Monthly Archives: January 2010

Storytelling – How important is it in a videogame?

Here’s a video about whether it is important for games to have a good story

Suggestions on how to use it

  • Ask your learners to think about games they know and their stories – Are the stories important? Could they be better?
  • Get the learners to tell each other a story from a game to see how easy it is
  • Play the video and ask the learners to write down any comments that people say they think are interesting
  • You do the same and then write these comments on the board and continue the discussion
  • Finally, ask them if they think things will change in the future (i.e stories will become more important to games)

10 Sites for Playing With Images of Students

In September last year, we wrote about the film Gamer and featured a link to a site allowing you to create a Gamer film poster from your own photo. There are lots of other sites like this, allowing you to create altered images of yourself. Here are ten, with ideas of how you can use them in class.

1. Avatarise yourself

It’s quickly turning into the cinematic sensation of the new decade and if you do get the chance to see James Cameron’s Avatar in 3D, don’t worry about the simplistic plot or melodrama and you’re sure to be amazed.

Why not kick off a discussion of the film with your learners by showing them a blue-skinned version of yourself.

If you have an interactive whiteboard or data projector, you can do this and show them a video here.

Please note, this is the German language version of the tool – unfortunately, the English language version seems to have been closed down.

Hopefully, it’ll reappear again soon.

2. Mr. Picassohead

Want something more artistic?

Then ask your learners to create a picture of themselves using the Picassohead generator.

If they do this for homework and email it to you (you can do this automatically from the site), then they can decide how much the images looks like themselves in class.

Great for comparatives and descriptions – your eyes are bigger, etc.

3. Wii Mii

Nintendo’s Wii lets you create a Mii , a cute cartoon character, to represent yourself when you are playing the games on their console.

You don’t have to own one of these to be able to do this, however – lets you and your learners make their own.

Ask them to do this before the next class and send you the images.

Pin them to the wall and see how many of them can guess who’s who.

It’s a good way to start a discussion about the Wii and what console games they like.

You can follow this up with them writing a description of one of their classmate’s miis.

4. Lego-ize yourself

Ask the students if they ever played with lego or any similar kind of toy.

What did they make?

How long did they spend doing it?

Tell them they can build the Lego version of themselves here:

5. Make a Manga version of yourself

Faceyourmanga allows you to create a Japanese Manga-style version of someone.

Because the menu selection is in English, it’s even worth doing as a computer room activity with lower level learners as they see quite a lot of vocabulary.

Back in the classroom, they can describe each other’s images and/or write a description of a classmate’s.

Alicia Rey, an English teacher who is no stranger to exploiting Web 2.0 tools with learners has created a tutorial for students for this.

6. Simpson-ize yourself

and… 7. South Park-ize yourself

Ask students to compare two similar TV series (such as The Simpsons and South Park) and introduce the topic by Simpsonsizing yourself and creating your South Park version .

South Park Studio is just as easy to use – you could ask learners to create a version of themselves using both and then write a comparison.

8. Ultimate Flash Face

If it’s accuracy you want, then gives you a far greater range of features. It’s similar to a police photofit, which means it could be used as a possible warmer for a game of Alibi or when looking at crime vocabulary.

Make a few faces based on some of your students and get them to say who they think the images look like

9. Build your Wild Self

For anyone with young learners, Build your Wild Self is ideal. It lets you create an avatar that looks like you , but also allows you to add animal parts to change the appearance completely – lots of fun, and because everything is labelled in English, a good computer room activity for revising parts of the body with a class.

10. Be Funky Photo Effects

Be Funky lets you take any photograph and transform it into something completely different.

Use it to create altered images of yourself, your learners and/or the other teachers in your school (can they guess who’s who?)

With this site, the only limit is your imagination.

Please note, if you decide to use this with learners, they’ll need to register for an account first (with an email address)

Want more?

If you like using images with your learners, be sure to check out the new blog by Ben Goldstein, author of the book Working with Images.

There’s also a TESOL EVO session on at the moment which is all about ideas for using images with learners. You can find this here:

Have fun!

