Top Tens

‘Incentive to work’ games

Playing an online game with your learners can be used as an incentive to get learners to do language work.  At the beginning of each academic year parents generally go out and buy their child’s coursebook and workbook that comes recommended by the school.  It’s no surprise then that the parents want to see their money being put to use with the coursebooks getting well thumbed and those workbooks being filled.  Now personally I can see their point here but I also have to weigh using the books like this alongside concepts such as ‘fun’, ‘engaging’ and ‘motivation’.  There’s not a lot of that when you’re standing there saying “open your books on page 34, please.  Do exercise 2 A and B . . .(dramatic pause and then like it’ll make a difference) . . . in pairs.”

I’m sure you’ve all done it/ do it.  Tired?  Need some time to think?  Is it maybe a nice ‘quiet down’ activity?  Do your learners need to focus on a little writing and controlled practice? Are they learning? Peer teaching maybe?  Problem is learners tend to find these activities a bit boring and sometimes lack the motivation to do them or do them well.  Offering a little digital bribery can work wonders.  How?  I’ll tell you.  Offering the first student to finish a chance to have a go at a digital game can be a great way to get them focused on producing language and completing ‘book’ like exercises.  In this way ‘dong the book’ becomes a game in itself.

I’ve posted below a selection of ten online ‘incentive’ games (in no particular order) and a brief description on how to use them.

Rocket Escape is a simple arcade game where you have to control the direction and power of a jet pack to move your jumping rocket traveller from platform to platform.  Have this game open on a computer in the classroom.   Tell learners that the first one to bring you the correct answers to exercise 2B, for example, gets to move the rocket man to the next platform.  As learners come up tick the sentences that are right and tell them to go and sit down and look at and correct the sentences you haven’t ticked.  When a learner gets all the sentences right ask them to read them out to the class before having their go on the game.

Orbox is a puzzle game where you have to move the flashing light around the squares to the red exit without falling off the screen.  This is a great incentive for young learners to write out directions (turn left/ right, go up/down). Ask learners to work in pairs to write out the directions/ instructions for the game on the screen.  The first pair to finish shouts stop and reads out the instructions. As they read them out you play the game.  If they get it right go to the next screen and repeat.  If they get it wrong the flashing light falls off the screen and starts from the beginning.

Skyscraper parcours In this game you run across roof tops jumping from one to the other.  The more roofs you clear the faster you run.  This is a great incentive game for getting learners to write short sentences or produce short but complex sentences orally.  The game itself gets very difficult very quickly so its best that any language exercise you ask learners to do is fairly short to mirror the pace and duration of this addictive and adrenaline fuelled incentive game.

Solipskier is an unusual game in that you have to draw the ski course under the skiers feet as he goes along (using the mouse).  I’ve used this game after activities from the book that took a while to finish.  No other criteria other than that.  ”Ok you’ve finished the exercise.  We’ve done the corrections.  Now I think X did very well so they can play the game.”  I then try and spread my choices (over several classes) between the high achievers and the high tryers.  In this way I can reward effort as much as achievement.

Bowman is one the boys like, especially when it’s played between two players or the computer.  Why is it popular?  It involves a little gore (as much as stick man can be gory – i.e. there’s blood).  You click on the mouse to place an arrow, drag back on the mouse to draw the bow and release the mouse button to fire.  Hit the other bowman and see the blood flow.  This is a great activity to encourage short bursts of writing in between goes on the game.  It takes a few goes in the game to get some accuracy so make sure you get the most out of your learners in the meantime.

Fylde sounds simple enough, use the keyboard to move left and right to avoid the black squares.  It’s when the coloured squares appear that you start to get teleported up then down that it gets difficult.  I use this at the beginning of the class and let the two learners who have done the best homework play against each other.  Don’t forget to keep a record of the score for the next time you play. If they start to get too good you know they are practicing outside the class room and it’s time to change the game.

Grammar Ninja is my incentive to get my learners quiet, things tidied away and ready to leave at the end of the class.  If they don’t listen, mess about or take too long they just don’t get to play this.  the great thing is that the game is about identifying language elements in a sentence but in a fun way.  That means they enjoy it enough to want to play it but not that into it that if I want to interrupt it and send them on their way there aren’t too many complaints.  Great!

I live and work in Spain so it was nice to find a game such as Extreme Pamplona for my learners to play.  Run from the bull and jump over the obstacles in the fastest time possible.  Keep a note of learners’ best times in a book.  There are actually other stages to this game but I just stick to the first one (set in Spain) and challenge learners to beat the record of the the fastest to date.  When to play this?  well just for fun if the class has been good and a change in focus is required.

Shopping Cart Hero is short, sweet and fun.  To encourage learners more in pair work speaking activities I set up the activity and tell them I’ll walk by listening and let the two who do the best play the game.  Learners are more motivated in their speaking activities and I sometimes choose the weaker learners basing my choice on effort rather than attainment.  It’s nice to let learners know that effort is just as rewardable and a part of ‘doing well’ as attainment.

Guess how long and what you have to do in 10 second escape.  You have 10 seconds to find objects, solve the puzzle and escape the room.  I use this with higher levels after typical workbook fill the gaps exercises.  Only one thing – the game gets played by the learner who finishes exercises correctly first but so that the class doesn’t see the game the screen is turned away from the class.  When a learner finishes a stage they have twenty seconds to describe the game to the class.  This is so that the next learner who plays has an advantage in the game.

