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.






Vortex Point 2

Level: Pre-intermediate – Upper Intermediate

Location: Connected Classroom

Skills Focus: Reading and Speaking/ writing

Language focus:  In-game language

Game: Vortex Point 2

This is the second part of Vortex Point, a game and lesson plan we blogged before the summer.  Follow that link to check out how we used this game in a connected classroom.  We chose to return to Vortex Point as not only did we find it a great game to use in the classroom but also because our learners enjoyed it so much too.


You can find a copy of the Vortex Point walkthrough here.  A walkthrough is a set of instructions that will walk you through the game from the beginning right through to the end telling you how to complete it. If you’ve got this in your hand while you are playing this with a class you can use it if you get stuck.


1) Before you click play the game dictate three questions as naturally as possible OR if you played the first part of Vortex Point recently then elicit elements about that story:

What is the story about?    OR    What was the last story about?

What are the names of the people in it?    OR    What were the names of the people in it?

What do they do?    OR    What happened in the story?

Play the opening sequence in the game and ask learners to write down three predictions about what will happen in the story.


  1. Start the game using the walkthrough.  If the walkthrough is talk to an in-game character take control of the game yourself.  If the the walkthrough is do something then ellicit suggestions from your learners as to what this might be.
  2. When text appeared I asked for a volunteer to read it out and focused on pronunciation elements and drilled with the class as a whole.
  3. Below is a screenshot of the first character that speaks and it’s the second thing she says:
  1. I asked learners about a number of language items as they came up that either I judged as interesting or they asked about.  I encouraged them take turns reading out the speech and then asking questions about anything they weren’t sure about (whether it was language or story line).
  2. With a higher level that I wanted to practice writing and the narrative tenses with I would stop the game at intervals and ask them to write what was happening in the story using prompts such as “what did they say?”, “What happened?” and “What does your character (the detective) think he should do?”
  3. I continued the game in this way for half an hour (until I felt the activity would end on a high).

Post Play

  • It’s a good idea to get personal reactions from your learners on what they thought of the game.  If they liked it and which bits they thought were fun.
  • Another activity is to get learners to recount what they saw of the game as a story to a partner.
  • Brainstorming new vocabulary elements from the game onto the blackboard and getting learners to create or expand on their Vortex Point dictionary.
  • Next class you could ask students to come to the board and play until they reach the point you stopped at in the last class and then continue.  Word of warning – some of your learners may have gone home and completed the game and so may reveal and spoil key story elements.
Note There is a video walkthrough of the game you can watch and pause at for students to discuss, predict etc which is useful if you want to quickly fast forward or back to a section to discuss. The video can be found at the bottom of the page here:

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.



Level: Beginners

Location: Connected Classroom

Skills Focus: Speaking

Language Focus: Colours (blue, red, green, yellow)

Game: Sveerz

This is an easy to play and simple game that’s starts beginners out with just four colours and makes an early introduction to colours in English a fun but challenging process.  Enter your name and choose which version of the game you want to play.  Steer clear of the arcade version and play the puzzle, memory, or rhythm versions (these three are free to download not online).

The big faces around the edges call out their colour in a random order and you have to press the small faces inside the hexagon in the same order from memory.


A little PPP (Presentation , Practice and Production) on the four colours you can see in the game above (blue, green, red & yellow).


  1. Present the game to the class and show them how to play (it’s surprising how quickly learners can pick up the rules) the game.
  2. Learners watch and listen to the colours in the game.
  3. They then call out the colours together.
  4. The teacher clicks the colours in the order the learners say.
  5. Repeat until interest in the game begins to fall.
A variation of this is to ask for a volunteer to come to the game and click on the colours instead of the teacher.  Another variation is to divide the class into teams to compete against each other.  The team that can get the highest score OR go through the most rounds without making a mistake is the winner.

Post Play

Learners play a memory game in which they take it in turns to say a colour, repeat what their partner has said and add their own colour.  Sometimes this can be quite difficult so they can keep a list by either writing the name of the colour or drawing the colour using a coloured pen/pencil on a piece of paper.  They swap this ‘list’ each turn.  The person with the list is listening to their partner remember and say the colours.




Top Ten Tips to Finding a Good Game

Digital Play is going to take a summer holiday break and before we go we’d like to give you a few pointers as to what to look for to help you find a good game to use with your language learners. We’ve also included a few example games which link to a lesson plan targeting a specific language area (such as phrasal verbs, relative clauses) or a language skill (reading, writing etc). We have to point out it’s very difficult to find a game which would meet all the criteria here but the aim is to find one that ticks the most boxes.

1 Seemingly simple.

If a game involves too much complex puzzle solving or calls for highly demanding reaction speeds then the scope for language is limited.  It’s the games that are quite simple where a click here and then a click there keeps a simple story line moving.  Take for example Droppy.  The game is divided into various stages in which half a dozen clicks is enough to see you finish a stage.

