Monthly Archives: June 2010

10 Educational Games

Here’s a brief description of ten games with strong social awareness and education in world issues 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.

1 Against all odds

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A game that aims to educate gamers about the problems that face immigrants and political assylum seekers. The games are divided into three stages (each stage has 4 games) that cover war and conflict in an immigrants native country,  escaping across to a border country and finally starting a new life in a new country.   Links here will take you to previous blog posts with ideas on how to use the game in a connected classroom.

Screen shot 2010-04-23 at 4.49.14 PM2 3rd World Farmer

A strategy simulation game based on a 3rd world farm that’s great for a connected classroom note taking activity.  Use the game notes to stimulate discussion and drive a writing task for homework.  The interesting thing about this game is that it reflects the ‘real’ situation 3rd world farmers are in – you can’t win in this game!

3 Ayiti The Cost of Life

This game simulates a a farmer and families life on the farm in Haiti.  If you’ve played 3rd world farmer then this is a very similar game.  Get your learners to write an instruction manual on how to play the game.  Great for eliciting 0 conditionals and contrasting what is ‘always true’ in some parts of the world ‘won’t necessarily be true’ in others.

Screen shot 2010-04-23 at 9.45.19 AM4 Stop Disasters

A disaster simulation game in which you choose a disaster scenario (tsunami, hurricane, wildfire, earthquake and flood) and “try to build upon an established community; providing defences and upgraded housing to prepare for the inevitable disaster.”

5 McDonald’s Video Game

A subversive look at the business process behind the fast food company ‘McDonalds.  Game takes place over four scenarios (agricultural section, the feedlot, the fast food restaurant and headquarters).  If you or your learners have ever seen ‘supersize me’ or read ‘fast food nation’ then you will like this.

Screen shot 2010-03-22 at 11.47.19 PM6 Climate Challenge

BBC commissioned game that looks at the problem of climate from a presidents viewpoint.  This is quite a serious and mature game with complex rules.  There is a tutorial that helps familiarise a player with the game play but I would only recommend this game to a more mature higher level class.  Go through the tutorial on the board but explain you want to learn how to play it as much as they do so help each other out.  When the class is familiar with the rules they could then progress to the computer room to play in pairs and later compare how well they did.

7 Disaster Watch

A look at Nicaragua and the the warning signs and possible measures that can be taken in the event of an earthquake, flood or food shortage.  Three different levels offer reading practice, some fun timed activities and a great platform for discussions.  Ask Learners to make notes, write conditional sentences or discuss possible game strategy.

Screen shot 2010-04-23 at 5.29.03 PM8 The Peace Doves

A quiz game aimed at testing knowledge and raising awareness of nuclear weapons and the importance of the peace process.  Read the clues to identify a country and select your answer by clicking on a country on the world map.  You then launch a peace dove to that country.  Treat it as a quiz to vote on the answers in open class or as a webquest for pairs in the computer room.

9 Ars Regendi

“Ars Regendi is a browser-based political game that lets you take the reigns of your own, realistically simulated state. You will be asked to weigh in on various matters of state and – faced with a number of choices – any decision you make will have ramifications for the well-being of your virtual populace! In addition, you will be able to form alliances with other countries, initiate reforms and adjust the budget. Ars Regendi is a highly realistic and complex economic simulation that squares you off against other state leaders and puts your political and financial abilities to the test.”  Great long term project for higher level language learners with lots of reading and writing practice.

Screen shot 2010-03-22 at 11.21.16 PM10 Darfur is dying

Darfur is Dying is a browser game about the political and social crisis in the Sudan.  The game starts with a race to and from a pumping station in the desert.  Avoid roving militia patrols by hiding (space bar also pauses the game) where you can.  Get learners to finish a short exercise in their workbooks and let a winner run a section of the game.  The next stage of the game requires a little more discussion but great for group work and collaborative gaming.

World Cup Rescue

Level: Intermediate+

Location: Computer room

Language focus: Gaming dictation

Skills Focus: Speaking/ listening

Game: World Cup Rescue

The World Cup has been stolen and you (Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo) have been chosen to go and get it back.