What makes a good ‘incentive to work game?  Games that:

  1. are turn based.
  2. have got no time limit.
  3. require quick reaction times.
  4. have a quickly increasing skill level.
  5. need only the mouse to interact with.
  6. are challenging to play.
  7. are fun to play and simple to look at.
  8. have easy to understand instructions and rules.
  9. can be paused and returned to with ease.
  10. have content appropriate for your learners.

10 Online Games with Walkthroughs

Here’s a brief description of ten online games that have walkthroughs.  What is a walkthrough?  Text written by a gamer to help another gamer complete the game successfully.  All these games and walthroughs were chosen because they have proved popular with language learners, use language that is not too complicated or dense and are not to difficult to play.  You can use walkthroughs to provide a live listening (play dictation), a reading activity (on screen or as a relay dictation) or can be adapted to provide skills practice or a focus on a particular language item.

Screen shot 2010-05-03 at 10.08.06 AM1 Il Destino

The game

The walkthrough

Explore the car show room and find objects which interact with each other and solve puzzles in order to get the sports car out.  The game can be played in tandem with the walkthrough as a reading activity (along with an online dictionary to hand) or as a relay dictation in a computer room.  A popular game with juniors.

Screen shot 2010-05-03 at 10.25.00 AM2 Chronon

The game

The walkthrough

A complex game in which you have to pay particular attention to what time you set the clock.  You are a pet to a strange creature that lives underground.  You have to escape before the the creature gets home.

Works very well as a computer room activity with juniors working in pairs at a computer where one plays the game and the other oversees their playing with a copy of the walkthrough.

Screen shot 2010-05-03 at 10.23.13 AM3 Nesquik Quest

The game

The walkthrough

The style of graphics here make this a very suitable game for primaries.  Language content here focuses on both the vocabulary items that appear in the game and imperatives and prepositions.  This works well as a live listening in the computer room with the teacher using a single copy of the walkthrough to dictate the game play to learners .

Screen shot 2010-05-03 at 10.25.42 AM4 Evolver

The game

The walkthrough

Visually fun looking game in which you have to solve puzzles in order for your monkey to pass through various stages of evolution until he becomes a primitive man.  Though this can be a little complicated at times, with the use of a walkthrough its possible to play this game in a connected classroom with learners suggesting possible courses of action to take in the game.  By using the walkthrough its possible for the teacher to know what comes yet and ‘guide’ the class towards the correct solution using hints and clues.

Screen shot 2010-05-03 at 10.48.38 AM5 A bark in the dark

The game

The walkthrough

Point and click game where you collect items, solve the problems and feed the dog.  A short game for the computer room.  Either conducted as a gaming dictation with the teacher using a walkthrough, a reading with the learners using two internet explorer windows to play the game and read the walkthrough on or as a relay dictation with a single copy of a walkthrough stuck up on the wall.

Screen shot 2010-05-03 at 11.36.41 AM6  The Blue Room

The game

The walkthrough

A short escape the room game that can either be done as a connected classroom activity.  Very good for generating basic vocabulary of the objects that appear in the game and prepositions of place.  Due to the simplicity of the game it can be used to stimulate a ‘write the walkthrough’ activity in open class.  Alternatively use it as a fast finishers activity in the computer room.

Screen shot 2010-05-03 at 11.18.23 AM7 Bodilies

The game

The walkthrough

Bodilies is a graphic adventure that features an elaborate audio-visual production and an engaging story.  Present this as a visual reader rather than a point and click game because although there is some interaction and puzzle solving elements this game’s strength lies in its written text.  Use with higher level teens as a computer room quiet reading activity.

Screen shot 2010-05-03 at 11.17.19 AM8 The Covert Front

The game

The walkthrough

Covert Front is a point and click spy game, where you become an agent code-named Kara and investigate the disappearance of general Karl.  Great used as a reading activity in the computer room for juniors or a relay dictation.

Screen shot 2010-05-03 at 11.32.15 AM9 Detective Grimoire

The game

The walkthrough

You play as Private Detective Grimoire himself in the game and you have to figure out who killed Hugh Everton. There is lots of reading practice in this game but also extensive elements of a point and click game with solving clues, discovering evidence, talking to witnesses and eventually solving the mystery.  Use with higher levels in the computer room with the walkthrough as something to use if learners get stuck in the game.

Screen shot 2010-05-03 at 11.31.23 AM10 Hapland II

The game

The walkthrough

This is one of the sequels to the point and click game Hapland which appeared in a post in this blog some time ago.  This version has a walkthrough  which uses screenshots which can be used to generate language.  Use this game in a connected classroom to elicit conditional phrases about what happens in the game.

Halloween – 10 activities for the computer room, connected classroom and classroom

Here’s a brief description of ten Halloween activities for your English Language Learners.  They require very little preparation and I’ve included some tips on how to use them.  All these games were chosen because they are free, easily accessible, engaging and fun for English Language Learners.

Dark wood Dark wood

Level Low Level Primary learners in a connected classroom

Play Read the story in your best scary voice and encourage your learners to join in.  When it comes to the ‘spot the cat’ bits in the game  get your learners to describe where the cat is or build dialogues between you and the class:

Is it under the tree?”              “No!”

Is it behind the tree?”            “No!”