Ludoliteracy – a book about games in education

Ludoliteracy is a book about games in education by Jose Zagalwhich is now available as a free PDF download from Lulu .

ludoliteracyThe book’s preface makes the point that games education can be surprisingly complex and that “extensive prior videogame experience often interferes with students’ abilities to reason critically and analytically about games”.

Zagal suggests that anyone serious about games and education should make use of an online learning environment when analysing games. He examines two in the book:

1) Gamelog ( is a site where gamers “keep track of the games that they are currently playing. …basically a record of a game you started playing”
2) Game Ontology Wiki (, which provides “a framework for describing, analyzing and studying games”

His research has shown that “participating in these online learning environments was a positive learning experience.” and that “In addition to improving their relationships to videogames as a medium, it also helped students broaden and deepen their understanding of videogames.” He said the most important aspect of blogging about games meant that students “stepped back from their traditional role of “gamers” or “fans” and engaged in reasoning critically and analytically about the games they were studying.” and he highlights that it is the reflective nature of blogging that makes it a very “useful activity for supporting learning and understanding about games.”

Early on, Zagal provides a number of different contexts for understanding games: 1) understanding the relationship and the role a game plays within culture in general 2) understanding what the game’s relationship is to other games 3) understanding the game in the context of the technology/platform it is designed for… and finally 4) understanding the structure and components of the game.

He then writes at length about Games Literacy and Learning Theory, Communities of Practice, Knowledge Building, Methods and Data Analysis. The report on his research that led him to the conclusions mentioned above follows. All-in-all it makes for an interesting read for anyone interested in designing games for education or teaching game design.

A split screen communication activity

One learner watches a video of the game being completed and relays the information to their partner who plays the game.

Level: Intermediate+

Topic: Kitchen vocabulary

Speaking Focus: Describing things in a kitchen

Time: 30 minutes

Game: The Great Kitchen Escape

The Great kitchen escape game is a great ‘ecape the room’ game which comes with a video walkthrough on youtube.

The Great Kitchen Escape

Key Language:kettle, cupboard, mixer, beater, radio, dial, batteries, fridge,  freezer, power cord, bowl, parrot, feather, tickle, dog collar, sink, fill up, switch on, plug it in, pour, knife, hammer, drill


In the computer room decide which computers will have the video and which the game.  This can either be side by side or one side of the room the game and the other side the video walkthrough.

There is also some key vocabulary that will either have to be pre-taught or dealt with reactively when the playing activity is in progress.


Tell  learners that they will do this activity in pairs.  One  watches the video (they can use pause when they want and rewind) and relays how to complete the game to their partner . The learner playing the game can ask their partner, who is watching the video, any questions they like about the instructions he is giving (in English of course) This may be to clarify, repeat or make sure they have understood. After a few minutes the learner watching the video swaps places with their partner playing the game.

Post playing

For homework learners watch the video and write the walkthrough using the key language items.

Spot the difference relay writing race

Level: Intermediate+

Topic: Describing pictures

Language Focus: Prepositions of place

Time: 20 – 30 minutes

Game: Cold window

cold window

Opening screenshot to Cold Window


Cut up some pieces of recycled paper into strips.  These will be used by your learners to write sentences on.


In a connected classroom, learners play in pairs or in small teams.  Put the game on the board and tell the learners that they have to look at the two different pictures.  If they can see a difference they have to write what it is down on the pieces of paper and come and give it to you.  You will only accept the sentence if it is grammatically correct and the game accepts it too.  Use code correction on any mistakes and hand the sentence back for the learners to try again.  If the sentence is grammatically correct and it’s a difference in the game (click on the difference) then sign the piece of paper.  When you declare the game over the winners are the ones with the most pieces of paper with your signature on.

cold window differences


In the picture on the right there is a clock on the building and on the right there isn’t.

There are two windows on the side of the first building and only one on the building in the other picture.