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Depending on how your computer room is set up you need to get at least two learners out of the class and to play the game using the written walkthrough (at the bottom of the page).  I have access to a computer room where there’s a row of computers against one wall and another row against the opposite wall.  I got two learners (The commentators) to go and play the game so they could dictate the game to the two rows.  They play the game and make notes of any language they may need to explain how to play the game to the rest of the class. Tell them that they will be the walkthrough.  They will also be able to use the video below to help them.


At the beginning of the game there is a comic book introduction which introduces the storyline and the characters.  You could show this to the class (in a connected classroom) as a preliminary to playing the game.  The game characters take it in turns to speak (speech bubbles) with each turn being taken as you click on the screen.  This means you can look at any language with the class and discuss anything that crops up.


Learners sit at a computer.  If you have the luxury of being able to have one learner to a computer then this is best.  Pairs at a computer is also ok.  Tell them they are going to play a game.  They will have to describe where they are in the game to the two commentators.  The commentators listen, may ask any questions to clarify any aspects of the learners’ game progress and then tell them what to do.  The Commentators may watch the video walkthrough (on two seperate computers) and use any notes to help them, though no-one else should be able to see their screens.

Video walkthrough.


The activity has been known to start with the gamers listening to one of the commentators only.  However, as the game progresses different pairs progress at different speeds.  At points it can be quite hectic for the commentator for they may be answering questions on one game while having to ask questions themselves on another.  At these points your role is to ensure that there is a little order.  Prioritise games where progress is slower for the commentators to deal with and encourage faster players to explore a bit.  You can also slow a team down by asking one of them to swap with the commentator (to use their notes and the video).  Also think about letting gamers read the written walkthrough (NOT the video) the link is the author’s name (Edgar) at the bottom of this post.

Post Activity

  • Write the game story in the style of a tv news report.
  • Write the news story for a newspaper.
  • Interview the characters (Messi & Ronaldo).
  • Write press statements (one reporting the theft another reporting the return of the cup).

The Walkthrough

Medusa’s Hideout
First a warning: before going inside, take the stone from behind the pillar on the right and (important!) wear the tinted lenses to avoid Medusa turning you into a stone statue.
Inside, Medusa asks you what brings you there – tell her you are a Personal Items Salesman).

She will ask you now what items you have for her to buy; answer Mirrors (3rd option).

Medusa will  look at herself in the mirror and will  turn herself into a stone statue and all of the other stone statues around will go back to life.

Take Medusa’s collar (necklace).
Talk to the Centaur to find out he has been practicing archery since he can no longer participate in running competitions because he lost one of his horseshoes.  Coincidentally you have one in your inventory so give the horseshoe to the Centaur and he will give you the magic bow in exchange.
In your inventory, combine the arrow with the bow.
Oh, and take off the tinted lenses.
Outside the city’s walls, you won’t be able to open the Horse door without the key, so use it and get inside.
Before closing the door, take the stone and throw it to the city gates.  Then close the horse’s door now (do this quickly!!).
A Trojan soldier will come out to take the horse (and you) inside the city; open the horse’s door to come out.
Pick up the spear and move to the right.
Now you’re facing a palm tree with a golden leaf which is what you came here for. Use the bow and arrow on the The golden palm of Troy to get it.
Talk to Charon to learn how  bad the job conditions down there are.  Give him the two gold coins to get to the other side of the river and keep going to the right. 
Cerberus is stopping you from getting into Hades so use the magic lyre to put him to sleep. Go right.
Hades is looking after Poseidon’s trident while he goes to sleep.  If you take it from him, he’ll wake up so replace the spear with Poseidon’s trident.
Colchis Island
Now, you need to be pretty fast here… or the dragon will kill you!!
As soon as you get in here, use Poseidon’s trident on the well to get a huge amount of water into the dragon’s mouth.  When he’s down, climb on top of him (click on the highest part of his stomach) and take the Golden Fleece.
Don’t leave the island without taking the red cape from behind the well.
Crete Island
You’re in the minotaur’s labyrinth again.   Go into the central chamber (Through the door to the East )
Take the anvil and put it in front of you (still behind the red line).
Take the red cape, click on the Minotaur and do a little bullfighting with him to make him run into the anvil.
You can cross the red line now and collect the Minotaur’s horn from behind his foot.
Mount Olympus
When you have completed Zeus’s 5 tasks, he gives the World Cup back to us mortals

Original Walkthrough: Edgar

Victor's nightmare

A relay dictation or graded reading for primary learners.