Is it in the tree?”                   “YEAH!”

pumpkin carving2     Pumpkin carving

Level Low Level Primary learners in a connected classroom

Play Why not drill the language of giving directions (“up, down,  left,  right and stop”) in a fun way.  Carve an online pumpkin blind man’s bluff style.  Blind fold a learner who listens to their classmates instruct them on how to carve the pumpkin.  The class can rate their classmates pumpkins out of ten after each learner has taken their turn.   Declare the winner/s at the end of the activity.

3 HammerweenGhost Hunter

Level Any Level Primary or Juniors in a connected classroom.

Play Do you award points in class as a way of maintaining discipline?  Well what do points make? Prizes?  How about points make seconds  which they play a game?  In one really difficult class I  gave points for everything – the person who opens their books on the right page, whoever completed the exercise first and whoever got the answers right.  Points for just using basic classroom language.  I took points away just as quickly – last to open their book, not listening and not working on their exercises.  At the end of the class, count up individual’s points, convert into seconds and let the highest scorers play first.  The learners to score the highest in the game get to leave the class first.

Funny Halloween

4 Funny Halloween

Level Intermediate Juniors in a computer room

Play Done that unit from the book on clothes?  Then why not set a writing activity using a game.  As learners play this game they write down the description of what their character is wearing.  Each Learner then swaps descriptions with another learner and try to reproduce the character’s costume.  The learner who wrote the description can then judge the reproduction saying what differences there are between the reproduction and the original.

5 Garfield Scavenger HuntGarfield scavenger hunt

Level Intermediate and above Juniors in a computer room.

Preparation Print a copy of the walkthrough

Play Do a relay dictation using the game’s walkthrough and the game itself.  Blu-tac the walkthrough to the door in the computer room.  Learners can now take it in turns to go to the walkthrough, read and return to their ‘ game playing’ partner and relay the walkthrough information that they remember.    Learners  swap after 3 minutes.  Encourage them to ask you to define difficult vocabulary.

Halloween word search

6 Halloween wordsearch

Level Any Level Primary or Junior learners in a computer room.

Play This is a fun vocabulary activity.  Learners note down the vocabulary and when they return to the classroom they can make a Halloween poster using the new vocabulary items for inspiration.  Ask about what they are drawing as you monitor and take an interest in what they are doing. Finally, Learners label the objects they drew on the poster.

7 Trick or Treat BearTrick or Treat Bear

Level Upper Intermediate Juniors or seniors in a classroom

Preparation Print a copy of the ‘Too many clicks spoil the walkthrough‘ for each  learner.

Pre-Play Learners read the walkthrough and ask teacher about/ look up in a dictionary any of the difficult language.  Learners work in pairs to identify and cross out the repetitive language (verbs) and add a range of different verbs.   They should also expand on any of the text (e.g adding articles) when possible.

Play Learners play the game for homework using their expanded walkthrough.  They should make any changes they feel is appropriate or that makes the walkthrough better.  Next class discuss and compare the changes they made to their walkthroughs at home.

Halloween escape

8 Halloween Escape

Level Intermediate and above Seniors in a computer room

Preparation Play the game yourself using the walkthrough to assess whether the content of this game is appropriate for your learners.

Play Learners play the game in order to create and write down their own walkthrough.  As they play they should write down where and what they did in each location.  Monitor, input language and make sure that walkthrough is being written.  If learners are playing the game and not doing the activity then they have to start the game again.

Trick or Treat Adventure QuestTrick or Treat

Level Upper Intermediate Seniors in a computer room.

Preparation Print a copy of the walkthrough for yourself.

Play This is like a ‘picture dictation’ but more a ‘play dictation’.  Using the walkthrough dictate to your class how to do the game.  Monitor their screens to check on their progress and encourage them to ask questions to clarify any difficult language points.


10 Spelloween

Level Advanced Seniors in a computer room

Play Looking for a quick word building activity for your advanced learners? Then this is a nice little warmer.  Learners play individually or in pairs and when they have finished they compare their score with other the groups.  The highest scorer wins.  As a follow up activity in the classroom, how many can they remember and write down?  Check their spelling and can they describe the meaning of the words to the class?


Primaries are aged between 7 – 11 years old, Juniors 11 – 14 and Senior 14+.

Computer room = a room with enough computers stations (with an internet connection) for two learners to a computer.

Connected classroom = A classroom equipped with a computer station (with an internet connection and possibly a data projector  or electronic whiteboard).

Classroom = You, your learners, writing materials and printed worksheets and a Whiteboard/ blackboard.

Top Ten Guinness Book of Gaming Records

Here’s a list of World records from the Guinness World Records 2010 Gamer’s edition.  Can you identify which numbers below go in the spaces for each record?

376          1 million       24.84 million      2,468        214       156        379,552,748       200 million    45.7 million    161,600   100 million

Screen shot 2010-05-06 at 1.59.57 PM1 Most people dressed as a videogame character.

On May the 29th 2009 the MCM (Movie Comic Media) expo was held in London and _______ enthusiastic participants got dressed up as their favourite video game character.   If you could dress up as a videogame character, which one would you be?

2  The Fastest selling DS title

When the Nintendo DS (dual screen) version of Pokémon Platinum went on sale in Japan in September of 2008, it sold over _____________ copies in the first two days that it went on sale.  Pokémon is a combination of the words ‘pocket’ and ‘monster’.  How many can you name?

Screen shot 2010-05-06 at 2.14.48 PM3  The best-selling FPS franchise

HALO has sold over _____________ copies world wide making it the best-selling FPS (First Person Shooter) in history.  At the moment the fourth in the series HALO: REACH is set for release in September this year.  Do you know the name of the main character pictured on the left?

