Monthly Archives: March 2010

10 TEFL Activities for Samorost 2

Here’s a brief description of ten TEFL activities from the site 101 ways (and more) to use Samorost.  All these activities were chosen because they cover a range of levels, location (classroom, connected classroom, computer room and home), language and skills practice.  The links provided direct you to lesson plans, downloadable material and more.

1  Spot The Difference

Screen shot 2010-03-29 at 6.32.24 PMUse downloadable flashcards for a spot the difference activity with low levels.  Alternatively, higher levels can use the same flashcards to practice the present perfect and identify ‘What has happened‘ between the 1st and second picture.   If that’s not enough, give out the first flashcard to intermediate learners and get them to predict what ‘will‘ happen and then give out the second picture – now then can see what is ‘going to‘ happen.

2 Who wants to play Samorost 2

Screen shot 2010-03-29 at 6.43.08 PMIf your learners have completed Samorost 2 why not do a reading activity with this fun PowerPoint quiz ‘Who knows all about Samorost 2‘ based on the popular Tv show ‘Who wants to be a millionaire?’.  For the ‘phone a friend’ option I usually allow them to text someone outside the classroom (in English) and allow two minutes for a reply.  ‘Studio audience’ you can take a class vote (some interesting results with that – join in yourself  if you like).  If your learners like the game so much why not ask them ‘who wants to do a quiz about Samorost 2?‘ and get them to practice question forms and download the PowerPoint template and write their own questions and answers.

3 Poetry with Samorost 2

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An acrostic poem is where you write the name of your subject vertically down a page. Ask your learners to do this with the word ‘Samorost’, and to start a line to their poem starting with a letter from the word ‘Samorost’.  Alternatively, try a more traditional poem with an advanced class using a more structured approach.

4 Vocabulary Crossword

Screen shot 2010-03-29 at 6.57.36 PMYou may want to do a pre gaming or language activity (e.g. a walkthrough) with your class and a good way to pre- teach some of the vocabulary is to do a Samorost 2 crossword.  Learners can get good dictionary work in while they have fun doing a crossword that targets vocabulary from Samorost 2.  To change this activity from a primarily reading activity to a writing activity, learners can write down a list of vocabulary from Samorost 2 and write their own Samorost 2 student crossword.

5  Live Listening

Screen shot 2010-03-29 at 7.06.41 PMIf you have downloaded and printed off a copy of the walkthrough you can do a live listening.  While your learners play the game in a computer room you use the walkthrough to guide them through the game.  If some learners get further ahead than others then ask them to switch their screens off and describe to others how they have got to where they are in the game or direct the slower gamers to an online copy of the walkthrough to help them.

6 Picture dictation

Screen shot 2010-03-29 at 7.06.35 PMPicture dictations are great for lower levels and offers a great opportunity to focus on prepositions of place.  The first screen shot of Samorost 2 lends itself well to a description that makes a great picture dictation to learners who are unfamiliar with the game Samorost 2.  Either use a Samorost 2 picture dictation text or make your own up.  When learners have finished they can compare their pictures with the original either as a downloaded flashcard or on a screen at the front of the class if you have a computer, internet connection and the means to display the game.

7 Comic Books

Screen shot 2010-03-29 at 7.25.28 PMScreen shot 2010-03-29 at 7.25.13 PMComic books are visually engaging and can help to both stimulate the imagination and provide a fun way for learners to practice writing.  They can focus on direct speech elements (left) and reported speech or narrative tenses (right).   Download either of the templates pictured here as well as other comic pages from the Samorost 2 game by clicking on the links in brackets above in this text.

8 Wonderous walkthroughs

8 Walkthroughs

Samorost 2 (part 1) Video Walkthrough

A walkthrough in online gaming can be a written walkthrough text, which consists of step-by-step  instructions on how to complete a game, or a video walkthrough of the game being played and completed.hrough in online gaming can be a written walkthrough text, which consists of step-by-step  instructions on how to complete a game, or a video walkthrough of the game being played and completed.  Why not learn how to use the ‘search this site‘ and look for some ideas on how to use a video or written walkthrough with language learners.

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9  Sequencing events

Download and print off a copy of the Samorost 2 action verb cards and there is plenty you can do.  Learners can watch a video walkthrough and sequence the verbs in the order they appear in the video walkthrough (lights! Camera! Action Verbs!).

