guide them towards the answer.  This is a different walkthrough to one your learners will be using, by the way.


  1. Learners write down 1 – 11 in their notebooks before closing them and folding their arms.
  2. Meanwhile open the game on a screen that the whole class can see.
  3. Tell them they are going to see 11 rooms in a spooky halloween game.  When the game appears ask them where they are and to predict what’s in there.
  4. Tell them you are going to show them a room in the game for 10 seconds and they are to tell their partner what they can see as quickly as possible.
  5. Show the class the 11 rooms for ten seconds each (moving to the left) and when you reach the end go back to the first screen.
  6. Ask learners to open their notebooks and write down as many nouns from each room next to the numbers.  Tell them they don’t have to be in the same order but that you’ll be impressed if they are.
  7. Reshow the 11 rooms again eliciting vocabulary.  Praise those who get “good” words, most words and most rooms in the correct order.


1.  Take your learners to the computer room.

2.  Tell them they can talk and ask questions to anyone in the room but it has to be in English.  If  they don’t you’ll come and start the game again (click on the address in the tab at the top to highlight the game’s web address and press return.  The game reloads at the beginning).

Ask them to open two web pages:

Play The Game

Read The Clues




3. learners play the game using the clues to help them.  Any new vocabulary they should record in their notebooks next to the numbers they wrote down in class.

4. Stop the game when someone/ a group finishes the game.  Other learners have 2 -5 minutes (you decide) to finish the game by asking the fast finishers questions.

Post Play

  • Learners draw and write a description of a 12th room.
  • Learners write the wakthrough.



Halloween Game

Level: Pre-intermediate

Location: Computer Room

Skills Focus: Reading

Language focus:  In-game Vocabulary

Game: Halloween

This is quite a simple game very loosely linked to Halloween but with some vocabulary which could be useful.


Have a copy of the Halloween walkthrough printed for yourself.  You may also want to play the game yourself to familiarise yourself with the game, check the level of language and if the images are appropriate.

Pre play

  1. Call up the walkthrough to the game and ask learners to write down 5 words they don’t understand.
  2. Elicit the words from your learners and ask other learners to translate.  Click on any of the highlighted words that they don’t know.  This is orientating learners towards the fact that words they don’t know in the walkthrough have an image if they click on it.
  3. Continue until learners words have been covered.


        1.Get learners to open up two windows:

Play the Halloween Game

Halloween Help

        2. Learners play the game reading the walkthrough to help them.

        3. Stop the game when all have finished.

Post Play

  1. Play the game again in class eliciting from your learners what you have to do to complete the game.
  2. Learners make a poster based on vocabulary and images from the game.



Digital Play – the e-book

Some of you will remember that our blog became a book.  We can now announce that the book has now become an e-book which is available from amazon:

Digital Play (DELTA Teacher Development Series) Kindle Edition

Published by Delta Publishing,Digital Play – Computer games and language aims is part of the great DeltaTeacher Development series, which includes other original resource books such as Teaching Unplugged by Luke Meddings and Scott Thornbury, and Teaching Online by Nicky Hockly and Lindsay Clandfield.

The book is so much more than a simple collection of the best ideas from our blog. It includes insight into how learners engage with gaming outside the classroom and advice and guidance for teachers who are interested in joining the digital revolution to their classroom. There are also lots of original step-by-step activities to help teachers bring the world of gaming into the classroom.


Like the other books in the series, Digital Play has been divided into three Parts.

Part A is an extended essay examining how computer games fit into 21st century society, how they are currently being used in education, and what potential they have to be used in language education. In particular, we wanted to dismiss the stereotypes and suggest ways that teachers can implement games in practice.

Part B is the most practical section of the book, consisting of a bank of activities that can be used by teachers. It is divided into activities designed to be used by teachers who have access to one computer in the classroom (i.e. a connected classroom), others that utilise multiple computers (a computer room or class set of laptops/netbooks/tablets) and those that require no computers at all.

Part C takes it further, looking at the bigger picture, with suggestions on how to integrate digital play activities into the syllabus, and tips on how teachers can develop and get to know more about using computer games.

Here’s a sneak preview from Part C.  It shows some of the possible ways to run a Digital Play activity in a connected classroom with a single or multiple computers.

Class of Clans

Level: Pre-intermediate

Age: 9 – 11

Location: Classroom/ iPad or iphone

Skills Focus: Speaking

Game: Clash of Clans


Once in a while a game will come along and sweep the playground with its popularity in playtime. One such game was and possibly still is Clash of Clans.  Now, getting in on these games at grassroots level gives you a huge amount of kudos with your class and before you know it your learners are asking you how your village is doing, have you got a PEKKA and what level your mortars are.  All possibly gobbledegook for the uninitiated but, like any game you begin to play, such terms you soon become au faux with (why not check the link above for more info).  Even with the ones you are not, there is a certain degree of benefits for you to ask (in English) for an explanation or help from your learners and a certain pleasure for your learners to teach you a little bit (in English) about the game.

Clash of Clans

This game is described as “an epic combat strategy game” where you have to build a village and use the resources you mine or raid from other player’s villages to improve your defences, troops and buildings.  While you are online you can train troops, set your builders to improve existing buildings or build walls and, if you are so inclined, rearrange your village into a completely new layout.  The down side is the game can be a little time consuming while you are online.  While you are offline you can also be attacked and resources stolen but the upside is that if you set things going while online (upgrading an archers tower, for instance) the work in progress continues while you are offline.

Chat of Clans

The way I’ve used this in class is generally at the beginning when learners were coming into class (from the playground).  This time can be a little disorganised with the time learners arrive being a little staggered. So, to have them come in, put their bags down at their table and come over and engage in some English dialogue along the theme of “how are things in your village?” can provide a calm and a routine.  It also meant learners may have been more in a hurry to get to class as the ones who would produce the most English, give some sound advice and both ask and tell me what they wanted to do in the game generally got the chance to play (much to the detriment of my doing well in the game).  After a period of chat of clans, an attack on another players village, setting new troops to be trained there’s a bit of a lax period in the game which provides the perfect opportunity to bring the game to a close and get on with the class.  Admittably this activity is more popular with the boys although you would be surprised at how many girls do have their own Clash of Clans accounts (you can play for free but within the game you can pay for faster upgrades – or not).

Classes of Clans

Other ways this game has crept into class have been:

  • On learner made posters displaying their pastime activities and even aspects of class work done during the academic year. With a little written language production to justify the arts and crafts time.
  • Sometimes activities in the book, such as gap fills, can seem a little distant and detached from learners own realm of experience so either adapting those sentences or eliciting a Clash of Clans inspired sentence using the target language can go down a storm.
  • Learners can be more motivated to produce language either in spoken or written form if they it is on a subject they hold dear.  A brief brainstorming session on language can scaffold such an activity in the classroom.
Of course, you don’t have to get into Clash of Clans to gain rapport with your learners.  Simply finding out what your learners are into and showing a sincere interest in it can produce noticable benefits.  If you then appear to have a rudimentary awareness of the game (vocabulary specific to the game) you’ll find your learners will be suitably impressed.