4  The most money taken by a single arcade machine

The most income generated by a single arcade machine in just one week was $____________ in the states in 1993.  The arcade machine played the game NBA Jam which is a basketball game.  Have you ever played an arcade machine?

Screen shot 2010-05-06 at 2.29.39 PM5 The game with the largest in-game soundtrack

The highly rated GTA (Grand Theft Auto) IV has ___________ licensed music tracks that can be heard while playing the game.  The previous record holder was, in fact, GTA: San Andreas with _________ tracks.  Did you know that Burt Reynolds, Chris Penn, Ice T, Kyle Maclachlan, Michael Madsen, Phil Collins, Ray Liotta, Ricky Gervais, Samuel L. Jackson and many more actors have appeared or provided their voices in the game.

6  The most successful movie franchise based on a videogame

The series of Resident evil films have all together generated revenue greater than $_________________ and with a fourth called Resident Evil: Afterlife due for release later this year, it looks like that figure will increase.  The story follows the outbreak of a biological weapon that causes monstrous mutations in evryone and everything that it comes into contact with.

Screen shot 2010-05-06 at 2.38.54 PM

7  The most successful game franchise

The honour of this title goes to a short fat character with a black moustache.  That’s right, Mario.  The Mario series have sold over __________________ copies worldwide.  Did you know he first appeared in a game called Donkey Kong?  at this time though, he wasn’t called Mario yet.  He was called jumpman.

Screen shot 2010-05-06 at 2.42.18 PM8 The best selling videogame

Wii sports sold over ________________ copies from between the time it was launched in 2006 to May of 2009.  With this game you can play a physical game of Tennis, Bowling or Boxing in the comfort of your own living room.  Do you know anyone who has played one of these games?

Screen shot 2010-05-06 at 2.53.03 PM9  The largest environment in a videogame

In the PC and Xbox role playing game called The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall it is possible to explore over ______________ km² of in-game land.  This area contains villages, towns, cities and dungeons.

Screen shot 2010-05-06 at 2.56.47 PM10  The best selling PC series

The very popular life-simulation game called The Sims has proved to be the best selling PC series in the world with over _______________ sold around the world.  Did you know that Lily Allen, The Black-eyed Peas and the Pussycat Dolls (and other bands) have all re-recorded songs in Simlish – the official language of the Sims.

Answers:  They are in the right order at the top

10 Reasons Why Video Games Are Good For The Soul

Here’s a brief description of ten online articles about how video games have been seen to successfully teach or educate for real life skills.

Screen shot 2010-02-13 at 2.37.29 PM

1 Computer games make maths fun in school.

An article from the online UK Guardian newsgroup about how a school in nottinghamshire is developing lesson plans and activities for the wii sport.  The console game is being used as a platform to enrichstudents learning experience in a maths class and seems to be proving very popular with students.

Screen shot 2010-02-14 at 12.12.44 PM

2. Using ICT to inspire a creative approach to writing

Homepage for the MYST writing project which sees a visually stimulating adventure video game called MYST to stimulate writing.  It is being used in over 200 schools in Kent, England.

Screen shot 2010-02-14 at 12.19.20 PM

3 .Video games valid learning tools

BBC article that talks about a study stating that video games may be more effective than reading written text.  Looks at a video game set in Victorian England and how pupils retain facts from the game.

Screen shot 2010-02-14 at 12.27.45 PM

4. Research shows video games lead to fewer mistakes on the operating table

Article by the American newsgroup USATODAY on how viddeo games are being used to improve hand eye coordination skills in surgeons.  Playing video games before going into surgery increases a surgeon’s success rate.

Screen shot 2010-02-14 at 12.34.36 PM

5 Consolarium on BBC News – Gaming in Education

Scotland’s Derek Robertson explains how gaming education projects with the Nintendo DS are motivating and improving attainment in Scottish Students.

Screen shot 2010-02-13 at 3.18.24 PM

6 Unlocking learning through video games with Clasemovil

Online technology article by Techcrunch about a South American fun learning community project that seeks to target a wide range of the curriculum using educational games.

Screen shot 2010-02-13 at 3.21.04 PM

7 Free online games develop ESL students’ language skills

Tech and learning article by Larry Ferlazzo, an teacher, blogger and materials developer.  He talks on how he has successfully incorporated gaming into the English language learning classroom with young learners..

Screen shot 2010-02-14 at 11.40.01 AM8 How Video games changed a generation of athletes

Wired article on how an American football game win owed its winning strategy to a video game inspired move.

Screen shot 2010-02-14 at 1.46.45 PM

9. Using World of Warcraft to Teach English?

Gaming website Gamasutra interviews Edd Schneider and Kai Zeng who presented their idea for ‘ English Speaking Players as In-Game Content: New Ideas for Marketing to Youth in Asia at a Game Developer’s Conference.

10 Fast ForWord program designed to improve literacy skills

This is a reading intervention program based in the United States that claims to not only improve literacy skills but also leads to stronger memory and greater self esteem.  Have a look at some of the sample games they have.

10 Educational Games

Here’s a brief description of ten games with strong social awareness and education in world issues that require very little preparation and some tips on how to use them.  All these games were chosen because they are free, easily accessible, engaging and fun for English Language Learners.

1 Against all odds

Screen shot 2010-04-04 at 3.22.52 PM

A game that aims to educate gamers about the problems that face immigrants and political assylum seekers. The games are divided into three stages (each stage has 4 games) that cover war and conflict in an immigrants native country,  escaping across to a border country and finally starting a new life in a new country.   Links here will take you to previous blog posts with ideas on how to use the game in a connected classroom.