Play plus

In between the spot the difference pictures you get short pieces of text that tell a story of the character in the pictures.  Give learners the chance to correct any of the mistakes for extra bonus points

cold window text


I had just moved into an old house.

where the rent was cheap.

a bit remote.

Post play

Learners tell the story of the character in the spot the difference pictures.

A game practising 'should' – Tomb of the Mummy I

The Tomb of the Mummy I is a very difficult puzzle game. Because of its difficulty, it’s ideal to use it with an upper intermediate – advanced  class in a connected classroom (i.e. one with a computer & a data projector or IWB) and to use it to generate language used for hypothesis (should, conditionals, etc).

Example language : “We think you should press the beetles in the following order…”, “You should try clicking on the axe while it is swinging”, etc.

Preparation (the Rules)

a) Show the students the first screen and tell them the objective is to free the mummy from the tomb

b) Tell the learners to work in teams and that you will award points to the  team that comes closes  to solving each of the stages of the puzzle

c) Ask them to think of ideas to try out, which the team secretary will write down on strips of paper and then hand to you

d) If you want, you can insist on a particular format for their sentences (e.g. using should as in the solution, below)

e) Tell the students that if their sentences are incorrect, you will not accept them (you will give them back to correct them)

Playing the game:

  • As you receive the learners’ ideas, read them aloud and try them out if they are grammatically correct
  • If you receive any sentences which are not correct, give the sentence
  • If they solve part of the puzzle, award points (keep score on the board)
  • After several attempts, if no team comes close, give clues to the class (tell them the parts of the solution below marked in bold)


1) You should click on the blue scarab continuously to move the first rock into the cup of the left-hand brazier

2) You should press the question mark in the bottom left hand corner

3) On the screen showing the riddle, you should move the ball-shaped rock that’s right above the white bug.

4) You should put the rock in the top right hand corner (you will notice that’s the only rock missing – the other three corners have rocks)

Note: A ray of light will shine on the screen and a new rock appears – This rock that one is for the other torch/brazier thing

5) You should click the scarabs to move the rock until it jumps into the brazier

6) Notice the small rocks on the top of both braziers – you should click the scarabs until these two rocks are in the same position (close to the doors)

6) Wait for the mummy to knock hard, so that the torches are rocking. Then you should click the blue beetle in the middle several times while he is knocking, and this will knock the torch pillars down.

7) Now you will see an axe swinging – While the axe is swinging, you should push the scarabs in order : G + B + B + R + R + Y + B + R + Y + P ( see order above door) –

8) You should push the colours just before you hear the sound of the axe.

8) Now, you should push the door to open it.

9) To close the door after releasing the mummy, you should click the left scarab when the axe disapears left (you should hear a click) click the right scarab when the axe disappears right (you should hear a click) after clicking a few times the door closes

Finally…have fun – this is just one way of exploiting a puzzle game in the classroom and can be adapted to any similar game.

An annotated game for reading and playing

Level: Pre-intermediate

Time: 30 minutes

Preparation: Just before the class goes into the computer room open up two internet explorer windows.  On one window get the game ‘Hamster rescue’ ready so it’s ready to start.  In the other window open up a copy of the annotated walkthrough. Be prepared to show the class the opening screenshot of the game (see below) either as a printed copy or by connecting online.

Game: Hamster rescue is a point-and-click game where you have to help the hamster escape from his cage.  Various objects on the screen need to be collected and sometimes combined in order for the hamster to escape.

Hamster rescueOpening screenshot of the game ‘Hamster Rescue’

Pregaming activity

Show your learners the opening screenshot of the game ‘Hamster Rescue’ for 1 minute and then ask them to write down from memory a list of the things they saw.  Learners swap lists and then you show them the screenshot again.  Feedback on the items in the screenshot.  Learners give one point for each item on their partner’s list that is in the picture.  Cover any new vocabulary items.


