Digital Play Around The World is a great free tool to use in class by getting your learners to curate their own highly visual magazines.  They choose a topic they are interested in, source content for their online, then they They can edit the links description and also write a personal reflection or comment below.

If you’ve been following this blog for a while and using some of the lesson plans and ideas we’ve been posting then you may now feel ready to jump ahead of the field a bit.  One way to do this is to read up on articles, news feeds and be on the look out for other interest groups on the web.  To make things a little easier for you Digital Play Scoop it sources many of these and delivers them on one attractive visual page.

As well as scouring the web for news and articles that are connected with using digital games and toys in the language classroom our team also wants you to stay up-to-date on any new content on the Digital Play blog.  You can also check out past postings by scrolling to the bottom and clicking through the numbered pages.

All in all, a great one stop place to go for all your Digital Play needs.


Lucky Luke?

Level: Upper Intermediate+

Location: Connected Classroom

Skills Focus: Reading

Language focus:  Expressing opinions/ modals of probability

Game: Luke

Luke has been trapped by Alexis and it looks like after his very first date he is being tricked into marriage.  You need to help him get out of getting married by solving various puzzles.

I like this game for a number of reasons.  First of all, it has a lot of written text that stays on the screen until you are ready to move on and click the screen.  This is great for giving students time to read the text and address any interesting or difficult language as well discuss aspects of the story.  Secondly, it is a fun and engaging story and offers teens a different spin on the whole valentine’s day topic.  The story here is more in line with a valentine’s day nightmare come true and my teenage students responded positively to both the humour (can you see the guy in the background in the picture above picking his nose?) and the characters in the story itself.

In previous classes we’d covered language associated with expressing opinions and modal verbs used to express probability.  This game provided the opportunity to practice both which I told my students was the reason we were going to play this game.


I used a copy of the Luke script with key* to actions you have to do while playing the game in order to help me know what to do and when.  It also allowed me to look ahead and guide my students through the game.  There’s a Luke worksheet* for students to complete during play, which is basically your standard style reading comprehension questions.  Finally, I had a copy of the Luke Game Script* ready for students (for each pair) to look at after we had finished the game.


  1. Direct students to their notebook/ coursebooks so they can see examples of the target language.
  2. Write the first sentence from the game on the board: ”Son, we’re broke! We’ve spent all the money my last husband had!”
  3. Check students understand the language and identify language elements (e.g. tenses, adjectives, etc)
  4. Students prepare sentences using the target language to express their opinions about what the story in the game is about. e.g. “It must be about a mother/ woman speaking because . . . “,  ”I reckon she’s going to look for a new husband because . . . ” etc.
  5. Students tell the rest of the class their opinions and decide which are the best.


  1. Hand out the worksheet (second page – the first page is for the teacher and contains the answers).  In pairs they could make further predictions about the game’s story based on information in the questions but this is up to you.
  2. Start the game giving time for students to read the text and ask any questions. I also liked to draw students attention to interesting language elements (eliciting definitions, synonyms), and elicit their opinions on what the characters motivation was and what might happen next.
  3. Students complete the worksheet as the game is played cooperatively.  Teacher uses the Luke Script with key to know how to play the game correctly.

Post play

  • Feedback on the answers to the worksheet.
  • Discuss the game, the story and the characters with the class.
  • Students invent and write the script to a cut scene from the game using two or more of the characters.








Quandary – Playing A Comic

Level: Intermediate+

Location: Connected Classroom

Skills Focus: Reading

Language focus:  should, giving opinions

Game: Quandary

You are pioneers on a new world and as Captain you need to listen to the people in your group in order to make the best decisions.  Have your learners got what it takes to survive and protect the community?

Occasionally there are a few games out there that don’t need an activity sheet but rather should be played for pleasure and Quandary is such a game.  The background story is delivered in the form of a cartoon with speech bubbles for each of the speaking characters.  If the player wants they can listen to each of the speech bubbles and hear how the sentences are pronounced (see above).

Other elements of the game involve cards that show colonists who have something to say about different situations that the pioneers have to face.  You need to read the cards to decide if they are fact, solution or an opinion (see below)

You accumulate points at the end of the round depending on how successfully you’ve done the task.  Then, you decide upon two of the possible solutions and see what a section of pioneers think about each one.

I liked this game as it proves quite engaging, has a few episodes you can play without having to register and there is plenty of reading practice.  I allowed learners to use an online dictionary if they really wanted but encouraged them to guess as much as possible on some of the vocabulary.  For instance, in the cartoon as shown at the top of this post the noun ‘turnip’ appears.  Learners asked what this meant and I simply asked them what they thought it meant.  In this way you can negotiate meaning and there is much more learner generated language.  If in this case the learner asked “What’s a turnip?” and I said “What do you think it is?” the answer they gave was generally “A plant you grow/ food/ a type of vegetable”.  Enough context and visual cues with the written text for learners to confidently guess meaning.

Here are some other questions that I would ask the class when not playing the game:

  1. Do you like the game?
  2. What characters are in it?  Are they nice people?
  3. What has happened?
  4. What will happen?
  5. What decisions did you make in the game that were good/ bad?
Be warned though – some learners played the game at home so it wasn’t really possible to return to the computer room, where I was asking learners to play the game, and continue in another class.  Still, it’s a good way to encourage a little bit of learner autonomy.





Dictionary with Deponia

Level: Intermediate

Location: Connected Classroom

Skills Focus: Reading/ Dictionary work

Language focus:  Nouns and their definitions

This game is set in the future fictional world of Deponia.  Visually it’s a joy to look at and because of the in-game audio (the characters talk) and subtitles as well as an extensive written walkthrough it lends itself very well for some extensive skills practice and dictionary work.  I encourage learners to use an online dictionary to look up any of the in-game vocabulary.  There’s a list of online dictionaries you might want to check out at the end of this blog post.


It’s good practice to ask your learners to have a note book and pen or pencil whenever you do a digital play connected classroom activity.  You never know when they may need it to record language, make notes or complete a pre-play activity etc.  For this game I ask them to draw four columns and label them like this:

I call it their Gaming Grid.  While they play they can record any new language they come across in the first category.  A good learner strategy is to guess the meaning of a word in this case from the context it appears in the game or walkthrough.  They can then look the word up.  generally for lower level learners I allow them to simply translate it (but preferably after they have read a dictionary definition in English) while higher level learners can write a definition using their own words.  The final category is best done after the ‘play the game’ activity has been completed and you want to focus more on the language.


  1. Hand out the beginning of the walkthrough ( a dozen lines or so after PART 1 – KUVAQ).
  2. Ask learners to read it and underline any language they don’t understand.
  3. Look up any of the language on an online dictionary if available or a printed dictionary if not.
  4. If any language they identify isn’t in a dictionary then try your hand at giving your own definition.
  5. Learners record the language in the Gaming Grid they have in their note books.



  1. Direct learners towards the walkthrough.
  2. Ask them to find the words they found in the pre-play activity and then write down three more words in the four columns they have in their notebooks.
  3. Direct learners towards the game.
  4. Tell them to play the game and complete the Gaming Grid using the game or an online dictionary.
  5. Continue playing until you sense enthusiasm is waning and stop the activity.

Post Play

  1. Learners compare their Gaming Grids adding by dictating three more rows to their Gaming grid.
  2. If you like you can even play a define the word game with learners.  For instance a learner defines a word to a partner and their partner identifies the word.  Alternatively learners can say a word and their partner has to give a definition.

. . . and there’s more.

Because this game is quite long you can ask learners to play the game for homework.  I generally find that asking them to continue with the gaming grid is not always listened to but the game itself and then the walkthrough provides quite a lot of reading practice.

Online Dictionaries


Cambridge Dictionary

Dictionary Dice

Oxford Dictionary

Your Dictionary

Christmas Scene Gaming Dictation

Level: Beginner

Location: Connected classroom

Skills Focus: Reading

Language focus:  There is/ are, present continuous, prepositions of place

Vocabulary: Objects in a Christmas decorated room (see below)

Game: Christmas Scene


Download and print out a copy of the Christmas Scene Worksheet (see below) for each learner in your class.  Use this to pre-teach the vocabulary for the picture dictation of the game.

