Monthly Archives: October 2009

Machinarium – a phrasal verb gap fill activity

Machinarium is an incredible hand drawn online video game with engaging puzzles, a little humour and a walkthrough that is great for a phrasal verbs gap fill activity.

The Game

You are a robot and you find yourself in a scrap yard and you need to get back to the city.  First of all you need to put your body back together and then solve various puzzles en route back to robot city.  The Puzzles can be difficult to solve and a walkthrough makes things a lot easier . . .



Print a copy of the walkthrough gap fill activity (either a copy for each learner or a copy for each pair) as well as the walkthrough.  The walkthrough tells you how to complete the game.  For instance the first thing you have to do in the game is:

Make the bathtub disappear and then get the torso to jump down (just click it!)

Spot the phrasal verb?  Gap it out and you have the start of a gap fill activity that focuses on phrasal verbs:

Make the bathtub disappear and then get the torso to __________ (just click it!)

Pre gaming

Hand out walkthrough gap fill in class and ask them to read the phrasal verbs at the top.  Do they understand them all?  Remember that most of them involve verbs of action and a preposition so you may find miming them a little easier than explaining.

Tell them they have 10 minutes to read the walkthrough gap fill and to guess which phrasal verbs may go in the space.  Point out that the asterisk means that the phrasal verb can be separated.  That is, the object goes between the verb and the particle.  Without seeing the phrasal verbs in context this is quite a hard activity.  This activity is more to orientate your learners and to get a general understanding rather than to complete the gaps.  Encourage them to discuss what might go in the spaces.  If they want to write then they should use a pencil.


Learners take their walkthrough gap fill to the computer room and use it to play the game and complete the puzzles.  By playing the game they can more clearly see the context in which the phrasal verbs are used.

Post gaming

When you are back in class feedback on the answers.  At times you may find that learners’ answers differ from the master copy walkthrough. Discuss any differences and decide if they are ok or not.  You may wish to do a follow up activity on the phrasal verbs, looking at the different types (see activity sheet II)


Ask your learners to find a short walkthrough to a game and add some of the phrasal verbs they saw in the class today.

About the game Machinarium

This walkthrough is not for the complete game but it does cover the three levels you can play for free on the internet.  When you have played the game using the walkthrough this is the end of the demo and if you want to play more you have to pay for the full version.  The full version of Machinarium costs 12.99 €. You may be able to convince your school to purchase the full version.  You can then adapt a full version walkthrough for use in the class.  Check our website for more ideas on how to use a walkthrough.

Gateway – a puzzle game for whole class activity

Gateway is a short, absorbing and entertaining puzzle game with ten levels that can be used to generate language in the ESL classroom, especially if you have access to a connected classroom (with an internet enabled computer and a data projector).

The Game

You have to guide a robot through a number of different rooms, each of which require the solving of a puzzle. This is highly entertaining, but it is easy enough to do, so it’s not so obvious how you can use this for language learning…

Adapting the game

One idea would be to play the game in a whole-class situation and ask the students to guess what has to be done to pass the robot to the next room – there could be two teams and points awarded for the team which guesses correctly the right way to get the robot to the next room.

Another team-game way of using Gateway could be to award each team a number of seconds (accumulated for answering questions) – they ‘spend’ the seconds trying to get the robot through the door, winning points for each door they pass the robot through.

More Information

Read more about Gateway here / read the walkthrough

The game’s puzzles are easy until you get to the TV at level 9 (see image above), which requires more thought to solve (answer = the sequence on the TV monitors shows the numbers you need to press on the keypad to let you out the door = 95271)

There is a sequel, which continues the story, Gateway II – this continues with the story, but involves a lot of text that would be quite difficult for all but higher levels. See walkthrough here

Narrative Tenses With Grow Cube

Level: Intermediate

Topic: Writing stories

Writing Focus: Narrative tenses

Time: 30 – 40 minutes

Game: Grow Cube

Grow Cube

Key Language: canal    pool    pot    pipe    waterfall    dish    steps    cave    tower    skull    springs    dug    planted   flowed    built    grew    cut down    lit    added    threw

Preparation: Connected classroom with data projector. One printed copy of the language sheet for each learner. One photocopy of the walkthrough for the teacher.

