Monthly Archives: October 2010

Picture Dictation for an Online Game

Level: Pre-intermediate

Location: Classroom

Skills focus: Relay picture dictation

Language focus: There is / are . . . , colours, bedroom furniture, prepositions of place.

Game: Tucoga’s room

Screen shot 2010-04-29 at 3.01.40 PM


  1. Download and print a copy of the Game Picture Dictation.
  2. Put it on the wall in a fairly central position or make four copies and put each copy on the four walls of the classroom.
  3. Hand out a blank piece of paper to each pair of learners.

Reading Activity

  1. Tell the class it’s a dictation but they don’t copy the words.  They should draw the picture.
  2. Learners work in pairs and take it in turns to go and read the text.
  3. They then go back to their partner, relay the text information.
  4. Their partner listens and draws the picture.
  5. They then swap roles and repeat from step 1.

Post Activity

A – Connected classroom

Put the game on the board for learners to compare their pictures with the game.  Talk about the differences e.g. in the game the carpet is big, in my picture it is small etc.  Give points to pairs if they can spot a difference and tell you and two points if they can spot a similarity.  Don’t allow repetitions on the sentences.

B – Computer room

Learners play the game by listening to you describe how to play the game using the walkthrough.  i.e. a live listening.


Learners use two internet explorer pages.  One to play the game, the other to read the walkthrough.


There is a mistake in the Game Picture Dictation.  It should read ‘wardrobe’ and NOT ‘cupboard’

Halloween dress up game

Level: Primary

Location: Computer room

Language Focus: Has got/ is wearing/ colours/ clothes/ parts of the body

Game: Halloween dressing up game

Screen shot 2010-05-31 at 2.58.34 PM


1.  Go to the site yourself and create a character.  Take a screenshot of your character and print off a copy.

2.  Write the character description out .  e.g.

He is a green zombie.  He has got red hair and red eyes.  He is wearing a vampire costume with a pirate’s hat.  He is wearing black boots and round red-rimmed glasses.

3.  Print a copy of the description for each table of learners in your class.

Relay dictation

  1. Put the descriptions up on the wall near each table.
  2. Learners take it in turns to get up and relay dictate the text to the rest of their table.


  1. Learners take their dictation text to the computer room.
  2. Using the text they reproduce the character from the description.
  3. Compare the original (screenshot) with the learner produced characters.


  1. Learners make their own character and use the dictation text as a model to write their own description.
  2. Print off the descriptions and pictures (from screenshots) and put the pictures on the wall.  Read out the descriptions and learners point to the right character.  Put the description up on the wall with each character.

Terror for Teens

Level: Upper Intermediate

Location: Computer room

Skills Focus: Reading

Game: The Cave

A scary point and click game for a more mature audience in a run up to Halloween.  Based on a horror film of the same name.  Also has extra resonance with recent events in Chile with the 33 miners.


  1. Write ‘The Cave’ on the board and tell the class it’s a horror story.  Ask them to discuss in pairs what they think happens.
  2. While they are discussing this write the following words on the board – flashlight, compass, map, batteries, revolver, bullets, rope, ascender, harness, dynamite, CO2 cylinder, scuba gear.
  3. Ask learners to copy down the words they don’t know and see if anyone can tell them what they mean.  You can either describe what they are or give them dictionaries to look it up.
  4. Tell them the objects are listed in the order they were used by someone trapped in a cave to escape.  Students predict how they were used and why.


  1. Learners open up two internet explorer pages.
  2. On one page they play the game.  On the other page they read the diary of the sole survivor.  They use the diary entries to help them follow the survivors escape and to repeat it themselves.
  3. If the sound effects are proving too much of a distraction learners can a) reduce the volume b) wear headphones or c) turn the volume off.
  4. If the monster in the page catches them they can restart the game from the research table.