In the computer room show your learners the walkthrough and tell them that this activity is a race.  In pairs they have to play the game using the walkthrough to help them complete the game as quickly as possible.  Point out that some of the words in the walkthrough are underlined and in blue:

Hamster rescue walkthrough

Hamster rescue paperclip annotation

If they don’t know what one of these underlined blue words mean they can click on it and see a picture of it.  For example if you click on the first annotated wor ‘paperclip’ you get this image:

The first pair to finish the game gets less homework.

Post Play

Tell your learners that foir homework they have to play a game.  Tell them they will have to use two windows like today – one to play the game and the other for the walkthrough.  Direct them to this page and ask them to play two of the other games.  The link to the game can be reached by clicking on the title and the walkthrough link is highlighted below the picture.  The pair that finished the game first and have less homework only have to play one of the other games.

Which Adjective are you?

Here’s a brief description of ten fun personality tests for your English Language Learners. They require very little preparation and I’ve included 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. Learners answer the test tasks to find out which popular character they are matched to.

Star Wars Personality test

Which star wars character am i

This personality test consists of a list of 35 adjectives which you have to decide if it describes your personality then click on strongly disagree, disagree, agree and strongly agree. Brainstorm characters from the film in class. Ask learners to do the quiz and note down any new adjectives and ask you their meaning in the computer room. Back in class ask them to identify which character in the film the adjective best describes.

Simpsons Personality test

Which simpsons character am i

Brainstorm character names in class and learners write down three adjectives to describe each character. Ask learners to do the quiz and note down any new adjectives and ask you their meaning in the computer room. Back in class learners say which character they are most like and justify why they agree or disagree with the test results.

Muppets Personality test

Which muppet am iThis personality test consists of a list of 9 adjectives and personality traits to agree or disagree to. Ask learners to do the quiz and note down the questions and to ask you their meaning in the computer room. Back in class learners talk about people they know (famous/ family or friends) who are most/ least like the test’s personality traits.

Which friends character are you?

Which friends character am i

This personality test consists of 16 multiple choice questions. Chat about the characters in friends in class. Ask learners to take turns doing the quiz in pairs with one asking the other the questions in the computer room. Back in class learners can choose their own favourite tv show and make their own quiz for their class mates to do.

Which High School musical character are you?

Which high school musical am i

In class ask your learners if they have seen the film, who’s in it and what are they like as people. Ask them to write down the name of the character they think they are most like. In the computer room ask them to do the quiz and write down their answers on a piece of paper as well as the character the quiz says they are most like. Do they agree? Now – can they remember and write down the questions?

Which superhero are you?

Which superhero am i

In class learners write down the name of a secret superhero. Their partner asks them questions to identify who it is (who what where when why which how questions). In the computer room learners take it in turns to ask their partner the quiz questions and ask follow up wh- questions about their partners answers. Back in the classroom learners tell a new partner what they learnt in the quiz about their partner.

Which twilight character are you?

Which twilight character am i

In class ask your learners if they have read or seen any of the twilight books/ films. What do they like about them? In the computer room they do the quiz for fun – Hey there’s a lot of text in this one so why not just read it for fun? Back in class they tell you if they agree or not with the answers. Ask them to explain who the character is that they tested as.

Which videogame character am I?

Which video game character am I

Brainstorm video game characters in class. In pairs Learners can then take it in turns to describe one for their partner to identify. In the computer room they do the test in pairs but have to answer the questions by choosing an answer and saying more starting with “because . . . “. That is, before answering the question on the screen they have to justify their answer.

Which Harry Potter character are you?

Which harry potter character am i

In class tell the class you are thinking of a character from Harry Potter. Play twenty questions (or fifteen if you like as there are 15 in the online quiz). Back in class learners compare their answers and tell their classmates how they answered the questions.

Which lord of the rings character are you?

Which lotr character am i

In class brainstorm the names of characters from the films onto the board. Then make a spidergram by adding the characters’ personal qualities. In the computer room learners do the quiz. When they have finished they can write down some more quiz questions looking at the quiz for inspiration or using the internet for research.

If other films or tv programmes are popular with your learners try finding a personality test online connected with your learners interests. Use a search engine and type in “Which (name) character am I?”