Pre-game activity

  1. Hand out a copy of the Christmas Scene Worksheet to each learner.
  2. In open class ask what each item is and focus on pronunciation.
  3. Write the words on the board as each learner writes the vocabulary next to the pictures.
  4. Show the game on a computer screen/ IWB in the classroom.
  5. Play a game of ‘I-spy’ with what you can see of the game.  You start with one of the vocabulary items from the worksheet.
  6. When a learner guesses the word encourage them to come up to the board and touch the object.
  7. Learners take it in turn to play I-spy in small groups.
  8. Give out the walkthrough and learners circle the words from the vocabulary worksheet*.

*From memory or using the Christmas Scene Worksheet for help.

Play Activity

  1. Ask learners to take the walkthrough to the computer room.
  2. In the class room learners find the game either through google or the website link (you can save a hyperlink on a document on the computer system and ask learners to access the site by opening the document and clicking on the link).
  3. Learners then read the Christmas Scene Walkthrough and complete the game.

Post game activity

Back in the classroom use an image of the game to play I-spy with the vocabulary.


Make A Scene – Christmas Room




Top 10 Christmas Themed Games

It’s the run up to Christmas and one way to have fun, get your learners orientated towards the theme and get some language practice in is to do some Digital Play activities with a festive factor.  Here is a selection of 10 Christmas lead in activities to try out with your learners.  All the links lead to lesson plans posted previously on Digital Play.

1 December Escape Game

Nada Purtic was a Digital Play Competition winner last year and had this great beginner’s lesson plan aimed at asking questions with the verb ‘to be’.  The language covered in this activity included body parts, furniture and prepositions of place.


Escape From Christmas

Another speaking activity but this time for a Pre-intermediate language level class in a computer room or with access to multiple computers. The premise is that you get a little bit too drunk each Christmas and the family have decided they’ve had enough and locked you in the house. The language focus includes prepositions of place, vocabulary in a house, imperatives (look, go, pick up etc).


 Merry Quizmas

Here’s a selection of Christmas Quizzes and ideas on how to use them with a range of language levels.  Find out what your learners know about facts surrounding the Christmas festival while having fun and covering a range of Christmas themed vocabulary.


4 Happy Christmas Escape

Another lesson plan for Beginner’s practicing listening and speaking skills and focusing specifically on prepositions of place.  In this game Father Christmas wants to deliver his presents but he is locked in a house and can’t get out.  Help him to find the keys that will help him escape.


5 I’m Dreaming of a Conditional Christmas

A fun Intermediate level game and language focus.  Explore the house and find the fourteen hidden presents to get a key which will let you escape through the front door.  The object for your language learners is to use 1st conditional sentences to walk you through the game and finish it.


6 Christmas Picture Card Dictation

This is a great computer room picture dictation activity for primary level learners.  Using an online Christmas card creator you dictate a description of a scene for your class to reproduce.  This is a 30 minute activity and you need a copy of  the Ecard Wordsearch for each learner as well as a single copy of the Ecard Picture Dictation or a screenshot of a finished ecard.


7 Junior’s Christmas

And now for some pre-intermediate Christmas vocabulary practice if you have 30 – 45 minutes to spare.  In this game the game character called ‘Junior’ wants to get a present from Father Christmas but unfortunately there are a few things getting in his way.  This 2 page worksheet includes a jigsaw reading to be completed while learners play the game.


8 Christmas Stocking Gaming

You’ll need to source the current top 10 selling video games’ chart either at your local gaming shop or online.  You can then use this lesson plan as a guide.  In this ranking activity learners guess the correct order of the best-selling games and then write a review of one of them as a follow up activity.


9 Santa Dress up

No lesson plan here – just a great and simple idea for practicing colour and clothes.  Get your learners to dress up a digital Santa and then write out a description of him.  You can then collect the descriptions and hand them out randomly.  Learners then read the descriptions and find the computer that displays the santa for their description.


10 Over to you

Now you’ve seen a few ideas on how to use online games, why not have a go at finding a game to adapt for your learners?  Here’s a webpage with lots of Christmas games for you to look at.  If you are uninspired then simply try the Christmas word search for some yuletide vocab or Santa’s quiz for reading practice.  Find enough activities and you could organise your own Christmas gaming circuit where learners play a series of games.