Post Play

  • You could download a copy of the diary for each pair in the class and focus on the language.  Use of tenses, identifying what each case of ‘it’ means, and maybe looking at expanding the text to make it more atmospheric.
  • Learners could write a newspaper report on the event.


Level: Beginners

Location: Connected classroom

Skills Focus: Speaking

Target Language: Ordinals

Game: Spookymatch


  1. Present the language for “First”, “Second”, “Third” and “fourth” as well as “up” and “down”. This will help learners identify a row.
  2. Present the language for either “along” or “from the left/ right”.  This will help learners identify a column.
  3. Present the game and point to random squares and elicit language from above.  Say “where is this?”  e.g. “first down (and) first along” or “fourth up (and) first from the left” both identify the first spider shown in the screenshot above.


  1. Ask learners “Where (shall I go)?”.  Elicit the location of a square on the game and click on it with the mouse.  One picture is revealed.
  2. Repeat the first step so two pictures are revealed.  If they are the same they stay on show.  If they are different they disappear.
  3. Repeat the steps above until all the pictures in the game are on show.

Post activity

Learners make their own flashcards and play the game on their table.

Play a larger version of the game with flashcards and expand on ordinal language (fifth, sixth etc).

I Remain – A Zombie story

An online game that is played while reading the story of the game as a narrative story is a great way to get your learners reading.  Playing the game becomes a comprehension check.

Level: Upper intermediate+
Location: Computer room
Narrative tenses & narrative devices.

Game: I remain

Screen shot 2010-05-20 at 2.08.41 PM

  1. Do hangman for the word ‘Z O M B I E’ and ask them to describe what one is.
  2. Learners imagine they have survived a zombie outbreak and they are in a strangers house and in pairs write down 6 things they should do.
  3. Take learners to the computer room and direct them to the ‘I Remain’ story.  Learners then read it and find 3 things they wrote down.


Learners use two open internet explorer pages to play the game as they read the story.

Post Play

  • Learners write the next part of the story.
  • Learners write an imagined walkthrough for the next part of the game.
  • Learners change some of the elements of the story (make it better).
  • Learners reduce the story to a walkthrough.

Halloween spot the difference

Level: Beginners/ Primary

Location: Connected Classroom

Topic: Halloween

Skills Focus: Speaking

Game: The Halloween game


  • Learners write the numbers 1 – 10 in their notebooks.
  • Present the image above to the class.  It works better if you just present one but the activity still works if you go directly to the site and have both.
  • Brainstorm vocabulary orally by asking “What’s this?” and pointing.  When you have elicited three or four put the learners in pairs and they write the vocabulary they can see next to the numbers.
  • Input language as learners ask “How do you say . . . in English?”, or point and ask “What’s this?”


  • Ask learners if the pictures are the same or different.  (They are different.  It’s a spot the difference game).
  • Elicit the differences orally.  Clicking on the lower image differences changes the picture.
  • Encourage learners to use the vocabulary they wrote down and praise the use of more complex language structures.

Post activity

From memory learners write down/ take notes on the differences.  When they’ve finished they swap books.  Refresh the website page and learners correct/ mark the sentences in the book.


The sentences below can be used as a guideline as to the level of language needed to identify the the differences and help you the teacher see where the differences are.  Use your own discretion as to the level of language learners need to produce in order for you to click the differences on the lower picture.  For the more difficult ones (and towards the end) I accepted “Here!” as the learner pointed.

  1. The yellow dog on the left isn’t happy/ smiling.
  2. The blue dog’s collar is red (not yellow).
  3. A square/ tile on the wall is yellow (not orange)
  4. The candle has got lines.
  5. The pumpkin is sad / scary (not happy/ friendly).
  6. (part of) the curtain is green (not orange).
  7. The table hasn’t got a leg.
  8. The cat’s tail is yellow (not black),
  9. The sofa hasn’t got a line (a line/ crease on the bottom right arm is missing).

Halloween – 10 activities for the computer room, connected classroom and classroom

Here’s a brief description of ten Halloween activities 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.