Once the verbs have been ordered, learners can then tell the story of Samorost 2 (Action speaks louder than words) using the verbs to help them.

Finally learners can use the ordered verbs as scaffolding for a writing activity (The Pen is Mightier Than The Sword) where they write the story of Samorost 2.

10 Verbs + Prepositions

Lots of activities and worksheets to download focusing on verbs + prepositions that cover the whole of the free online part to Samorost 2.  Use password codes to skip levels to do specific worksheets or work your way through over the course of a few classes.  Worksheet activities include:

Mind the gap Place the verb and prepositions in the gapped walkthrough.

Grammar jigsaw Communication gap where learners match sentences ending with a verb with a partners sentence that starts with a preposition.

Scramble! Order the words to form walkthrough sentences.

Over & Out Gap fill preposition activity

Why not check out The 101 ways (and more) to use Samorost site for other ideas, material and lesson plans.

Spotlight on Digital Play Innovators #5 Ralph H. Baer

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Clockwise from the top -Magnavoz game console, a light gun, game cartridges, SIMON

The Father of Video Games

In 2006 Ralph H. Baer was awarded the National Medal of Technology by the President of the United States for his “groundbreaking and pioneering creation, development and commercialisation of interactive video games”.  In fact many believe he invented the gaming industry.  Quite an accomplishment.  Would it surprise you to learn that Ralph is 88 years old?

Born in Germany into a Jewish family and the son of a shoe factory worker life could not have been too easy.  At the age of eleven Ralph was expelled from school for being Jewish and in 1938 the his whole family left Germany for America just in time to avoid the anti jewish purge of Kristallnacht.  Once in America Ralph took a job in a factory on minimal wage, self educated himself and two years later graduated from the National Radio Institute in Chicago.  In 1943 with the world at war he was assigned to work for US military intelligence.  After the war ended Ralph went back to studying and chose the American Television Institute of Technology from which he graduated from in 1949 with a degree in Television engineering.  His future as the father of video gaming was beginning to take shape.

In 1949 he worked as chief engineer at a small electronic medical equipment firm responsible for making electrical surgical equipment.  Two years later he went to work as a senior engineer at a company that made equipment for the computer company IBM.  By the age of 30 he had changed jobs and moved up again and was the vice president for a company that made semi conductors.  Finally, four years later, he went to work for a US defense contractor that made aircraft electronic systems and he stayed there for the next 31 years until he retired.  It was while he was working here that he established his name in the video gaming history books.

In August 1972 the release of the ‘Brown Box’, or the Magnavox Odyssey, heralded the birth of the first home video game console.  Designed by Ralph Baer the Magnavox Odyssey predated the next video game console by 3 years.  Ralph saw his invention build up 24 game titles, he pushed for the development of sound but his idea was rejected.  So too was his idea to make an add on cartridge that you could use to ‘load’ games on to the console with.  However, some ideas were accepted and the first add on peripheral is credited to the magnavox – the light gun.  This was a plastic moulded gun that when pointed at the screen registered the light emitted from a television set.

Quite an impressive story but it was not over.  Ralph’s story of inventions goes on.  One of these was the single-chip micro-processor controlled handheld game called SIMON that became a cult hit in the 80s.  This game had four large coloured buttons that lit up in a random sequence starting with one colour and then adding one more each round.  The object of the game was for players to repeat the sequence by pressing the correct buttons and the game ended when a mistake was made.  Other inventions included a recordable talking doormat called the ‘chat mat’ and a talking speedometer for a bike.

Ralph has retired now and has donated all the original game units he owned to the Smithsonian Institution  This government run educational and research institute owns  just under twenty public access museums and if you want to see some of Ralph Baer’s inventions then you can go and visit them there.  Alternatively you can play any one of the half dozen home video consoles and appreciate the legacy that he has left.

Classroom activities

Download a worksheet focusing on the pronunciation of -ed in regular verbs.

101 TEFL Activities in 1 Online Game

“How many different activities can you do with a single free online game?”

The answer to that could be hundreds and to prove it the site below has come up with over a hundred and one TEFL activities with the game Samorost 2.  Is there a guinness book of records entry for this?  Maybe not but it’ll certainly keep language learners entertained, engaged and in English.  The name of the site?