Present Perfect Play

Level: Intermediate

Location: Non-connected classroom

Skills Focus: Writing

Language focus:  Present Perfect

This activity uses two screenshots as flashcards, which are taken from a game called ‘Hoppin at the Avocado Combos‘.  Students look at a screenshot taken at the beginning of the game and compare it to a screenshot taken at the end of the game and describe what has changed.


Decide if you are going to:

1) Show the two screenshots to the class and elicit sentences in open class for learners to write down sentences (download and print a single copy).

2) Hand out the two screenshots to each pair of learners for them to work in pairs writing down sentences (download and print a copy for each pair of  learners).

What I like to do is do is:

step 1) to elicit a few example sentences with the target language as an open class activity

step 2) for learners to write down the examples and either continue working in pairs or on their own.   Monitor and help as necessary.


  1. Show learners the first screenshot and tell them this is the beginning of an online game.  Elicit what they can see.
  2. Show learners the second screenshot (next to the first or, if you want to introduce a memory challenge element, covering the first screenshot).
  3. Ask learners to identify ‘What has changed?’ using the present perfect.
  4. Award a point for each correct sentence.
  5. Continue verbally for a few sentences.
  6. Then ask learners to write down ten sentences about the two screenshots saying what has changed.
  7. Feedback in open class.

Post Play

For homework learners learners can either:

a) Write more sentences on the screenshots.  Offer an incentive to learners by saying the one who writes the most correct sentences gets less homework next time.

b) Write explanations to the sentences they have written down.

Here are some examples produced by a class:

The man playing the saxophone has stopped because he has gone to the doctor’s.

The door to room 174 has *been left opened because the man has gone on holiday.

* a need for the present perfect passive form emerged so after a quick presentation learners began to produce this too.

NOTE Why not find other games where noticeable changes take place during play and take a ‘before’ and ‘after’ screenshot to use in class.   Games where game play spans a single screen tend to work the best.


Hoppin’ At The Avocado Combos Screenshots

Hoppin’ At The Avocado Combos



A Collaborative Written Walkthrough

Level: Upper Intermediate

Location: Connected Classroom

Skills Focus: Peer Dictation

Language focus:  Separable Phrasal Verbs

Game: Droppy


This is a guided peer dictation using the game shown above.  There are actually 10 stages of this game (stage 1 is shown above) although I only generally go through the first four in class which takes about half an hour.


There’s a walkthrough here if you want to know how to play the game and get an idea of the range and complexity of the language.  Use it to play the game before hand to get familiar with the game or print a copy off to take it into the class to help you play the game.


There is also an advert that plays before the game.  Usually I present separable phrasal verbs on an IWB and then get learners to copy an explanation, examples I’ve given and some I’ve elicited from them.  Meanwhile I use the freeze function on the projectors remote control to keep the text learners are copying on the board, open an internet browser, turn the volume down and navigate to the game.  The advert plays silently out of sight while learners are finishing their copying.

When learners have finished I ask them to draw a line at the top of a new page and then to write 1 to 5 down the page.


1.  I show learners the game.  Tell them we are going to play four stages of the game and that I want them to tell me the name of each stage of the game.I click on stage 1 and ask for the name of this stage of the game (usually ‘The Desert” (or possibly dessert)).

2.  I then elicit vocabulary items that they can see on the screen by asking “What’s this?” several times, “Who is this?”, “How does he feel?” and “Why?”

3.  I then either pick the stone up or cut the top of the cactus off.  You can do either in this stage of the game although at other points in play you have to follow a set order.  I then ask learners what I did.

4. I guide learners towards a grammatically correct sentence using the target language using a degree of meta language such as:

“Who did the action?”
“What is the name of the object?”
“Which part of the object?” (in the case of the cactus)
“What’s the verb?”     “What’s the preposition?”
Usually the last two questions are or can be accompanied by some mime to guide learners towards the answer.  I try to recognise learners who give an answer by moving my open hand towards them, frowning or shaking my head if it’s wrong and giving some positive words if they get it right.  This keeps what essentially can become a verb and preposition brainstorming session quite quick paced.

5.  When I can elicit a complete sentence from a learner (a sentence that is grammatically correct using a separated phrasal verb and encapsulates the full game play that’s taken place) I ask them to dictate it to the class for everyone to write down.