Screen shot 2010-04-23 at 4.49.14 PM2 3rd World Farmer

A strategy simulation game based on a 3rd world farm that’s great for a connected classroom note taking activity.  Use the game notes to stimulate discussion and drive a writing task for homework.  The interesting thing about this game is that it reflects the ‘real’ situation 3rd world farmers are in – you can’t win in this game!

3 Ayiti The Cost of Life

This game simulates a a farmer and families life on the farm in Haiti.  If you’ve played 3rd world farmer then this is a very similar game.  Get your learners to write an instruction manual on how to play the game.  Great for eliciting 0 conditionals and contrasting what is ‘always true’ in some parts of the world ‘won’t necessarily be true’ in others.

Screen shot 2010-04-23 at 9.45.19 AM4 Stop Disasters

A disaster simulation game in which you choose a disaster scenario (tsunami, hurricane, wildfire, earthquake and flood) and “try to build upon an established community; providing defences and upgraded housing to prepare for the inevitable disaster.”

5 McDonald’s Video Game

A subversive look at the business process behind the fast food company ‘McDonalds.  Game takes place over four scenarios (agricultural section, the feedlot, the fast food restaurant and headquarters).  If you or your learners have ever seen ‘supersize me’ or read ‘fast food nation’ then you will like this.

Screen shot 2010-03-22 at 11.47.19 PM6 Climate Challenge

BBC commissioned game that looks at the problem of climate from a presidents viewpoint.  This is quite a serious and mature game with complex rules.  There is a tutorial that helps familiarise a player with the game play but I would only recommend this game to a more mature higher level class.  Go through the tutorial on the board but explain you want to learn how to play it as much as they do so help each other out.  When the class is familiar with the rules they could then progress to the computer room to play in pairs and later compare how well they did.

7 Disaster Watch

A look at Nicaragua and the the warning signs and possible measures that can be taken in the event of an earthquake, flood or food shortage.  Three different levels offer reading practice, some fun timed activities and a great platform for discussions.  Ask Learners to make notes, write conditional sentences or discuss possible game strategy.

Screen shot 2010-04-23 at 5.29.03 PM8 The Peace Doves

A quiz game aimed at testing knowledge and raising awareness of nuclear weapons and the importance of the peace process.  Read the clues to identify a country and select your answer by clicking on a country on the world map.  You then launch a peace dove to that country.  Treat it as a quiz to vote on the answers in open class or as a webquest for pairs in the computer room.

9 Ars Regendi

“Ars Regendi is a browser-based political game that lets you take the reigns of your own, realistically simulated state. You will be asked to weigh in on various matters of state and – faced with a number of choices – any decision you make will have ramifications for the well-being of your virtual populace! In addition, you will be able to form alliances with other countries, initiate reforms and adjust the budget. Ars Regendi is a highly realistic and complex economic simulation that squares you off against other state leaders and puts your political and financial abilities to the test.”  Great long term project for higher level language learners with lots of reading and writing practice.

Screen shot 2010-03-22 at 11.21.16 PM10 Darfur is dying

Darfur is Dying is a browser game about the political and social crisis in the Sudan.  The game starts with a race to and from a pumping station in the desert.  Avoid roving militia patrols by hiding (space bar also pauses the game) where you can.  Get learners to finish a short exercise in their workbooks and let a winner run a section of the game.  The next stage of the game requires a little more discussion but great for group work and collaborative gaming.

Top Ten football games

Below is a list of ten football games you can ask learners who are getting ready to watch the world cup.  All these games were chosen because some of your learners may well be playing them at home or at friends. As well as being popular, engaging and fun to play they also offer great opportunities to learn some soccer / footie vocabulary or a discussion platform for English Language Learners.

1 Soccer manager

Screen shot 2010-06-10 at 6.05.20 AM

“ is free of charge. You manage your team using your web browser. Matches are played at least twice a week.

You can log on at any time to check the status of your squad, check results and fixtures, make player transfers or just have a chat with the rapidly expanding community.”  Learners learn new vocabulary as they play, can discuss matches, strategies and their team in class.

Screen shot 2010-06-10 at 6.08.55 AM2  Footie Manager

“You take control of a football club and compete against other managers from all over the world in your bid for the domestic championship and international cup glory.

As a football manager, you have full control over your club including managing the club finances, wheeling and dealing in the transfer markets, managing club staff and a myriad of other options that will challenge even the best budding football managers.”

Learners learn new vocabulary as they play, can discuss matches, strategies and their team in class.

3 All football games

A games site dedicated to football.  In class I showed this game page (right) in class and went through each one asking learners what they thought they would have to do.  As they predicted some very useful football vocabulary was fed onto the board and copied with some enthusiasm by the boys in the class.  Topics and vocabulary covered included the role of different players/ positions in a game, football violence on and off the pitch, the pros and cons of penalty playoffs etc  Class ended with students writing down and perfecting the best definition of “The off-side trap” in exactly 50 words.

4 Planetarium Manager

“The objective of the game is different from manager to manager. It can be to have one or more players in a national team, to aim for league or cup glory, or simply to achieve stability by raising and training your players properly. You define your own objectives. However, we can say Planetarium Manager is all about starting from the very bottom and achieving planetarium success.”  Learners choose their in game objectives and present their progress to the class in the form of a powerpoint pecha kucha presentation.  Can they justify their decisions to the class afterwards?

