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.



Disney Top Trumps

Level: Pre-intermediate

Location: Connected Classroom

Skills Focus: Speaking

Language focus:  Comparatives and superlatives

Game: Disney Top Trumps

This is Disney’s online version of the popular Top Trumps game which is great fun for practicing comparatives and superlatives.


Present  and practice comparative and superlative forms.


Learners draw a table in their notebook consisting of four columns.  They label each column and complete the noun column.  We do this together and I usually letter dictate each noun in chunks of three letters.  We then work together to fill in the other columns.  The one that usually causes the most problems is converting ‘first on film’ to an adjective.  Asking what time the class starts and eliciting the adjective for someone who arrives after this time and before usually does the trick.  It’s then just a matter of ompleting the comparative and superlative forms.


  1. Divide the class into two teams (girls Vs boys, for instance).
  2. Open the game and present it to the class.
  3. Choose the two player option for the purpose of practicing the comparative form.
  4. Ask the class who it is and see if you can elicit the name of the film the character appears in.
  5. Go through the six traits asking “Is he/she happy?”, “Is he/she magical?” etc
  6. Ask your learners to choose the characters best trait and click on it.
  7. Another Disney character will be played against the main character and students will have to remember a) who it was and b) produce a comparative form based on the trait they chose.
  8. Ask learners to either say it along or write it down.

For superlatives form choose the four player option and divide the class into four teams (green, purple, orange and blue). Each team should produce either a correct comparative or superlative sentence for their character.  Ask the class to decide if it’s true (1 point) and grammatically correct (1 point).

Post Play

Learners choose a cartoon character they like and make their own Top Trump card.  Tell them they have 200 points to distribute amongst the first five traits and for the final trait (First on film/ Tv) either look it up online in class or set it for homework along with either drawing and colouring the character or cutting it out of a magazine.  Next class you can collect all the cards and play an open class game.



The Idiot Test

Level: Beginners

Location: Connected Classroom with an IWB

Skills Focus: Reading

Language focus:  Colours, shapes & basic vocabulary

Game: The Idiot Test

This is a great game to have on an interactive whiteboard for fast finishers.  Learners can take it in turns to see who can get furthest through the game before making a mistake and having to start again.  This website has a series of 4.



This is a game that learners even from a very early age pick up quite easily.  A few problems come from not knowing select vocabulary but vocabulary that can be explained quite easily with a basic English level (e.g. click the lightest square – show two or three crayons of the same colour but different shades to illustrate the idea of dark and light as well as the comparative.  Shapes you can draw in the air).


Usually the preplay activity is something that my learners find time consuming and tedious.  The last time I used it was when the class was doing tests and some finished more quickly than others.  I gave them this game to occupy themselves.  The difficult part for me then was making sure that the learners still doing the test weren’t too distracted.  Turning their chairs the other way and monitoring was he best solution to this.


Give learners control of the IWB to play the game.

Post Play

Ask learners what new words they have learnt.

Test learners on vocab that appears in the game.

NOTE  Be very sure that the fact that this game is called ‘The Idiot Test’ won’t cause issues in the class.  If your class takes this as part of the fun and humor of the game then it’s ok.

Honoloko – The Health and Environment Game

Level: Upper Intermediate

Location: Computer room

Skills Focus: Reading

Topic:  Health & the Environment

Game: Honoloko

Choose your character (a breakdancer or a kung-fu master) and move around the island reading facts about health and the environment, answer a few questions and when you get to the end you’ll find out how well you’ve done.  Your score points in Resources and Energy as well as Health and Fitness.

A visually engaging reading game that presents plenty to talk about in image alone.

The written text in this game falls into two main categories – facts/ information (on the left) and the multiple choice question and options (on the right).  The text in the facts/information is quite dense and complex.  You can encourage your learners to read this and maybe do some online dictionary work (maybe even make their own gaming dictionary) but it’s the multiple choice section’s language they really need to know.  Why? Well, they need to be able to understand it more in order to choose the right answer.  For this reason concentrate on language here.  Offer support, input language and get them to use an online dictionary on these parts.  With that said, here’s a quick lesson plan.


In the classroom play hangman The Environment

Draw two columns on the board and write Harmful and Good

Learners write what they do that is harmful and good for the environment.

Learners compare in pairs and discuss how they could do things that are better for the environment.

Feedback and write the top 6 most harmful and 6 best things that learners do for the environment.


Get learners to find the game online and choose the English option.

Learners choose a character, a name and a means of transport.

Post Play

In the classroom learners look at their list of 6 Harmful and Good for the environment.

Give the 3 minutes to add elements from the game into the categories.

feedback and discuss.


You could play this game collaboratively in the connected classroom.  In this way you could put learners into pairs, they discuss which option they would choose in the multiple choice and prepare to explain their rationale to the class.  After a few minutes preparation a person from each pair takes it in turns to explains in open class and finally a class vote is taken on the answer to choose.  If your class has played this in a computer room they can then discuss how they did as a class to how they did as individuals.

Dragons, Dictionaries & Diligent Reading

Level: Upper intermediate+

Location: Computer room

Skills Focus: Reading

Language focus: Following instructions

Game: Nick Toldy & The Legend of Dragon Peninsula

I like this game not only for its engaging storyline and entertaining main character but also because of the sheer amount of text that this game uses and demands both in game in the form of dialogue between the characters and that of the walkthrough (over 3000 words in itself).  The character dialogue also has a fair amount of humour which I think my learners appreciate.