6.  I continue in this way for the first four stages of the game.

Post Play

I then ask learners to play the game at home.  They should use the sentences they’ve written down to get through the four stages we played in class as quickly as possible and then write down the sentences for the next two stages.  I collected the homework in the next class and used code correction to indicate the mistakes for learners to self/peer correct.

The Factory of Fear

Level: Upper Intermediate (mature)

Location: Connected Classroom/ computer room

Skills Focus: Speaking – describing the inside of an abandoned house.

Language focus:  Rooms, objects in a house, directions, there is/are

Game:  The Fear Factory

This is quite a scary game because of the dark and moody atmosphere.  Using a video walkthrough, which learners can watch and relay information from,  the game is played to the end.

The sound on the game is of the storm outside of the house which you can choose to leave on.  The video walkthrough has the player talking over the top and I recommend that you turn the volume off on this.


Watch the video walkthrough and make a note of any language you predict that learners may need help with in order to describe how to play the game.  The way I do these is describe aloud what you need to do every time you click e.g. “go through the door at the end of the hallway”, and work from that.


Really this is a class collaborative play activity (in a connected classroom) that leads to a more intensive pair play activity (in a computer room).

In class present the opening of the game where the background to the game is explained (see above) Let your learners read this, ask questions about the language and make predictions about what to expect in the game and the story.  This is a good opportunity to elicit and pre-teach some vocabulary (watch the Video walkthrough to see all the game).

One way to use the vocabulary you identify in the game is to list it on the board and tell learners that this is language from the game.  They use dictionaries to look the language up and then predict the story/ game using all the words on the board.

I then made learners sit back to back with one learner facing the game and the other looking away.  The learner facing the game had to describe the scenes to their ‘blind’ partner who told them what they thought they should do.  Learners were encourage to discuss decisions, what they thought would happen and predict other elements in the game.  The aim of this task was both to practice speaking about the game and to orientate learners towards how to use the video walkthrough to describe how to play the game.

I stood at the back of the class facing the ‘blind’ learners and after they’d discussed the game a little I asked them what they thought they should do in the game.  When they had decided collaboratively on a course to take in a game I asked the learner nearest to the keyboard to do it.

Once they’d done this a few times I stopped the activity and told them they were going to continue in the computer room but the ‘blind’ would become ‘players’ and the ‘watchers’ would become ‘reporters’.  The ‘reporters’ would be able to go and watch a little bit of the video and go back to their partner and tell them what to do.  There was to be no language spoken other than English.  Anyone who spoke anything other than English then I would click on the we address in the top window and press return.  This would effectively mean the game started from the beginning.


In the computer room access the video walkthrough and pause the video. *this allows time for the video to load.  Then help learners to find the game.

Explain to the ‘players’ that if they play any of the game while the ‘reporter’ is away then they have to be able to tell the ‘reporter’ what they have done.  They may have to make a note of this.  If they don’t it becomes a little confusing and frustrating but point out that is what the rules of the activity are there for – to help them work together.

‘Reporters’ queue up / watch the video and return to the ‘player’ and relay information from the video to the ‘player’.

After 5 minutes or so learners swap ‘reporter’ and ‘player’ roles.

Post Play

In the classroom ask learners:

  1. What problems they had playing the game.
  2. What they found out about the mystery.
  3. What they thought would happen at the end of the story.
  4. What they liked/ disliked about the game.



More than a just digital star chart for learners

I have decided to try gamifying a class again this year. Two years ago, I adapted Chore Wars to use with a group of teenagers studying for the First Certificate Exam and had mixed results. Since then, I introduced Class Dojo to teachers of our school, and it’s been a real hit with the primary and lower secondary learners. After reading Lee Sheldon’s Multiplayer Classroom book, I developed some ideas, such as Unlocked Achievements, Badges and Levelling Up, all of which will appear in a more elaborate form when Language Learning and Technology (Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers) is published next year. I’ve also been following with interest what other teachers, such as Paul BraddockJames York, Daniel Brown and Dave Dodgeson have been doing with gamification in their teaching contexts.

English Quests

Recently, James York has just published a more elaborate description of implementing game mechanics in his classroom in the latest edidtion (October 2012) of Modern English Teacher. Entitled ‘English Quest’, the paper talks about the pros and cons of gamification in general and then James looks at how he has applied the concept to his own.