101 Ways (and more) to use Samorost

Technically it should read Samorost 2 but with all the activities and download material up for grabs who’s quibbling?  Maybe it’s important to have the distinction because the first Samorost game (Aptly named just ‘Samorost’) does have a slightly inappropriate image of a man smoking (??) a pipe (??) that you may want to avoid with young learners.  A fact that’s definitely worth remembering if you are telling your learners to sit down in a computer room and log into the game.

Just to help you navigate round the site here’s a little help:

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ACTIVITY TITLES –  Here’s a nice list of activities by name.

SEARCH WINDOW –  Search by level (beginners, preintermediate, intermediate, upper intermediate & advanced), Location (classroom has minimal technology; connected classroom involves a computer, internet connection and some form of electronic white board; and a computer room for multiple online access), Activity (reading, writing, speaking & listening) and Grammar/ Language (conditionals, tenses, prepositions, phrasal verbs, sequencers etc).

PLAY THE GAME –  Access Samorost 2 directly from the site by clicking here.

SCREENSHOTS –  Take a look at the visual content of the game with the screenshot slideshow.

POTLUCK –  101 (and more) ELT uses all numbered.  Fancy taking potluck at an activity?  Click on a number and see what you get.

Main problem with the site?  I think learners may get a bit fed up with just the one game but the point being stressed here is an online game can be used for so many different grammar areas, skills practice and language focus.


Top ten Samorost 2 activities – Ten different levels, activities and grammar areas to give you a feel for the site.  Add a comment if you have a class in mind and I’ll see about including a relevant activity.

Online Alternate Reality Game for Teens


Whitesmoke is an online free to play Alternate Reality Game (ARG).  Commissioned by Channel 4 Education and aimed at teens, Whitesmoke hopes to educate by providing a personal taster (through a fictional game) of what it would be like to experience some of the dangers of social networking.

Screen shot 2010-03-21 at 2.13.36 PMWEBSITE SCREENSHOT


Read more about this ARG in a Guardian article or visit the Whitesmoke official website.


This ARG has been great with an advanced class.  We started up the game during a computer room session where learners were fed up with doing online exam practice and wanted a game that was a bit more mature and serious than a point-and-click game.  For homework I asked them to prepare a short talk on what they had learnt while playing the game.  Next class I was surprised at how involved they’d become in the game and how greater their awareness of internet dangers were.  In fact, they were teaching me.  Subsequently, each time we encounter a new grammar point in the book I am asking them to ‘smokescreen-erize’ the examples.  As a result my teen learners are not only personalizing the grammar and continuing to learn language but also have a platform to discuss such serious issues as identity theft, online stalking and freedom of online information.  It has also provided a long term reading project for the computer room where I can not only assist them with language items but also engage them in mutually interesting and authentic dialogue on elements of the game, issues and the game characters.  It has almost become a class soap opera.


If any one else is interested enough to try this out in class I would be interested in how they use it.  At the moment, for me, it is a means to use computer time, encourage reading outside the English class context and it is a platform for discussing issues, experiences, opinions and stories.

Problem solving game to generate conversation

Here’s a problem solving game that is best played in a connected classroom (i.e. a classroom with a PC/data projector) – it’s even better if you have an interactive whiteboard (iwb)

  • The game is called Crayon Physics Deluxe and a free demo can be downloaded from here:
  • You will need to install the game (you cannot play online only) but you could install it on a pen drive if this is a problem

Here’s a video to give you an idea of what it looks like/ how to play it:

Crayon Physics Deluxe from Petri Purho on Vimeo.

How to use Crayon Physics Deluxe in class

1) Start the game and explain how it works by talking the class through the first couple of screens

There are a few simple concepts behind the game that will need to be explained to the class:

  • The object is to move the ball to the star in every level
  • You have to draw shapes (lines, squares, triangles, circles, etc) to move / block the ball
  • You can fix a shape so that it doesn’t move by drawing a circular ‘hinge’ (they’ll see this explained in the second screen)
  • The trick is to think how to do it before trying it out

2) Show them the third screen. Ask for a few volunteers to tell you how you can move the ball so that it touches the star. Listen to their ideas and ask the class to choose the one they think will work best. Ask that student to come out and draw the solution.