Level: Primary

Location: Computer room

Topic: Nightmares

Language focus: Directions, prepositions & game vocabulary

Game: Victor’s nightmare

Victor suffers from nightmares and in order to get some restful night’s sleep he needs to learn how to face his fears and vanquish them.

Screen shot 2010-04-23 at 11.18.44 AMPreparation

Download and a copy of Victor’s nightmare walkthrough.  Either print a copy for each pair in your class (a reading) or a single copy (relay dictation).


  1. In the classroom do hangman for ‘nightmares‘ and brainstorm vocabulary onto the board.
  2. Set up a relay dictation in the classroom with the Victor’s nightmare walkthrough that you downloaded.  Learner’s should take turns to relay the sentences.
  3. Allow enough time for your learners to relay dictate a few sentences the take the walkthrough down.
  4. Ask learners to pick up their dictation and take it to the computer room.


  1. Before your learners sit down put victor’s nightmare walkthrough on the wall and show your learners.
  2. Explain to your learners they are going to play a game and use the walkthrough they copied to start the game.  When they have finished what they copied they can take turns (like they did in the classroom) to use the walkthrough on the wall.  This time they don’t have to write it down – they just tell their partner who plays the game.
  3. First pair to finish are the champions.

Post Play

Back in the classroom learners use the Victor’s nightmare walkthrough to make a game dictionary.  After having played the game they should be able to visualise parts of the game using the walkthrough and be able to translate sections.

Alternative reading activity

  1. Do the pre-play activity above.
  2. Take your learners to the computer room and handout a copy of victor’s nightmare walkthrough to each pair.
  3. Learners work in pairs with one playing the game and the other reading the walkthrough to them.
  4. After 5 minutes say “change!” and get pairs to swap roles.
  5. When first pair finishes get them to look some of the walkthrough words up in a dictionary OR do the game again from memory.

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NOTE The house on the right of the path is actually up the path on the left and the house on the left of the path is actually up the path on the left.  You may want to change this as it sometimes causes confusion.  REMEMBER a little bit of confusion can produce some interesting language but be careful to avoid frustration.

A Game of Geography

This game can be played at a pre-intermediate level learning countries and nationalities or with a higher level wishing to consolidate and extend their awareness of countries and nationalities vocabulary.

Level: Pre-intermediate

Location: Connected classroom

Skills focus: Speaking & pronunciation

Language Focus: Countries and nationalities

Game:  Geography game

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  1. Hangman for ‘countries/ and/ states’.
  2. Brainstorm a few and elicit the name of a person who comes from there.  Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know”, if you don’t know the answer yourself.


  1. Divide the class into teams of 3 or 4.
  2. Tell them they have to identify a country (the game asks them to find the country) and say what you call a person who comes from there.
  3. Play the game.  A learner from each team comes up and points to the country on the map.  If you know the answer (whether learners get it right or not) click on the country.  If you are not 100% sure but there is a general consensus then click on that country.  Otherwise choose the country the winning team chooses.
  4. Learners get a point for getting the right country and minus a point if they get it wrong.  They then get the chance to earn a bonus point for identifying the person who comes from there.  If the team gets the bonus question wrong it is open to the class and the team that gets it right first (hands up no shouting it out)  gets the bonus.  There are no minus marks for this.
  5. Play the game until all the countries have been eliminated (guessed right).  Teams add up their points and a winner is declared.

Post Play

Learners draw two columns.  First column is country and the second is person.  Give them a chance to try and remember the country and person from the game and fill in the columns before playing the game again.  This time play the game open class (no teams) and the class completes the columns.

Alternatively focus on pronunciation.  Learners may need a little practice on vowel sounds or word stress.  If you play the game twice then you may want to do some pronunciation work between the two.  In this way you can note down mistakes the first game and focus on them in the second game.


