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






Reading, Reasoning and Writing

Level: Pre-intermediate – Upper Intermediate

Location: Connected Classroom

Skills Focus: Reading and Speaking/ writing

Language focus:  In-game language

Game: Vortex Point

I Like this game because it is fun and has written text in it in the form of the in-game characters speech bubbles.  This text moves along only when you are ready and click with a mouse.  This allows you time to focus on any language points that arise.  A bonus is that you have to engage with the text and using reasoning be able to make educated guesses on how to proceed in the game.


You may find a copy of the Vortex Point walkthrough useful you to have so that you can guide learners’ enquiry in the right direction and pick up the pace of the game if puzzles prove a little frustrating for learners to solve without help.


1) Before you click play dictate these three questions as naturally as possible:

What is the story about?

What are the names of the people in it?

What do they do?

2) Learners compare their questions for spelling before you press Play for everyone to watch the video intro and song to the game.

3) Learners ask and answer the questions.  You may brainstorm vocabulary items seen in the intro if you wish but they generally don’t appear in the game.

4) After the video feedback and ask them to comment on what they think the game will be like.


  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:
  4. I asked learners about a number of language items here.  I asked them what had been the question to “Yes it is”, how they said “This is X speaking”, when they answered the phone in their own language, what other words were like “may” and what the translation of “help” was.   I also asked them to say “yesitis” very quickly along with “owmayiyelpya” and contrasted with a more formal “HowmayIhelpyou”.  This process continued prudently throughout the game.
  5. With a higher level that I wanted to practice writing and the narrative tenses with I would stop playing the game frequently and ask them to write the story using such prompts as “what did they say?”, “What happened?” and “What does your character (the detective) think they should do?”
  6. 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 their own Vortex Point dictionary worked well too.
  • Next class you could ask students to come to the board and play until they reach the point you stopped in the last class to continue the activity.  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 if you set finishing game as homework then remind learners that it is essential to read the language in order to know what direction the story is taking and subsequently how they have to play the game.  The reasons for their actions will be guided by information in the text.  For this reason you may choose not to tell your learners about the existence of a walkthrough.  That is, if they have a walkthrough they may use it to ‘cheet’ and circumnavigate the game’s text.


Online Dictionary Work

Level: Advanced

Location: Computer room

Skills Focus: Reading

Language focus:  Descriptions of Nouns

Game: Mortimer Beckett and The Time Paradox

As Mortimer Beckett your task is to travel in time to various points in history and gather fragments of broken objects, put them together and return them to the right time and place.  Good luck!

I used this game with an upper intermediate class who were familiar with using a walkthrough to play an online game.  The usual drill was that they’d open three windows in a browser and play the game, use the walkthrough and access an online dictionary (see above).  You may want to find a different online dictionary that you or your learners prefer to work with.


A word of warning - This game takes a while to load and you get a rather long sequence where an advert plays before the game itself starts to load.  I recommend getting this ready on multiple computers before a class so that by the time your learners get there the advert is over, the game has loaded and on each computer screen the game’s title page is there with the ‘Play’ button ready to press.

Remember that this activity uses three browser windows so having them ready with one on the game, the other on the walkthrough and the third on an online dictionary ready for when your learners come into the room makes the activity run a lot smoother.


Familiarise learners with the task activity.  This was by either eliciting the task if the learners were familiar with it or by relay dictating the instructions to them:

You are going to play ‘Mortimer Beckett and the Time Paradox’.  You will need to use a walkthrough, while you play the game,  to help you when you get stuck on the puzzles and an online dictionary when you get stuck on the words.  You’re not allowed a translation dictionary.  By having three browser windows open the game will be less frustrating and easier to play.  By the way, you should play the tutorial to get the hang of the game.  Good luck!

I always stress that learners should use a definition dictionary and avoid translating into their native language.  They can always ask another student or the teacher for a definition or an explanation.


If you get your class onto multiple computers and you haven’t had time to prepare then you could have a word document or a wiki space ready with the instructions and links to the three pages you want your learners to access.  I use a wiki space page or a word document with hyperlinks saved on a drive which learners can access and use.  If I do the activity this way I make sure my learners know that about the advert and when they can play the game.