Dark wood Dark wood

Level Low Level Primary learners in a connected classroom

Play Read the story in your best scary voice and encourage your learners to join in.  When it comes to the ‘spot the cat’ bits in the game  get your learners to describe where the cat is or build dialogues between you and the class:

Is it under the tree?”              “No!”

Is it behind the tree?”            “No!”

Is it in the tree?”                   “YEAH!”

pumpkin carving2     Pumpkin carving

Level Low Level Primary learners in a connected classroom

Play Why not drill the language of giving directions (“up, down,  left,  right and stop”) in a fun way.  Carve an online pumpkin blind man’s bluff style.  Blind fold a learner who listens to their classmates instruct them on how to carve the pumpkin.  The class can rate their classmates pumpkins out of ten after each learner has taken their turn.   Declare the winner/s at the end of the activity.

3 HammerweenGhost Hunter

Level Any Level Primary or Juniors in a connected classroom.

Play Do you award points in class as a way of maintaining discipline?  Well what do points make? Prizes?  How about points make seconds  which they play a game?  In one really difficult class I  gave points for everything – the person who opens their books on the right page, whoever completed the exercise first and whoever got the answers right.  Points for just using basic classroom language.  I took points away just as quickly – last to open their book, not listening and not working on their exercises.  At the end of the class, count up individual’s points, convert into seconds and let the highest scorers play first.  The learners to score the highest in the game get to leave the class first.

Funny Halloween

4 Funny Halloween

Level Intermediate Juniors in a computer room

Play Done that unit from the book on clothes?  Then why not set a writing activity using a game.  As learners play this game they write down the description of what their character is wearing.  Each Learner then swaps descriptions with another learner and try to reproduce the character’s costume.  The learner who wrote the description can then judge the reproduction saying what differences there are between the reproduction and the original.

5 Garfield Scavenger HuntGarfield scavenger hunt

Level Intermediate and above Juniors in a computer room.

Preparation Print a copy of the walkthrough

Play Do a relay dictation using the game’s walkthrough and the game itself.  Blu-tac the walkthrough to the door in the computer room.  Learners can now take it in turns to go to the walkthrough, read and return to their ‘ game playing’ partner and relay the walkthrough information that they remember.    Learners  swap after 3 minutes.  Encourage them to ask you to define difficult vocabulary.

Halloween word search

6 Halloween wordsearch

Level Any Level Primary or Junior learners in a computer room.

Play This is a fun vocabulary activity.  Learners note down the vocabulary and when they return to the classroom they can make a Halloween poster using the new vocabulary items for inspiration.  Ask about what they are drawing as you monitor and take an interest in what they are doing. Finally, Learners label the objects they drew on the poster.

7 Trick or Treat BearTrick or Treat Bear

Level Upper Intermediate Juniors or seniors in a classroom

Preparation Print a copy of the ‘Too many clicks spoil the walkthrough‘ for each  learner.

Pre-Play Learners read the walkthrough and ask teacher about/ look up in a dictionary any of the difficult language.  Learners work in pairs to identify and cross out the repetitive language (verbs) and add a range of different verbs.   They should also expand on any of the text (e.g adding articles) when possible.

Play Learners play the game for homework using their expanded walkthrough.  They should make any changes they feel is appropriate or that makes the walkthrough better.  Next class discuss and compare the changes they made to their walkthroughs at home.

Halloween escape

8 Halloween Escape

Level Intermediate and above Seniors in a computer room

Preparation Play the game yourself using the walkthrough to assess whether the content of this game is appropriate for your learners.

Play Learners play the game in order to create and write down their own walkthrough.  As they play they should write down where and what they did in each location.  Monitor, input language and make sure that walkthrough is being written.  If learners are playing the game and not doing the activity then they have to start the game again.

Trick or Treat Adventure QuestTrick or Treat

Level Upper Intermediate Seniors in a computer room.

Preparation Print a copy of the walkthrough for yourself.