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5 FIFA 11

This is a video of a console game that was released by the EA Sports trademark.  Turn the watching into a game.  Divide the class into teams.  Tell the teams that they take turns to say ‘stop’ anytime, you’ll stop the video and they can ask the other team a question about what they can see on the video.  Award points on the nature of their questions in the following way 1 = general knowledge 2 = language 3 = Connected question (related to picture on screen).

6 Time Lines

Why not get learners to make their own timelines based on the history of football video games?  This site has a lot of information but only three pages which learners can scan read for dates and short event descriptions. e.g.

1980s Atari rules the gaming market

1981 Pele’s soccer is released (passive)

1987 Nintendo release ‘soccer’ (active)

Use timelines to focus on tenses as well as vocabulary items.

7 Premier Skills

A site run by the British Council aimed at football fans of all ages with a definite emphasis on language, fun and football.  Either play games in a computer room and test your learners reading skills and football knowledge with a football rules quiz or play a game in open class and vote on the right answers while testing their football vocabulary.  There are plenty of games to play here as well as a ‘Behind the scenes‘ section providing listening practice as real footballers talk of their footballing experiences.  Definitely worth a look.

8 Freekick Fusion

Use the single player option in this game as a reward for work done well in class or as an incentive to learners to do some more boring work.  My class were doing an end of unit assessment in their coursebook which was split into a dozen sections over two pages.  The first person to finish a section,  bring me their book for me to check, got all the answers right then got to take the freekick.  Young learners loved it.

Screen shot 2010-06-10 at 7.54.23 AM9 Dress a footballer

A great game for low levels to practice colours and clothes vocabulary (top/ t-shirt, long-sleeved top, shorts, trainers, and sunglasses).  It was also useful to use ordinals (first, second, third etc).  I played this in a connected classroom and had learners sitting at the front of the class in front of the IWB where they dictated their player to me.  Because they all had an opinion on what they wanted the player to wear this acted as a drilling activity (even if a little chaotic).  I chose learners randomly at first then if I heard any mispronunciations, I focused on that.  The activity lasts longer if you ask learners to make the worst football strip, one for their school, one for an enemy to wear, one they would wear etc

10 Football quizzes

A selection of quizzes that cover a wide range of national and international teams as well as football personalities.  You can set challenges to your learners and see who gets the best score in one particular quiz, use them for reading practice for fast task finishing football fans.  If you find a ‘quiz generator‘ or ‘make your own quiz‘ online you can use the quizzes as models to get learners to make their own.

With the FIFA World Cup starting it seems a wasted opportunity not to use football in the classroom.

10 Online videos to watch

Here’s a brief description of ten online videos for teachers of foreign languages to watch.  All these videos were chosen because they are free, easily accessible, engaging and informative to teachers of a foreign language.

1 The Sims teach German

The sims is one of the most commercially successful PC games, notable because of its popularity with female gamers.  This video referrences German language learning but is recorded in English and so is great for TEFL teachers to get some good ideas.

2 How to learn languages online by playing video games

Tutorial by gamer on how he sees languages can be learnt by playing video games.

3 A productive approach to video games, learning and school

Lecture by James Paul Gee on the educational implications of video games as a productive activity for schools.

4 Grand Theft Childhood

Most of us assume violent video games can negatively affect children and their behavior. After a multi-year, multi-million dollar study, Dr. Cheryl K. Olson, Sc.D. Co-Director for The Center for Mental Health and Media at Massachusetts General Hospital Department of Psychiatry speaks about the findings.

5 Manny Calavera teaches Spanish!

Overview of how adventure video games can be modified to be used in foreign language education. Demonstrates an example mixing the Spanish version of the game “Grim Fandango.

6 Pay attention

Since most of today’s students can appropriately be labeled as “Digital Learners”, why do so many teachers refuse to enter the digital age with their teaching practices. This presentation uses images and facts to convince us to enter the digital age.

7 36 Principles of learning

James Paul Gee identifyied thirty-six learning principles that are evident in the design of good video games. He also argues for the application of these principles in the classroom and here is a video from the classroom in support of this.

8 Rezzworld

A 3D video game based on task based learning that is principally aimed at native American languages.

9 Practice foreign languages in Second Life

A look at the virtual world of Second Life and how it can be used to practice foreign languages.  Second life allows you to message other avatars by text or talk to them via a microphone and headphones.

10 Video games and learning

Already covered on this blog (link above) but well worth a second look.   This video looks at the development of video games.

Top Ten interesting ipod/iphone apps for English language learning

The idea of mobile learning (or M-Learning) is starting to become more and more popular as more people get access to smart phones and other devices that allow them to learn wherever they are.

Although only a small part of m-learning, the apps available for the iphone/ipod touch show what some people are using at the moment to help them learn English.

Here are ten of them apps worthy of interest. Most are well worth downloading (they can all be downloaded from iTunes) – a couple really aren’t. Read the descriptions to find out more.

1. Word Challenge

Type: game Price: free

Description: A great new vocabulary game from the British Council. 3 different levels of difficulty and lots of different categories of vocabulary. How many questions can you answer in 60 seconds? When you have finished, the feedback shows you the answers and there is a brief description of why the answer is correct, with other examples of English in use.

What it Lacks: It’s too fast for some. Although this makes it exciting to play, it can be frustrating for some learners. This is just the first version of the game though – later versions will be adding a speed button so you can slow it down.