2 Ludo & Language

Some games are great when they come already packed with language.  Games that have language as an integral part of the play are few and far between but there are some good ones out there.  Vortex Point is an online adventure game where you have to read the speech bubbles produced by the in-game characters in order to solve the mystery at the heart of the game.  Great reading practice.

3 Pause in Play

Another thing to watch out for is that the game pauses in play to allow the player time for thought but also for both the teacher to encourage language production and for learners to produce it.  The two previously mentioned games are noteworthy examples of this as is a game such as Growcube.  This rather outlandish game changes dramatically in a short space of time but by taking full advantage of the pauses in the game a considerable amount of language production can be done.

4 Steady Storyline

Many modern games place a much greater emphasis on the storyline and a game with an enjoyable story as well as engaging play which is great for us teachers as this provides a great opportunity to exploit.  Take for example Dark Visions.  This gory Gothic horror game is full of twists and turns as you unravel the mystery at Doctor Frank Mahler’s mansion.

5 Age Appropriacy

Unfortunately the last game is only appropriate for a mature audience.  You have to be careful that the content of a game isn’t inappropriate and that the use of bad language, stereotypes and portrayal of violence are kept to a minimum.  You should also be aware that such imagery is not limited to the game but can appear on the website in the form of images, links and text.  Adverts and pictures on the borders can sometimes be missed when the focus is the game, links could lead to another page where content is inappropriate and text written by games in comments can contain language you wouldn’t want your learners exposed to. Check thoroughly!

6 Gratifying Graphics

Not only does our previous choice have some a steady storyline but it also boasts some superb art animation which will gratify your learners need for great graphics.  Take for example Samorost 2.  This award winning game tells the tale of dognapping by aliens and you have to help the game’s hero travel to the alien’s world and get him back.

7 Authentic Audio

It’s nice when a game contains audio elements especially in the form of narration.  A nice example of this is State of Debate.  Set in a dystopian future you watch and listen to short video sequences to which you then have to decide how to react.  Your decisions then decide the course of the game.  An added bonus is that the video sequences come with the option of subtitles.

8 Well Worded Walkthrough

A walkthrough is the written instructions on how to complete a game.  They are generally written by a gamer and so aren’t graded with an English language learner in mind.  Having said that there is a website which has been compiled by yours truly that archives hundreds of games and their walkthroughs that were written with an eye on language learning. Walkthrough Website.

9 Language Laden

When you are checking out a game you should be always be asking yourself “Where’s the language?”.  If you don’t get a “There it is!”, quite quickly then it’s better just to pull the plug and try a different game.  Language can be in what you have to do in the game (walkthrough), what language appears in the game (audio & written text) or in the storyline.  If you can’t hear or read these in the game or narrate to yourself the process or the parable then this game isn’t really for the classroom.

10 Fabulous Fun

A language task shouldn’t kill a games element of fun but rather restructure it.  A drilling activity with a game like Orbox can produce repetitive language in spoken and written form with young learners while still retaining a sense of pace, fun and healthy competition.  Remember to structure the language activity around the game and not the other way round.

Have a Superb Summer!

See you in September :)

Guessing Meaning From Context

Level: Upper intermediate+

Location: Computer room

Skills Focus: Reading

Language focus: Guessing meaning from context

Game: Something Amiss

As an autonomous learner there are times when you come across a word that you don’t know and there’s nothing you can do but guess at the meaning. Maybe there is no-one to help you, no dictionary or online resource available or simply you skate over the moment either judging a deeper understanding of the language item not needed at all or that you understand enough.  Perhaps you can see what it is, the topic or situation contextualizes it or that the word looks or sounds like something encountered before.   This is one of the language learner skills that this activity develops a little.


Dictate these three questions in chunks as naturally as possible:

  1. What type of word is it? (verb, noun, adjective, etc)
  2. How do you say it?
  3. What do you think it means?

Tell your learners you are going to write some words on the board and they should ask and answer the questions about each word.  Then write these words on the board:

 shaft          loose          tile          grate          cable          socket

Learners ask and answer the three questions about the words you’ve written on the board for a few minutes.

Hand out the worksheet (download at the bottom of this post) and learners to look at exercise 1 and ask and answer the questions again.  Feedback and engage learners in discussing the meaning of the words.  If learners’ guesses are good enough move on to the next word but fill in gaps in meaning or provide clearer contexts or definitions.


  1. In the computer room ask learners to open two windows in a browser.
  2. They then open the game in one and the walkthrough in another.
  3. Learners complete exercise 2 with words from in the game or in the walkthrough.
  4. Encourage learners to use what they see and the context provided by the game play to help them discuss the words.
  5. Learners continue this activity until attention wanes.

Post play

  • Learners compare and discuss the words and the notes they compiled.
  • Learners feedback to the teacher.
  • Learners use a dictionary to check their words.
  • Learners continue the activity for homework making notes of a dozen more words.

Download Something Amiss worksheet