While you play the game may prompt you to download the full version (see left).  You can easily continue playing by clicking on ‘continue’ below the picture on the right.  By clicking download one the left you can get a copy of the game.  The advantages of this are that you can access a better version of the game and not use the internet so great if you have connection problems.  You’ll have to have a copy of the walkthrough saved on a document and readily accessible on the computer as well as some good copies of printed dictionaries too but there’s no reason the same activity can’t go ahead.

Post Play

  • Get learners to continue playing the game using an online dictionary.
  • Learners write down three words and their definition that they look up from home.
  • In class students read their definition and others guess the word.

Hopefully by raising awareness of online dictionary resources my learners will feel more confident when it comes to accessing websites that are in English.  During the course of the year I’ve been recommending sites to learners based on their personal likes and preferences.  Sites connected with current news, films and encyclopedic information are just a few examples.







Top Ten Game-Based Learning Articles

You may have been using digital play elements with your classes for a while now and want to know a little bit more about what’s happening in the field.  Here are our top ten (in no particular order) reading tasks for you edugamers out there.  If you’d like to read and comment on their content we’d only be too pleased to hear from you.

1 Language Learning Quests – A framework for blending virtual worlds and digital game-based learning.  This dissertation focuses on the development and a case study of language learning quests and how virtual worlds and video games can be used for learning in general and to identify the learning principles that they embody.  There are a number of reasons why this is of particular interest to us here at Digital Play not least of which is that we worked with Joe Pereira closely on the video-game based learning project quoted here.  Download the dissertation here.

Establishing Guidelines to Convert a Classroom Train-the-Trainer Program into a Digital Game-Based Learning Format.  This Research paper was submitted at the University of Wisconsin and the author wishes to establish a guideline for converting a classroom teacher training session into a Digital Game-Based Learning format.  An interesting direction for Digital Play and one that we think training has been and will continue to go in.  Download the PDF.

Learn English or die: The effects of digital games on interaction and willingness to communicate in a foreign language.  This study looks at a core sample of English language learners involved in an online role playing game and seeks to analyse their English language production in order to gauge the effects of playing a game on language development.  There’s some interesting and in depth data here which we found very comprehensive.   Download the HTML or PDF from here.

4 Adaptive Computer Games For Second Language Learning In Early Childhood.  As well as composing a user model for adapting Hypermedia for English language learning in Pre-school this paper looks at some educational computer games and the tasks learners are set as part of the learning process.  Download the PDF here.

5 Alternatives for Making Language Learning Games More Appealing For Self-Access Learning. This investigation compares the characteristics of popular computer games of the shelf (COTS) with those of language learning games in order to identify what specific characteristics make a computer game most conducive for learning English.  This is interesting to those wishing to gain insight into what to look for when choosing a game to use in the classroom.  Download the PDF here.

6 Computer Games and Foreign Language Vocabulary Learning. This article reports on the design and results of an experiment that aimed to test what effects the playing of computer games would have on young elementary-level English language learners.  It looked specifically at their acquisition of vocabulary items being taught to children whose native language was Swedish.  Download the PDF here.

7 Serious Game in language learning and teaching – a theoretical perspective.  Serious Games are a genre of digital games that have an agenda for educational design and this paper presents a theoretical argument for their use based on theories of educational design and learning in relation to games.  Download the PDF here.

Computer Games and Language Learning. Designed as a handbook for teachers andeducators this reader friendly publication seeks to bring a number of things together including defining what games are under consideration here, arguments for their use, the pedagogy, practical considerations and, as well as others, some case studies.  Download the handbook here.

9 Serious games: online games for learning.  A look at some specific games within the genre of serious games, how they promote learning, which sectors within society are using them and finally what directions and developments we can expect to see in this area in the future.  Download the PDF here.

10 Essential facts about the computer and Video game industry.  We’ve included a sales, demographic and usage data report published by the ESA (Entertainment Software Association) which is full of interesting infographics telling you where the computer and video game industry is at the moment.  We’ve also offered you the choice of the the last two years so you can compare and contrast and see how changes have taken place.  Download 2011.  Download 2012.