Sometimes its a little difficult to be able to say who comes from that place (especially if the game is on the states of a country).  In these cases you can accept a common answer each time (African, American, Australian, European etc) or ask a general knowledge question about the country.  You will need to do a bit of extra research and preparation for this though.  Some suggested general questions may include:

What colour is their flag?

What is the currency of this country?

What’s the name of a football team from here?

What language do they speak?

What’s the national animal?

What is the life expectancy for this country?

What are the names of three animals from there?

What are the names of three food products grown there?

Top Ten football games

Below is a list of ten football games you can ask learners who are getting ready to watch the world cup.  All these games were chosen because some of your learners may well be playing them at home or at friends. As well as being popular, engaging and fun to play they also offer great opportunities to learn some soccer / footie vocabulary or a discussion platform for English Language Learners.

1 Soccer manager

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“ is free of charge. You manage your team using your web browser. Matches are played at least twice a week.

You can log on at any time to check the status of your squad, check results and fixtures, make player transfers or just have a chat with the rapidly expanding community.”  Learners learn new vocabulary as they play, can discuss matches, strategies and their team in class.

Screen shot 2010-06-10 at 6.08.55 AM2  Footie Manager

“You take control of a football club and compete against other managers from all over the world in your bid for the domestic championship and international cup glory.

As a football manager, you have full control over your club including managing the club finances, wheeling and dealing in the transfer markets, managing club staff and a myriad of other options that will challenge even the best budding football managers.”

Learners learn new vocabulary as they play, can discuss matches, strategies and their team in class.

3 All football games

A games site dedicated to football.  In class I showed this game page (right) in class and went through each one asking learners what they thought they would have to do.  As they predicted some very useful football vocabulary was fed onto the board and copied with some enthusiasm by the boys in the class.  Topics and vocabulary covered included the role of different players/ positions in a game, football violence on and off the pitch, the pros and cons of penalty playoffs etc  Class ended with students writing down and perfecting the best definition of “The off-side trap” in exactly 50 words.

4 Planetarium Manager

“The objective of the game is different from manager to manager. It can be to have one or more players in a national team, to aim for league or cup glory, or simply to achieve stability by raising and training your players properly. You define your own objectives. However, we can say Planetarium Manager is all about starting from the very bottom and achieving planetarium success.”  Learners choose their in game objectives and present their progress to the class in the form of a powerpoint pecha kucha presentation.  Can they justify their decisions to the class afterwards?

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5 FIFA 11

This is a video of a console game that was released by the EA Sports trademark.  Turn the watching into a game.  Divide the class into teams.  Tell the teams that they take turns to say ‘stop’ anytime, you’ll stop the video and they can ask the other team a question about what they can see on the video.  Award points on the nature of their questions in the following way 1 = general knowledge 2 = language 3 = Connected question (related to picture on screen).

6 Time Lines

Why not get learners to make their own timelines based on the history of football video games?  This site has a lot of information but only three pages which learners can scan read for dates and short event descriptions. e.g.

1980s Atari rules the gaming market

1981 Pele’s soccer is released (passive)

1987 Nintendo release ‘soccer’ (active)

Use timelines to focus on tenses as well as vocabulary items.

7 Premier Skills

A site run by the British Council aimed at football fans of all ages with a definite emphasis on language, fun and football.  Either play games in a computer room and test your learners reading skills and football knowledge with a football rules quiz or play a game in open class and vote on the right answers while testing their football vocabulary.  There are plenty of games to play here as well as a ‘Behind the scenes‘ section providing listening practice as real footballers talk of their footballing experiences.  Definitely worth a look.

8 Freekick Fusion

Use the single player option in this game as a reward for work done well in class or as an incentive to learners to do some more boring work.  My class were doing an end of unit assessment in their coursebook which was split into a dozen sections over two pages.  The first person to finish a section,  bring me their book for me to check, got all the answers right then got to take the freekick.  Young learners loved it.