Play This is like a ‘picture dictation’ but more a ‘play dictation’.  Using the walkthrough dictate to your class how to do the game.  Monitor their screens to check on their progress and encourage them to ask questions to clarify any difficult language points.


10 Spelloween

Level Advanced Seniors in a computer room

Play Looking for a quick word building activity for your advanced learners? Then this is a nice little warmer.  Learners play individually or in pairs and when they have finished they compare their score with other the groups.  The highest scorer wins.  As a follow up activity in the classroom, how many can they remember and write down?  Check their spelling and can they describe the meaning of the words to the class?


Primaries are aged between 7 – 11 years old, Juniors 11 – 14 and Senior 14+.

Computer room = a room with enough computers stations (with an internet connection) for two learners to a computer.

Connected classroom = A classroom equipped with a computer station (with an internet connection and possibly a data projector  or electronic whiteboard).

Classroom = You, your learners, writing materials and printed worksheets and a Whiteboard/ blackboard.

Astro Empires Needs You!

Level: Intermediate & above

Location: Home computer

Topic: Worlds domination

Skills Focus: Writing

Game: Astro Empires

Screen shot 2010-04-21 at 11.44.57 AM Astro Empires is a purely text based game.  Look on the left at the screenshot and what you see is pretty much what you get.  It’s not at all the kind of special effects driven game that dominates the market at the moment yet over 40,000 players are registered to the site.

What is Astro Empires?

Astro Empires is what is called a “more peg” or a massively multiplayer online role playing game or MMORPG.  You start off on a single planet with very little resources and you have to build up an empire.  You start by building metal refineries.  Once you’ve built one of them you now have metal to start constructing other buildings.  Each different building you construct opens up new buildings and new technologies that you can build and develop.  As your level gets higher you get more powerful but it takes longer and costs more credits to build things.  When you get to a high enough technology you can build a space fleet and start to expand to other planets but BEWARE! There are other players out there too so you need to join a guild in order to make friends, get a little help and protection as well as finding a common purpose in the game.

How did I hear of it?

Believe it or not one of my learners got me into it.  A teen lad who used to arrive late to my class, cause trouble to attract attention and generally treated class time as anything but an English class.  One day after we had been edugaming in the computer room he came up and spoke to me.  This was unusual not only because it was time to go home but also because he was talking to me in English – at a time he’d usually have been out the door, down the hill and be waiting at the bus stop to go home.  I expressed my surprise at this and really wanted to know what was behind this miracle.  He wanted to show me a game he was into.  The game he showed me was Astro Empires.  It wasn’t a great surprise he was into an online game – he’s a digital native don’t you know.  It wasn’t even a great surprise he was into a game that involved empire expansion, space battles and worlds colliding though I would have pegged him more as an ‘online football manager‘ kinda guy.  Instead my surprise came from the fact that there were no gleaming ships with evil looking weaponry, no explosions and no nothing apart from text.  Even more amazing was that he communicated extensively with other players on one of the 5 notice boards IN ENGLISH!

How much English is produced?

Screen shot 2010-04-21 at 12.03.29 AM

As the screenshot above shows it is text, text, text.  There are 5 boards by which players give or receive information from the rest of their guild members (think team) about strategy, trade routes, combat reports, general announcements from the guild leaders and a final board for general chit chat.  There are also forums where you can get strategy guides, start up guides, advice, help and general support in the game.  I think my troublesome learner was getting through more English than there was in the coursebook and with none of the pretty pictures.  I was and still am a little in awe of that.  I didn’t just want to get on board to see what all the fuss was about but also I saw that he’d attempted a third condition (something about if he’d kept an eye on the enemy base he would have noticed a build up of his fleet and done something about it but in intermediatese) and I reckoned I could get in there a tweek language a little.

How did I start?