3) Continue in this way (it gets harder) and each time ask the students to explain exactly what they plan to do before letting them tray to do it. Deal with any vocabulary as it emerges and keep a record of it on a board or a piece of paper (review this later)

4) Finish by showing them the video above and ask them to compare the differences between how they solved the problems and how the person in the video did.

Another way of playing could be as a team game (awarding points to the team who solves the puzzle)

Thanks to Matt Ledding for introducing me to this idea at the 2010 TESOL Spain convention.

The Uncanny Valley

An interesting video to use with Advanced class interested in video games

Designing packaging for a Video Game

A speaking activity on the subject of gaming that can be played in a classroom or a computer room.

Level: Intermediate

Topic: Designing the layout of the packaging of a video game

Language Focus: Present simple, adjectives, intensifyers etc

Time: 1 hour

Screen shot 2010-02-08 at 2.24.13 PM


1 In a previous class ask your learners to bring in game catalogues/ pictures or reviews of video games.

2 Classroom – Download and print off a copy of the Video Game Packaging (see above) 1 for each pair of learners or 1 to model the layout.  Alternatively you could elicit the content.


1) Learners should then identify the different aspects on the packaging of a video game.  They could write 1 – 10 and prepare labels for each.

2) Ask learners to choose a picture that would make a good video game.

3) Learners identify adjectives, intensifiers and typical language that appears on video game packaging.

4) Using the Video Game Packaging Template learners make their own video game packaging.

Post Play

Learners compare video games and decide on which one they would buy.

Role play buying the game in a shop.

Sci-fi Interactive Reader

Level: Upper intermediate/ Advanced

Topic:  Sci -fi

Language skill: Reading

Game: Morningstar

When your spaceship ‘Morningstar’ mysteriously crashes on an alien planet you have to help an injured crew member, escape from the ship, explore a planet to look for supplies to repair your ship and finally take off and get away.

Screen shot 2010-03-09 at 7.34.36 PMScreenshot from ‘Morningstar’

This is a great game for learners interested in mysteries, point and click games and sci-fi.  They also get to practice reading for pleasure outside the classroom.

Radio Messages

During play you can get help by clicking on the RADIO button and listening to or reading what the Captain has to say.

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Finding Objects

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When you find an object you get information about what it’s called, what it does and how you may need to use it in the game.  Sometimes to use an objects it needs to be combined with another.

If you introduce the game in class you can focus on any interesting language you or your learners identify.

Introduce the game in class even if your intention is for your learners to read it at home.  By playing the game in class you emphasize the importance of the text and orientate your learners towards reading.

Interesting Language:

adjectives + noun (chromium alloy wrench)

Informally expressing opinion (I bet I can . . .)

word formation (unscrew – verb, screw – verb/ noun)

quantifiers (just about anything).

Encourage your learners to record any interesting language they come across to look at in class.

The Inventory bar

As you find objects they get stored in your inventory, which is displayed at the bottom of the screen.  As the inventory display fills up learners may need to use the arrows on either side of the inventory window to scroll back and forth.

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If a learner needs to remind themselves about what an item is called (for example, when a radio message suggests they use it) they can click on any of the items, drag and drop it on the magnifying glass and read the object information.

The Walkthrough

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Of course with most games there is a way to ‘cheat’. by using a walkthrough.  The link to the walkthrough is near the RADIO button (next row down on the right).  Clicking on this directs you to a video of the game and a written walkthrough giving instructions on how to complete the game.

Learner’s should be discouraged from using these as it reduces not only both the enjoyment of and involvement in the story of the game but it also reduces reliance on the bulk of the radio messages.

Remember Reading this game should be for pleasure and play and not just language practice.

Reading Task

You could ask your learners to answer these questions:

Who are you?  Who are the crew members?  What does your ship look like?  What happened to your ship?  What’s on the planet?  What do you think happened?

Drilling Directions

Level: Elementary/ Pre-intermediate

Topic: Directions

Speaking focus: Turn left, turn right, go up, go down

Time: 10 minutes (or as you see fit)

Game: Pacman & Orbox

Screen shot 2010-02-08 at 1.29.39 PM


Either play this in a connected classroom and have this game on the board using a projector or IWB or play this in a computer room with two learners to each computer.  this game does not last long but remember the aim of the game is to see how high a score you can get using English.