Screen shot 2010-06-10 at 7.54.23 AM9 Dress a footballer

A great game for low levels to practice colours and clothes vocabulary (top/ t-shirt, long-sleeved top, shorts, trainers, and sunglasses).  It was also useful to use ordinals (first, second, third etc).  I played this in a connected classroom and had learners sitting at the front of the class in front of the IWB where they dictated their player to me.  Because they all had an opinion on what they wanted the player to wear this acted as a drilling activity (even if a little chaotic).  I chose learners randomly at first then if I heard any mispronunciations, I focused on that.  The activity lasts longer if you ask learners to make the worst football strip, one for their school, one for an enemy to wear, one they would wear etc

10 Football quizzes

A selection of quizzes that cover a wide range of national and international teams as well as football personalities.  You can set challenges to your learners and see who gets the best score in one particular quiz, use them for reading practice for fast task finishing football fans.  If you find a ‘quiz generator‘ or ‘make your own quiz‘ online you can use the quizzes as models to get learners to make their own.

With the FIFA World Cup starting it seems a wasted opportunity not to use football in the classroom.

Facebook Apps Chaps?

Below is a list of ten standard questions you can ask learners who are on facebook followed by a list of ten facebook app game logos and more specific questions. All these games were chosen because some of your learners may be playing them as well as being easily accessible, engaging and fun for English Language Learners.


Do you recognise any of these games? Are you playing any of them? How do you play them? How well are you doing? Are any of your friends playing them? How well are they doing? What tips have you got for playing? What’s good about these games? What’s bad about these games?

Now some questions for those playing the games:

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What level are you at? How much do things cost? What gifts would you like? What do you get medals for? What happens when you expand your cafe? Who are your neighbours? What does your cafe look like? What’s the best cafe you’ve seen? How often do you play? What is your buzz rating? What tips have you got for playing cafe world?

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What different types of fish have you got? Which fish are the best to have? How have you decorated your fish tank? How have you changed the environment? How much money have you got? What do you plan to do next? Who do you send gifts to? What does the music sound like? What can you buy in the store? How could you make the game better?

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What level are you at? How have you organised your farm? Have you got any limited edition items? What animals have you got? What crops do you plant the most? Who are your neighbours? How often do you plough (plow) your crops? What happens when your farm gets overcrowded? What can you buy in the market? How would you change your farm if we had time?


How much money have you got? What does your avatar look like? What have you got on your farm? Have any of your neighbours got cool farms? What jobs do you do on the farm? What gifts are there? How much fuel have you got? Have you ever visited the Farm Town forum? What does the bank do? How often do you play?

Screen shot 2010-03-18 at 10.06.55 PM5 HAPPY AQUARIUM

How do you play this game? What have you got in your fish tank? What does the music sound like? What different types of fish have you got? Which fish are the best to have? How have you decorated your fish tank? How have you changed the environment? How much money have you got? What do you plan to do next? Why did you start playing this game?

Screen shot 2010-03-18 at 10.06.59 PM6 HAPPY PETS

What pets have you got? What does it look like? What furniture is there? What have you bought from the store? What would you like to buy from the store? How do you control ‘hunger’ and ‘cleanliness’ in the game? How many of your friends play too? How much money have you got? What are you saving up to buy? How would you like to change your pet?

Screen shot 2010-03-18 at 10.07.07 PM7 MAFIA WARS

What jobs have you had? What different businesses are there? What can you buy at the store? What do the crates do? What badges of merit have you earnt? What can you find in the treasure chests? What’s a racket? What characters have you met in the game? What equipment have you got? What weapons can you use?

Screen shot 2010-03-18 at 10.07.13 PM8 PETVILLE

What food can you feed your pet? What level are you at? What can you see on the game screen? What does your house look like? What does your pet look like? What is your pet wearing? Who are your friends in the game Why do you like petville? What do you buy with your money? Why do you like petville?

Screen shot 2010-03-18 at 10.07.20 PM9 YOVILLE

What does your apartment/ house look like? What does your avatar look like? Who are your neighbours? What different places are there in Yoville? What do you do there? What jobs have you done? What can you do at the speedway? What do you spend your money on? What else can you spend your money on? What would you add to the game?

Screen shot 2010-03-18 at 10.08.09 PM10 RESTAURANT CITY

Who are your employees?  How many have you got?  How popular is your restaurant?  What awards have you won?  What interesting ingredients are there?  What recipes have you used?  How do you earn gourmet points?  What level are you at?  What level do you want to reach and when?