Summary: Excellent. An engaging vocabulary game for learners – they will love to play it and it will definitely help them increase their vocabulary. Great to see that you can share your score on Facebook too – shame you can’t do the same on Twitter.

2. English Grammar in Use Tests

Type: game Price: Euros 3.99

Description: It’s not free, but it’s one of the best English grammar apps available for the iphone/ipod touch at the moment. Based on CUP’s (Cambridge University Press) best-selling grammar book of the same name, you can work through different levels (1- ).

Don’t be put off by the word ‘test’ in the title, it’s built like a game so it’s more fun than working through the test exercises in the book. When you launch the app, you can choose ‘practice’ or ‘test’. in the test mode you’re presented with a gap fill exercise and three options. If you choose correctly, then the response turns green. If you choose wrong, it turns red. In the practice mode, you can choose specific aspects of grammar (tense, prepositions, articles, etc) to practise. Finally, there is a section on ‘Scores and statistics’ so you can see how you’re doing.

What it lacks: Explanations of grammar (for this you have to go to the book) so students can see where they’ve gone wrong. Some users have complained the interface is too slow. There is a more comprehensive app of the same book (English Grammar in Use, Euros 7.99) with audio and other features, but it still lacks the grammar explanations.

Summary: Definitely one to recommend a student with an iphone/ipod touch who needs to practise their grammar but who wouldn’t go near a book. Good value for money.

3. Free British English Gengo Flashcards

Type: flashcards Price: Euros free

Description: There are lots of different flashcard-based apps out there. This one is one of the best systems. It allows sounds to be played, which helps with pronunciation and includes a game.

What it Lacks: There are only two sets of free flashcards (fruit and weather) – if you want more sets then you have to pay

Summary: A limited app, but does what it offers. Great way of learning more vocabulary for visual learners.

4. Cambridge Advanced Learners Talking Dictionary

Type: reference Price: Euros 17.99

Description: There are so many dictionary apps available that it’s difficult to choose just one. I recommend sticking to the one you have found most useful. And, of course, there are lots of free English dictionaries, but, as usual, you get what you pay for. Although it’ll be too expensive for many, this is a great dictionary for learners that is cheaper than the paper/CD-ROM version but just as complete.

What it Lacks: Nothing. Most reviews on the Apple itunes store are positive

Summary: A great tool for learners for self-study, although it’s expensive for an iphone app.

5. Oxford Delux Dictionary and Thesaurus of English

Type: reference Price: Euros 42.99

Description: If what you want is a fully comprehensive dictionary and thesaurus and money is no object, then this is definitely for you. It’s the entire Oxford English dictionary and thesaurus plus audio for the iphone. It makes it one of the biggest (if not the best) English language reference guide currently available.

What it Lacks: nothing

Summary: Only for those with lots of cash to spend on iphone apps, obviously, but if what you want is an excellent comprehensive dictionary and you don’t want to lug around the paper equivalent, then this is for you.

6. IELTS Master Vocab Guide

Type: game Price: Euros 4.99

Description: If you know any students taking the Cambridge IELTS exam, then this is the app for them. complete with glossary and vocabulary tests, it will help students prpeare for the exam. Cambridge also produce similar versions for other exams (TOEFL, TOEIC, etc)

What it Lacks: Not as comprehensive or as good as the book – designed to be used as supplementary to it.

Summary: Good app for IELTS – a perfect complement for students looking at preparing for the exam and who want to use their iphone/ipod touch

7. Vaughan Radio

Type: game Price: free

Description: Aimed at Spanish learners of English, this app is a simple one which allows anyone with a live internet access to tune into Vaughan radio live from Madrid. Vaughan radio is a radio station broadcasting 24 hours a day for English learners.

What it Lacks: There is no support from the app – just a screen with the log on it – it would be far more useful if there was information about programming and/or exercises sent simultaneously to the iphone/ipad while broadcasts were taking place (perhaps a future possibility)

Summary: Perhaps only of interest to Spanish learners of English, the app nevertheless shows a different kind of future direction for learners wanting to study English.

8. Tongue Mystery English

Type: game Price: Euros 0.79

Description: And now for something completely different. Tongue Mystery English is simply a collection of tongue twisters. You can practise, search for ones containing particular words and then there’s a social networking aspect to them as you can share on Facebook and Twitter. Not particularly designed to help learners with English, but some may find it fun. I was disappointed though – it doesn’t work very well and the content is poor.

What it Lacks: It has very limited in scope and interest. Would be better if it were free as it really doesn’t have much content. Even if it were free, I’d probably not recommend you download it.

Summary: Odd app – one interesting thing about it is the sharing on social networking aspect – it’s surprising that more apps don’t offer this. Avoid this though – if you download it, it won’t be on your iphone/ipod for long.

9. A Cup of English

Type: podcast support Price: Euros 1.59

Description: A very interesting idea in theory – a podcast support app. When you start the app, it gives you a list of the available podcasts and when you choose one you get a transcript and the podcast. However, you can’t listen to the podcast and read the transcript at the same time, and sometimes the background to the transcript means it’s difficult to read. You can’t increase the size of the text either, which means the font size is infuriatingly small.

I also downloaded the app based on the image in iTunes (above). It looked very interesting, integrating Facebook, Twitter, email and allowing iphone users to call the show – what a great idea! But the version that I have installed doesn’t have Twitter/Facebook integration. Neither does it let you call the show, so very disappointing.