Walkthrough: Man    Water    Fruit    Pot    Blue pipe    Fire    Dish    Bone    Spring    Red ball

Grow Cube is an online point and click puzzle game.  The objective of the game is to find the right order in which to place the ten icons onto the cube.  It is a very visual game and the short video sequences in between each click lend itself brilliantly to writing a narrative story.  Though you can have the music of the game playing during this activity I find it tends to become quite repetitive and so I usually click on the ‘sound off’ button on the bottom right just next to the reset button.  Prior to this game you should have presented the narrative tenses, mainly the past simple and past continuous though you can include the past perfect if you think your learners are up to it.

Pregaming activity

Tell your learners they are going to watch a game and tell their partner the story as they watch.  You can then play the game using the walkthrough.  Click on the game’s icons and let the learners watch the short video sequence.  Prompt them if necessary to tell their partner what they saw.  If the story they are telling involves any difficult language they should write it down in their native language.  When the game has finished and the learners have finished their story telling ask them to compare any language they noted down with another group.  This is to allow a little peer teaching time with the vocabulary.  Hand out the grammar sheet and ask them if they understand the useful language at the bottom.  Learners then think of a title for the story and write it in the ‘title’ gap.

Gaming activity

Reset the game and elicit the order you click on the icons from your learners.  Using the grammar sheet your learners then write down the game story.  Remember to allow time between each click for your learners to briefly discuss the story and then write it down.  Monitor as they write.

Material:   Language worksheet

'Word up' with fun, free and engaging vocabulary games

Here’s a brief description of ten word games that require very little preparation and some tips on how to use them.  All these games were chosen because they are free, easily accessible, engaging and fun for English Language Learners.

fowl words

1)                 Fowl words – Seven hens have laid an egg each with a letter on.  Use the letters to spell as many words as you can before time runs out.  Great for pair work in the computer room.  One learner can use the keyboard and type the word then press the enter key while the other can use the mouse and click the letter then click the enter button on the screen.  Get them to note scores and challenge them to beat previous class scores.

flip words

2)                 Flip words – Click on the red letters to link them into words.  Great to play in open class and a real ‘shout ‘em out’ favourite.  No time limit here so it gives individuals some time to think or maybe even use a dictionary.  Stop the game and declare the winner when someone guesses the category at the top.


3)                  Boggle – Nice little three minute team activity.  Present the game in open class and get teams to shout out words.  While you type them in someone in each time should write down the words their team said.  You can decide whether you accept all words or question any you’re not sure about.  When the game ends teams can check what points they got for each word, add up their score and see who the winner is.


4)                 Bookworm – Play the web game version at the beginning of a class.  If you see any yourself you can help out by giving the class a definition to think about or a translation to look up.  Don’t forget to give the class time to read and ask you about the instructions that pop up.  Keep a record of scores to beat for when you play in another class.

alphabet jungle

5)                 Alphabet jungle – Make sure your learners understand the instructions and start the game.  You don’t even have to play it.  Learners look at the six letters and use a dictionary, a pen and a piece of paper to write down any words they can make.  When time runs out the game gives them the list of correct words and all they have to do is count how many they got right!

scrabble blast

6)                 Scrabble blast – A fun computer room warmer or fast finisher activity.  Learners read the instructions and play the game.  It’s a lot like the popular board game ‘scrabble’. Your learners can either try to beat previous class scored records or play to beat another team head to head.

text twist

7)                  Text twist – Use the letters to spell as many words as you can before time runs out.  Great for a ‘shout ‘em out’ activity in open class.  Teams take it in turns to send a member up to the computer.  The team has to describe a word to their colleague at the computer who has to think and type fast if they are to pass the turn to the other team.  The team who has a member at the computer when time runs out is the loser.  Don’t allow time wasting – that’s cheating!

spot the differences

8)                 Spot the difference – An open class activity for higher levels.  Can teams spot the differences and write them all down before another team can?  You can set your own time limit with your watch to challenge them a little more.  First team to get them all written down and delivered to your table is the winner.

5 spot differences

9)                 5 Spot difference – Can the class spot the differences and tell someone with the mouse where they are before time runs out?  Don’t let them use words like up, down, left and right – it’s a little more difficult that way!

puzzlemaker10)             Puzzle maker – why not get your learners to make their own word game?  This site is great for recycling vocabulary and you can use word searches for lower levels or challenge higher levels with writing clues for their own crosswords.