These are all questions that your learners may enjoy asking each other if they are playing any of these facebook apps.  Of course, there is no reason why they shouldn’t then write and ask their own questions.  Remember – if you play any of these games yourself tell your learners about it.  Theye may be very curious about your opinions on it.

Pixels – warmer for classroom discussion of videogames

Here’s a great warmer to help start off any classroom discussion of videogames

Hero Machine – Relay Play for Primaries

Learners reproduce the physical appearance of a superhero from reading and relaying a written description.

Level: Primary

Location: Computer room

Language focus:  Has got/ is wearing/ colours/ clothes vocabulary/ physical descriptions/ parts of the body

Game: Hero machine

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  1. Either play with heromachine  yourself and both write a physical description of the hero you produce and take a screenshot and print the hero OR download and print a copy of the Superhero Relay Play material (relay dictation text and superhero picture).
  2. Read the set up at the bottom of this post.


  1. Play hangman with ‘s u p e r h e r o’
  2. Brainstorm some superheroes
  3. Elicit some physical descriptions of some of the superheroes on the board (focus on some of the language focus items for this game)
  4. Write the name of the superhero you have a picture of up on the board and elicit possible physical descriptions.
  5. Learners do a relay dictation of the written description.


  1. In the computer room learners use the written description fro the relay dictation to reproduce the superhero.
  2. When they have finished learners stand up and compare each superhero on each screen with the printed picture of the superhero.
  3. Learners make their own superhero and write a description using the relay dictation text as a model.

Post play

  1. Learners print their superheroes out (screen capture at school or at home) and put them on the classroom wall.
  2. Taking it in turns they read out the description and others identify the picture.
  3. Alternatively learners look at the pictures and predict the description.

How to play with Heromachine

You need to familiarise your learners with hero machine a little so you may either want to present the game in a connected classroom or direct learners through it in the computer room.

1 Choose a body template.  You could do this in the connected classroom by asking the class what you should choose.  e.g. a man or a woman?  Short or tall?

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2 As soon as you choose one of the four templates you are given a few loading options.  For the full range of clothes, objects, weapons, companions and body parts etc choose the complete option (the one I usually choose).

3 When your option has loaded click on the little arrow to the right of the lower small window (the one on the bottom) on the right just below where it says ‘component and genre’.  This allows you to open up the different body parts, clothing etc.  Just click on one to add it to your superhero.  Use the slide bar underneath to see more.

4 Use the palette below to add details to the physical appearance of your superhero, access more details by using the slidebar and colour your superhero.  Usually each single detail you have has two aspects to it so you can have two or one colour for each detail you add to your superhero.  For example, you could have green trousers with red stripes.

Screen shot 2010-05-27 at 11.17.53 AM5 Finally if you learners make any mistakes they just have to click on the item they want to change and then make the change.  This could be changing a hairstyle, clothing or the colour.  Have fun!

Mcdonald's Parody Game

Connected classroom room reading activity.

Level: Intermediate.

Location: Connected classroom

Skills Focus: Reading

Game: Mcdonald’s video game

Calling itself a digital parody of Mcdonald’s, this game takes a very critical look at the process behind the fast food company.  If you’ve read or seen ‘supersize me’ or ‘fast food nation’ then you should play this.

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Download a copy of the Mcdonald’s video game worksheet and make a copy of the first page for each pair of learners in your class.  The second page contains teachers’ notes.


  1. Connect to the game in the class and set English as the language you want to play the game in (British flag).
  2. Choose a volunteer to read ‘The Game’ introduction out.
  3. Brainstorm vocabulary items from the 4 pictures to the left of the intro.
  4. Click play and allow enough time for your learners to read the disclaimer and then ask them why they think that is included there and what does it say about the game.
  5. Click continue and then hand out the worksheets.

Reading task

  1. Explain the game is quite complicated and to play it well you need to read the tutorial.
  2. Click on the tutorial.
  3. Learners do the worksheet activities while you follow the instructions on the teachers’ notes page.

Post reading task

Learners play the game either in a computer room or for homework and then complete the last activity on the worksheet either back in the classroom or for homework.