1) While one person has access to the keyboard (and preferably can’t see the screen) the other learner (s) sit in front of the screen with their arms folded.

2) When the game starts the learner(s) with their arms folded shout out instructions to the keyboard gamer.

3) The person at the keyboard has to listen and use the arrow keys to guide the pacman blind.

4) Make sure you are standing near by so that when they lose a life the pause ‘P’ key can be pressed and learners can swap roles.

5) When learners are ready to continue press ‘P’ again to resume the game.

Student A can say the following words: Student B uses the following keys:

(turn) left = left arrow P = pause/ resume game
(turn) right = right arrow
(go) up = up arrow
(go) down = down arrow


Playing Pacman in this way means that most games won’t last longer than 10 seconds or so.  Make a note of the scores and see who can get the highest score.  Remember you can always use this as a warmer.  If you want a game that can be played in the same way but hasn’t got such a demanding/ stressful time limit then play Orbox.

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Don’t forget to familiarise yourself with the games before using them in the classroom.  Also, be prepared to teach your learners how to play them.  These games are either well known or fairly simple to get across (even just by miming) but should be used as practice not presentation.

10 Games That Use Extensive Audio

Here’s a brief description of ten games with strong audio elements 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.

Screen shot 2010-02-08 at 12.25.36 PMDecorate

Do your learners know their furniture vocab?  Have your pre-intermedaite learners practice their listening and reading skills as they furnish Roger’s flat.  Great for 1:1 learner/ computer ratio classes or set as a fun homework activity.  Learners read the speech bubbles and listen to Roger tell them how he wants his flat furnished.  Vocabulary sets include furniture, colours and patterns.

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2    Sveerz

This is a musical arcade game which is a cross between Tetris and simon says.  It’s great for drilling colours with a primary class in open class.  Simply play the game at the front of the class and have your learners sitting in front of the game shouting out the colours.  You play the game by clicking the colours they shout.  When they know how to play get a volunteer up to take your place at the keyboard.

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3    Arcane season

Use the great video sequences, nice special sound effects and what the in-game characters say to stimulate a creative writing activity with an upper intermediate and beyond class.  The good thing about this?  Just click here for a more comprehensive lesson plan.

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4    Hot shot business

Disney scored a bit of a hit with this game.  Listen to the two presenters and in game newsflashes as you open your own skateboard retailers, comic shop or pet shop.  Learners can read the speech bubbles as they listen for extra support.  Some nice arcade style games breaks give learners a short break from language and they keep the adrenalin level up.

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5    Case of the crabs

This is a point and click game which is great to use with a walkthrough class activity.  Admittably the sound effects are more there to add atmosphere rather than provide some skills practice but it’s still a nice little game.  The opening sequence allows learners to read and listen to the storyline.  Click here for the walkthrough.  Read out the walkthrough, relay dictation from the teacher’s computer screen or tell learners where to access it.

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6    Mingoville

Fun English learning games, grammar and songs all with flamingos that speak English.  A popular one with Primary English learners though the activities are very much based on drilling language items.  If this is the thing for you and your learners then set this up at the front of the class.

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7    Stage 07

A very engaging point and click adventure game you can use with a walkthrough.  Choose how you interact with the in game characters to solve a mystery.  Both Listening and reading skills practice.  Great for pair work in the computer room for intermediate English learners and above.  Click here for the walkthrough.

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8    voki

This website allows you to create personalized speaking avatars and use them on blogs, profiles, and in email messages.  Get students to record themselves talking about their voki avatars – likes/ dilikes, habits and daily routines are all good areas to cover.

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9    Cuboy

Lots of audio for your learners to listen to and they can also read the text with the in game characters’ speech bubbles.  Nice little game with lots of puzzles to solve.  Use the walkthrough to help your learners.  Click here for the walkthrough.

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10    Hewitt

Help Hewitt to find a girl for the school dance. This game takes a minute or so to load so be warned.  Use YOUR MOUSE to play the game and make sure you read the instructions to the tutorial at the beginning of game.  Click here if you want the walkthrough.