Basically I want learners to go to the computer room and access a) the game b) the walkthrough and c) an online dictionary.  One way to do this is to have a word document saved that they can all access on the system with hyperlinks to these.  The advantage of this is that you can also write instructions, rules, vocab or questions to answer while they are on their quest.  I have to admit to being a little lazy on this count and judged that the sheer bulk of reading that my learners would be required to do was enough work for all of us and so just treated it as a dive in play and read activity.

It’s worth noting that the walkthrough can be used just as a cheat.  That is, to avoid detracting from the playing the game experience encourage learners to only use the walkthrough when they get frustrated with not being able to progress in the game.  Further encourage them to enjoy reading the game rather than clicking their way quickly through it.

By the way, here’s a link to the walkthrough:

Nick Toldy Walkthrough


1 Learners read an intro to the game:

Nick Toldy is a young man who dreams of becoming a knight, slaying a dragon, and winning a princess… or at least that’s what the brochure promised him. But the reality of Dragon Peninsula is a little more… bureaucratic. His first major puzzle involves filling out a form and getting a permit.

2 Learners can then discuss what other obstacles Nick Toldy may have to face on the way to becoming a knight and what he needs to have in order to be a knight.

3 . Take your learners to the computer room.


  1. Ask learners to open the game and another window with an online dictionary of their choice.
  2. Learners start playing.
  3. Encourage learners to make a note of any interesting language and to ask you or consult an online dictionary (not a translator) for any other help.
  4. While monitoring I’ll begin to show learners where the walkthrough is but initially I’ll simply encourage them to read the dialogue and explore the game.
  5. Learners play until you judge enough time has elapsed.  This is generally when your computer slot finishes or your learners get bored.

Post Play

  • Learners discuss the story of Nick Toldy.
  • Learners discuss what they liked/ disliked about the game.
  • Learners go back to the game as a homework assignment.

Music Box Of Life

Level: Pre-intermediate

Location: Connected Classroom

Skills Focus: Writing

Language focus:  There is / There are some/n’t any

Game: Music Box of Life

This is a nice spot the difference game.  Nice for two reasons.  One, that there is no time limit so learners have time to look, talk and write.  Two, that as you find the differences and you move onto the next stage the pictures begin to tell a story. 


Do a little PPP (Presentation, Practice and Production) for there is/ there are. Don’t forget to cover the negative forms too along with the use of a/an/ some and any.


Show the class the first stage of the game (a girl listening to a music box sitting down in her bedroom) and elicit some differences between the two pictures using the target language. e.g.

There is a green carpet.

There are some socks on the girl.

There is an open window.

It’s worth pointing out that the differences in the pictures can be a little more complicated than this.  For instance, The difference between the two pictures is that a corner of the green carpet may be turned over in one and ok in the other.  For the purposes of practicing English at a low level I allow my learners simply to identify the object which is different rather than the actual specifics of the difference.  Also don’t start a level and come back another day and expect the differences to be the same – they change in order to make returning players a challenge.

The purpose of eliciting the sentences is to direct learners towards the language task.  Now that they know that you expect them to produce specific language you can move on.


Put learners into teams of two players.

On a new screen of the game (either start the game from the beginning or go onto the next level) tell your learners that the first team to find the differences and write them down and give them to you can click on the differences in the game.

The game Music Box of Life is designed so that if you click on a difference you get points, a visual effect and an audio cue in the way of feedback.  You also lose points if you get it wrong.  If a team does get a difference wrong ask them to sit down and another team to bring you a difference written down.

Post Play

  • Error correction on learner written sentences.
  • Memory test – can they remember and say some of the differences they saw?
  • Elicit the story that the pictures told.
  • Ask them to play Music Box of Life part 2 for homework and write some sentences.





Scan The Scale of The Universe

Level: Intermediate+

Location: Connected classroom

Skills Focus: Reading

Language focus:  Question forms

Game:  The Scale of The Universe

This interactive guide allows you to zoom in from the edge of the known universe right down through to the smallest thing known (quantum foam) while looking at a few things along the way and in between.



 Pre Play

  1. Tell learners they are going to watch a video and then in pairs have a minute to write down ten of the objects they saw.
  2. Play the video of The Scale of the Universe 
  3. Give  learners a minute to write down ten objects they saw.


  1. Learners take their list of ten objects to the computer room.
  2. In pairs they play the game The Scale of The Universe and find the ten objects they wrote down in their list.
  3. They read the information about each object on their list and choose a single fact.
  4. They then write down the question to elicit the fact along with the answer.
  5. Continue until they have ten questions.
  6. Fast finishers can read some more.

Post Play

  1. Pairs take it in turns to ask the rest of the class one of their questions.
  2. In pairs learners listen to the questions and write down an answer.
  3. Feedback on the answers and declare a winner.  You can give two points for a right answer or one point for the closest answer.
  • You can change the Pre-play activity by telling learners the gist of the video and getting them to predict ten objects they expect to see.  They then watch and tick the objects they saw.
  • You can change the Play activity and encourage greater reading by telling learners they can choose different objects in the game.
  • You can change the Post play activity by eliciting the questions you do feedback on the answers (ask the learners who asked the original question to nod or shake their head as the class guesses what their question was).

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.