In the paper, James talks a lot about motivation, in particular mentioning recent research about the danger of over-using extrinsic motivation rather than intrinsic motivation because it focuses people on the reward and not on the action. James argues, however, that there is evidence that using gamification may “help engage learners who have a particularly low motivation to learn” and, particularly important in my own teaching context, when dealing with teenagers forced by their parents to come to English class, that “in a context that is inherently void of intrinsic motivation, fostering extrinsic motivation may help learners to become engaged”.

Traps to Avoid

Teachers need to be very careful when applying gamification to ELT, which Paul Driver elaborates on in The Irony of Gamification. One point Paul makes is that many instances of gamification involve only the adoption of points and rewards systems, which are superficial components and not fundamental to the experience of what a game is”. I see this as being similar to the hundreds of so-called games that you can find in many different sectors of education that are really just disguised tests. Gamification, to work well, needs to be more than just a digital star chart for learners.

With all this in mind, I have decided to gamify my secondary English class this year and do some action research, blogging about the results here. The class meets on a Friday afternoon, and I met the learners for the first time two weeks ago (last Friday was a holiday in Spain). I didn’t introduce any elements of gamification into the class during our first meeting. I decided to focus instead on getting to know the learners, their strengths and weaknesses and finding out more about what they can do now with language and what they need and want to learn to do

Photo by Erik Benson : "Convivial technology" is a phrase coined by Kevin Kelly in "What Technology Wants". It's a technology that helps the world become more cooperative, transparent, decentralized, flexible, redundant, and/or efficient

Class Profile

There are 15 level secondary students in the class and we will meet once a week for a three-hour class from October to June.

The class is a mixture of boys and girls, aged 13 on average and with a level of English that is pre-intermediate or CEF A2.1.

We are using MacMillan’s Hotspot 5, which is a coursebook specifically aimed at this age group.





First Impressions

They are a lively bunch of kids, generally talkative (but not in English!) and they seem to be very bright. I started with some mingling activities and got them to tell the others and me about themselves. We also did some speed-writing, where they wrote as much as they could about themselves in five minutes. I’ll use this information to find more about them, their likes, dislikes, etc. but I also noted that all but one of them reacted negatively to writing in class. They said they didn’t like writing, finding it difficult and boring. Because of this, I decided to ask them to do some speed writing, not to take up much class time. I also decided there and then to make this a feature of the gamification experiment, to see if this can motivate them to write more and to write better. Already, when they finished the speed writing activity, I asked them to count the number of words they managed to write and told them I would subtract the number of mistakes and this would give them a total number of points. I told them that I wanted them to get better at writing and forewarned them that we would do some speed-writing every class. They didn’t seem to mind this, probably because it only took 5 minutes of their time. In fact, although they had said they didn’t like writing, a lot of the students asked for more time when the 5 minutes was up.


Later on in the class, I asked them about speaking and I wondered for how long they thought they could talk on their own about a subject. No longer than ten seconds was the general response, and so we put this to the test. I asked for volunteers to speak about a subject of their choice for at least ten seconds. About half of those who tried managed to do it. I didn’t force those who didn’t want to speak to do so, but I did say that this was something we were going to work on in the classes to come. Again, I’ve now decided to gamify this aspect of the class, and try to motivate them to be able to take individual speaking turns for longer than 10 seconds! I think that using points, badges and levels may be a good way of motivating them to do this.

Preparing to gamify the class

I’ve now prepared a series of badges for writing and speaking, based on the number of words they write and the number of seconds they can speak for. I’ll print these out on sticky labels to give to the students and will encourage them to keep a record of their progress by placing them in the back of their notebooks. I’ll also keep a record of this using the IWB. In fact, with this in mind, I used the IWB software to make the badges. I’m now looking forward to meeting the students again (we have our second class today), so I can try this out and see if gamifying these two skills has a positive effect. I think I’ve identified two areas where gamification will help this class increase both in confidence and in skills. The badges and levels should encourage them to practise – I’ve kept in mind what James York mentioned in his article that “in order to foster extrinsic motivation…activities need to present a sense of purposeand be completed autonomously.” I’ll write another follow-up blog post shortly after the class to let you know what happens.