I became an apprentice to my learner.  I joined the same galaxy he was in (there are a few non connected galaxies you can join) told him where I was, joined his guild and generally listened to him tell me what to do.  I wasn’t too happy when he attacked me and raided my resources but as soon as he learnt his aggression was index linked to the amount of homework he’d get in my class we soon settled down to a peaceful co-existence.  I could find the start up guides but I just told him I didn’t have time for all that and just threw questions at him to which a lot he replied.  I found ways to model more complex structures in situations I found myself in and was pleased to note that he was soon reporting to fellow players with a much more accurate use of conditionals.  My work here was done.

The end?

Ironically enough my learner played the game for another year and then sort of drifted out of the game.  He probably lost interest and found other more interesting teen things to do.  I’m relieved to say that my tutelage in English didn’t put him off.  If anything he came out a bit more in class and even went as far as to recruit two more of his friends into the game.  No doubt to check out the novelty of their teacher playing their online game.  Once out of the game and having completed a year course with me some 6 months previously I lost touch with him and who knows whether he’s conquering galaxies now.  Maybe he became a lawyer or something (that’s what he wanted to be).

New Beginnings?

If I ever do get the chance I start the game up with other learners especially if they already have an interest in online games.  Intensive courses have proved good recruiting grounds and I set down a few rules:

  • Don’t use your real names and never give out personal information.
  • Arrange a regular time to go online and meet.
  • Try to get everyone in the same galaxy (alpha, beta, delta, gamma or epsilon.
  • All join one guild together.
  • Don’t worry about powerful players – under level 30 you are protected from them.
  • Don’t spend more time than anyone else playing.
  • Use English!
  • A disadvantage of this game is that to stop multiple accounts being created the designers of the game have made it difficult to play the game all in one place.  Maybe a good thing but it means game play takes place in the gamers own time and in their own homes.  But get this – it’s homework they enjoy, actively use and struggle to master.  Any way to get them writing in English, eh?

    Air Pressure

    This is a great game for class discussion.  The game is about the relationship between a boyfriend and girlfriend aimed very much at teenagers. In the game you choose the best course of action for the boyfriend to take to reach the best ending to the game.

    Level: Intermediate+

    Location: Connected classroom

    Skills Focus: Speaking

    Target Language: Advice – 1st conditional / 2nd conditional / should

    Game: Air Pressure

    Screen shot 2010-05-13 at 2.57.47 PM


    1. Use the walkthrough to familiarise yourself with the game.
    2. Decide if you are going to use the walkthrough in class or not.
    3. Get two photos of a teenage boy and a teenage girl to use in class.

    Pre Play

    1. Put photo of teenage boy and teenage girl on board.
    2. Elicit names for them.
    3. Elicit some background information – likes/ dislikes, hobbies, etc
    4. Tell the class they are going out but they are having some problems.  Brainstorm possible problems.
    5. Get some advice from the class using the Target Language from above.


    1. Explain that the class is going to help a couple with their relationship.
    2. Play the game on the board.
    3. Encourage learners to discuss the best course of action.  You may use the walkthrough to contribute to the discussion and guide the class in their decisions.

    Post Play

    Learners write a letter to the characters in the game referring to events in the game.  They could:

    • give advice as support.
    • give advice as criticism.
    • write to a teenage magazine explaining their problem and asking for help.
    • Role play a scene between the two characters.

    Point out to learners that they can give opinion using ‘should’ and justify it using the 2nd conditional and react to someone else’s advice if they don’t agree by using the first conditional.  e.g. These are some of the examples I heard some of my intermediate learners use:

    The first part of the game you are given the choice of staying in or going out

    opinion “He should stay in and spend time with his girlfriend.”

    Justify “If he goes out, she will be upset.” or  “If he stays in they could watch a film together.”

    disagree “If they don’t spend some time apart, he’ll feel trapped.” or “If they watch a film , they won’t agree on what to watch.”

    Be warned – the discussion can get quite lively on this topic and it does seem to create a battle of the sexes.  On the other hand, it does generate a lot of language.