What it Lacks: See above, but basically a lot of what is promised on the iTunes page. Presumably the podcasts are available free from iTunes, so this is a complete waste of money

Summary: Cup of English promised something very interesting – if all of the features worked in the way you’d expect them to, then this would have been a very interesting app indeed. But they don’t. And I feel cheated. In short, don’t buy this app.

10. Conversation English

Type: courseware Price: Euros 3.99

Description: There aren’t that many English courses out there for the ipod/iphone yet, something that will surely change. One of them is called Everyday English, uses a video of a teacher talking. It has ten lessons available, priced 0.79 euros each, and aims to give advice to students. However, the choice of language taught is questionable and it’s just a video so it’s not interactive at all. The Conversation English app is much better. It has 20 lessons, each one featuring a short audio dialogue (using an animated video).  Once you’ve listened to the video, you can read the dialogue and then there are comprehension questions and other exercises based around the dialogue (sentence ordering, vocabulary-definition matching, fill in the blanks).

What it Lacks: It’s a very good app for the price – you could hardly ask for more

Summary: Following a story, the dialogues take the learner through a range of different conversations that are fun and the exercises that go with them comprehensive and informative.

I hope I have shown with this selection that there is already a lot of content out there for English learners with ipods/iphones. However, you have to be very careful what you choose to download as there are a lot of poorly produced and dubious apps out there. My recommendation is it’s probably best to stick to the established names if you want good quality apps.  Beware of low cost apps that seem interesting on the surface but which will probably make you feel you’ve wasted your money. Be wary too of free apps and choose carefully. Even though they are free, they’ll take up your time and energy (and ipod space) downloading them. Use reviews such as this to know what to try/what to avoid and ask people you know who’ve tried apps out to recommend ones too.

10 Search tips to find games online

Here’s a brief description of ten key words to make your online search for games to use more effective.  They should help you find some free, easily accessible, engaging and fun activities for your English Language Learners.

1 “free online games”

Screen shot 2010-04-13 at 1.20.34 PM

Learn a bit about boolean search techniques.  An example of one of these is to put your search words in quotation marks so that your search specifically looks for a set phrase.  e.g. the title of this tip is “free online games” – games that are ‘free’, can be played ‘online’ and that are, er, ‘games’.  In fact, tip titles 1-5 here all use Boolean search methods.

2 “point and click games”

Screen shot 2010-04-13 at 1.24.55 PM

Using inverted commas for a set phrase and then adding +word means you get searches on the set phrase plus (+) the target word which helps to refine searches.   If you use the tip title here you may like to add:


By the way, Point and click games require the use of your mouse to interact with the game on the screen and this rather prolific genre has some great uses in the classroom and this blog has its fair share of them.

3 “escape the room game”

Screen shot 2010-04-13 at 1.26.46 PM

A sub genre of point-and-click games the escape the room game has a rather self explanatory title.  Look for ones that use a context which contains vocabulary that is either of interest to your learners, can be easily graded to their level or simply that they are exposed to day in day out.

4 “online game walkthrough” + youtube

Screen shot 2010-04-13 at 1.28.04 PM

Use google video to find walkthroughs.  It’s interesting to see the different search parameters on the left (above).  Search for video games in video share sites, such as  youtube, and you not only get to see a game without playing it (to check the images for appropriacy, language potential, to see the game in its entirety etc) but you also get a video walkthrough you can use.  If that wasn’t enough, down the right hand side youtube will kindly list a whole list of other game walkthroughs on its site to check out.

5 “online game walkthrough” -youtube

Screen shot 2010-04-13 at 1.48.47 PM

The current trend for using screencapture to video a game being completed is so great that it is sometimes difficult to find walkthroughs that are just text.  If you want to find a piece of written text that instructs a gamer (or language learner) on how to complete a game step by step then add the:


to take the content from this page out of the equation.

6 Delicious

Screen shot 2010-04-13 at 11.20.42 AM

If you don’t bookmark or mark as favourite any of those interesting game sites you find you should do.  Opening an account at delicious means you can not only see and tag those sites more easily but check out the sites of people who have used the same tags.  A great way to find others who may already be doing the site searching for you.

7 Tweetdeck

Open a Twitter account and then download Tweetdeck on your imac or PC to more easily see and organise your tweets.  It’s full of people microblogging about the things you set as being of interest to you.  Here’s a few columns I’ve set up to help me hear about online games:

Screen shot 2010-04-13 at 11.19.25 AM

8 Share and share alike

Create a website or a blog to collect all the games you would like to use in class in one place.  In this way you can get sites checked and approved by yourself close together and direct your learners or fellow teachers to with ease.  It also means the game, walkthrough, video walkthrough, reviews, fan reviews, screenshots and material are all easily accessible from a single site.

9 Google alerts

Screen shot 2010-04-13 at 1.37.04 PM

Once you’ve refined your searches a little and you have identified key search words you can get google alerts to scan the net for them and send you an alert each time they crop up.  Try getting google alerts on certain game types, terminology, people and events.  Scan read the summary email you receive and trash it if nothing really grabs your eye.

10 Ask The Experts

Ultimately the people who are experts in knowing what games will interest your learners are your learners.  Find out what video games they play (careful as they may differentiate between what is a ‘computer game’, ‘console game’, ‘online game’ etc), when they play them, what kind of games there are and what they have to do in each game.  Even just having ‘chats’ like this can generate a lot of English and help bridge a knowledge gap between you and your learners.