Six computer games to use in an English language classroom


halo-2-front-page2Another guest list that I’ve picked up during conference season, this time from language teaching games expert Kyle Mawer. Kyle doesn’t make computer games for language learners (often these aren’t very good), he finds existing games and exploits them with his classes. The result is some serious fun and language learning combined. Here he shows six ways that this is not just child’s play…

1 Reading

You’ve heard of TPR (total physical response), well now comes the new improved TVR (total virtual response) and you can find no better place to see this in action than with the tutorial for the online game Runescape.  Learn how to fish, bake bread, mine for valuable metals, kill mutant rats and give your learners valuable reading skills practice.  Your TVR instructions are provided by written text from an in-world guide who talks you through the wheres, whats and hows of this massively multi-player online role playing game. 

2 Writing

“OK class, today we’re going to do a writing”, not only grammatically incorrect but something that won’t win you a popularity competition with your language learners.  Let’s try again.  “Ok class, we’re going to play a game – (in a quieter and quicker voice) and write about it”.  “Oooh. Yes, teacher. We love you!”  That’s better!  So, why not follow up a narrative tenses presentation and practice with a little production from a game called Grow Cube and be loved and admired by all?  And look, someone’s kindly written down a lesson plan for you here

3 Speaking

Try dictating naturally some of these chunked questions and get your students to discuss them:  What games/ have you got/ on your mobile?  How do you/ play them? How often do you/ play them?  Where do you/ play them?  Are they/ any good?  Do you ever play/ any online games?  What kind of/ games do you play?  How do you think/ you play this one?  What problems about the real world does this game raise?

4 Listening

A half hour language learning class in a computer room can be a walk over with a walkthrough and it’s one of the few tasks my adolescent language learners do where they shut up and listen to me.  They play a fiendishly difficult game and I dictate to them how to beat or solve it.  The classic ‘escape the room game’ called MOTAS is great for prepositions and vocabulary items which, in the game, are nicely annotated when you place your cursor over them.  Find the walkthrough easily via an online search engine typing in “mystery of time and space” + walkthrough.

5 Grammar

If you click on objects in an online computer game, you will see some strange things happen.  If you play the award winning, visually engrossing and engaging Samorost2 with a class, they’ll love it.  If you have a data projector/ IWB in your class, you can use these to show a class the game.  If they call out suggestions on how to play the game, you can all see if the suggestion works.  If the suggestion moves the game forward, they can write it down.  If they finish a few screens they can go to the computer room and they’ll play the game themselves.  If they have forgotten where to click in the game they can look at what they wrote down earlier.  If they race ahead in the game you can interrupt them and get them to help another group.  If you can identify the grammar point here, you’ll be able to get your language learners to produce it too!  If you want to see the game, go here.  If you click on the dog’s house (kennel), the game will start.

6 Vocabulary

Would you believe it but I actually encourage my learners to use foul words?  Damn!  This pun doesn’t work written down!  What does work is the game Fowl Words and for some strange reason any learner at upper intermediate level and above loves it.  I challenge them in pairs to be the highest scoring group and I go round, scan the board and define a word they may not have found.  Great warmer and, er, I think I’ll just go and have a game myself – for lesson planning purposes of course!

kyle-mawerKyle Mawer is a Young Learner Teacher and has been giving presentations and in-house teacher training on adapting online computer games for the TEFL classroom for several years now.  He has his own wikispace dedicated to this.  He also works on the British Council’s ‘Learn English Second Life for Teens’ project.

Published in: on March 26, 2009 at 12:36 am  Comments (5)  
Tags: , ,

The URI to TrackBack this entry is:

RSS feed for comments on this post.

5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Hi Lindsay,
    Some great choices here, I’ll be trying all of them out – many thanks!

  2. […] Six computer games to use in the language classroom […]

  3. The other ones look more involved and so more likely to produce communication, but the last one is exactly the kind of thing we had just got rid of from our classrooms when technology came along and got us playing hangman again…

  4. Hello
    Some great ideas here. But if you think language-learning games for ELT aren’t very good you must have missed the great games from Viva Lexico!

    The games are very motivating- fortunes can change suddenly – but its the content that is so remarkable. No other books or software teach you this sort of language.

    Hex Lex covers lexis: single word, phrases and context-sensitive items. The Trix Series caters for specialised language: Phrasal Verbs, Business English, English for Academic Study and now Trix for Connectors.There’s no material out there to teach and practise all these essential items to make text cohere.

    A school in Oxford reports that students go into the Learning Centre before school starts to use these games!

  5. Great resources and ideas! Will be trying these games for sure! Thanks

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: