Monthly Archives: December 2010

Choice of the Dragon

This is a great interactive reader with a nice sense of humour for higher levels and a good way to get learners using an online dictionary.

Level: Advanced

Location: Computer room

Skills Focus: Reading

Game: Choice of the Dragon

Screen shot 2010-05-31 at 8.05.04 AM


Decide how you are going to use the reader in class.  There are a few ways to approach this.

A nice way to orientate your learners to the language focus and task is to first dictate a few of the words for your learners to record.  I use the following grid system with my learners that’s easy to dictate:

Screen shot 2010-05-31 at 8.10.42 AMor show the opening sequence of the game and elicit difficult language items from the text in open class for learners to record.


In the computer room learners play the game in pairs and discuss the decisions they need to make.

Post Play

  1. Back in the classroom in new pairs learners compare stories and discuss the differences, choices and the resulting storyline.
  2. For homework learners play the game again but choose different choices.  They:
  • record difficult words in their grids and next class see if anyone can teach them the meaning of the words.
  • Play and note down three differences in storyline between this reading and the class reading.
  • Play  and read just for fun.

Top Selling Video Games

Whether you are celebrating Christmas or not one thing is for sure – there are a lot of popular games out there being sold in large numbers.  This Monday gone the Guardian online published the UK top 10 video games chart.

Why not use this in class?  How can you use the chart?


  1. Do hangman for Video Games.
  2. Brainstorm a few.
  3. Ask learners to identify the platforms below and to tell you how video games are different on each.


1. Get your learners to draw a grid 3 columns by eleven rows.

2. Then get them to write the three titles in the three columns in the top row.  ‘Position‘, ‘Name of the game‘ and ‘platform‘.

3. They can then put there pens down and predict and discuss what the answers will be.  Clue – the first column is easy (1 to 10).  They shouldn’t write this though.

4. Then dictate the game titles but in a random order.  That is out of sequence to the order listed by the game chart top 10.

5. Then learners should tell each other about each of the games and guess which number it is in the chart.  e.g. “Gran Turismo 5 is about car racing.  You have to drive your car around various race tracks.  I like this game because . . .  I think it’s at number . . . ”

6. Then in feedback get learners to tell you about each game.  Ask them any questions that come to mind.  Using Gran Turismo again you could ask:
“What obstacles do you get?”
“What sort of car do you get?”
“Do you drive through a city or the countryside?” etc

7. After learners have told you what a video game is about ask them to guess where it is in the charts.  Let them guess until someone guesses right.  Then they can correct that game.

8. Finally get them to name the games platforms they are each on.  Tell them the possible answers can be a combination of Xbox, PS3, PC, wii or DS.  If you don’t know the difference between those ask them.

Follow up

Learners choose a gaming platform and write a review of it comparing it with one of the other gaming platforms.

Learners choose two games from the list and write a short review comparing the two games.

Learners make their own list of top ten games.

Solving A Heist

Lesser controlled speaking activity and past tense writing.

Level: Intermediate

Location: Classroom

Skills Focus: Speaking / writing about a robbery

Language Focus: Past simple, sequencers

Game: Heist

Screen shot 2010-05-31 at 12.09.43 PM

This online game involves passing through four rooms solving puzzles so you can finally steal secret plans.  In this classroom activity you can download the floor plan of the game with the puzzles and obstacles fully described for your learners to discuss in a speaking activity.


Download a copy of the Heist Layout for each pair.


  1. Divide the class into pairs and tell them to draw two columns Present & Past
  2. Dictate the present tense forms of the verbs below and learners write the past tense.
  3. Screen shot 2010-05-31 at 12.40.00 PM
  4. Feedback to make sure the past tenses are correct.
  5. Write a list of sequencers on the board e.g. first of all, then, after that, as soon as, when, finally, etc

Speaking activity

  1. Explain that there was a robbery last night in the school and one of the students stole the answers to a test.
  2. Hand out the the Heist Layout picture.
  3. Ask learners where in the picture the test answers are (answer: on the table in the fourth room).
  4. Ask learners how they think the student got into the school (answer: they hid in the box in room 1)
  5. Pick or ask for a volunteer to read the information about the four rooms aloud.  Check understanding.
  6. Tell learners to take it in turns to tell their partner how they think the student the tests answers.  Use the information about the rooms, the verbs above in the past tense and as many sequencers as they like.

Post activity

Learners write down a report on how they think the heist was done.


Tell Learners the game tutorial shows them exactly what happened.  For homework they play the game at home and correct their Heist Report to make what happened like how the game plays.

NOTE – They can find the game by googling – “free world group” heist

10 Online Games with Walkthroughs

Here’s a brief description of ten online games that have walkthroughs.  What is a walkthrough?  Text written by a gamer to help another gamer complete the game successfully.  All these games and walthroughs were chosen because they have proved popular with language learners, use language that is not too complicated or dense and are not to difficult to play.  You can use walkthroughs to provide a live listening (play dictation), a reading activity (on screen or as a relay dictation) or can be adapted to provide skills practice or a focus on a particular language item.

Screen shot 2010-05-03 at 10.08.06 AM1 Il Destino

The game

The walkthrough

Explore the car show room and find objects which interact with each other and solve puzzles in order to get the sports car out.  The game can be played in tandem with the walkthrough as a reading activity (along with an online dictionary to hand) or as a relay dictation in a computer room.  A popular game with juniors.

Screen shot 2010-05-03 at 10.25.00 AM2 Chronon

The game

The walkthrough

A complex game in which you have to pay particular attention to what time you set the clock.  You are a pet to a strange creature that lives underground.  You have to escape before the the creature gets home.

Works very well as a computer room activity with juniors working in pairs at a computer where one plays the game and the other oversees their playing with a copy of the walkthrough.

Screen shot 2010-05-03 at 10.23.13 AM3 Nesquik Quest

The game

The walkthrough

The style of graphics here make this a very suitable game for primaries.  Language content here focuses on both the vocabulary items that appear in the game and imperatives and prepositions.  This works well as a live listening in the computer room with the teacher using a single copy of the walkthrough to dictate the game play to learners .

Screen shot 2010-05-03 at 10.25.42 AM4 Evolver

The game

The walkthrough

Visually fun looking game in which you have to solve puzzles in order for your monkey to pass through various stages of evolution until he becomes a primitive man.  Though this can be a little complicated at times, with the use of a walkthrough its possible to play this game in a connected classroom with learners suggesting possible courses of action to take in the game.  By using the walkthrough its possible for the teacher to know what comes yet and ‘guide’ the class towards the correct solution using hints and clues.

Screen shot 2010-05-03 at 10.48.38 AM5 A bark in the dark

The game

The walkthrough

Point and click game where you collect items, solve the problems and feed the dog.  A short game for the computer room.  Either conducted as a gaming dictation with the teacher using a walkthrough, a reading with the learners using two internet explorer windows to play the game and read the walkthrough on or as a relay dictation with a single copy of a walkthrough stuck up on the wall.

Screen shot 2010-05-03 at 11.36.41 AM6  The Blue Room

The game

The walkthrough

A short escape the room game that can either be done as a connected classroom activity.  Very good for generating basic vocabulary of the objects that appear in the game and prepositions of place.  Due to the simplicity of the game it can be used to stimulate a ‘write the walkthrough’ activity in open class.  Alternatively use it as a fast finishers activity in the computer room.

Screen shot 2010-05-03 at 11.18.23 AM7 Bodilies

The game

The walkthrough

Bodilies is a graphic adventure that features an elaborate audio-visual production and an engaging story.  Present this as a visual reader rather than a point and click game because although there is some interaction and puzzle solving elements this game’s strength lies in its written text.  Use with higher level teens as a computer room quiet reading activity.

Screen shot 2010-05-03 at 11.17.19 AM8 The Covert Front

The game

The walkthrough

Covert Front is a point and click spy game, where you become an agent code-named Kara and investigate the disappearance of general Karl.  Great used as a reading activity in the computer room for juniors or a relay dictation.

Screen shot 2010-05-03 at 11.32.15 AM9 Detective Grimoire

The game

The walkthrough

You play as Private Detective Grimoire himself in the game and you have to figure out who killed Hugh Everton. There is lots of reading practice in this game but also extensive elements of a point and click game with solving clues, discovering evidence, talking to witnesses and eventually solving the mystery.  Use with higher levels in the computer room with the walkthrough as something to use if learners get stuck in the game.

Screen shot 2010-05-03 at 11.31.23 AM10 Hapland II

The game

The walkthrough

This is one of the sequels to the point and click game Hapland which appeared in a post in this blog some time ago.  This version has a walkthrough  which uses screenshots which can be used to generate language.  Use this game in a connected classroom to elicit conditional phrases about what happens in the game.

Seasons Greetings from Digital Play

Cabal, Cataclysm and Engaging Students

When I walked into my upper-intermediate class of teenagers yesterday, there were two students already there. One of them (A) spoke up about something that was on his mind and that he wanted to tell me (G) and then the other (D) soon joined in. The exchange more or less went like this:

A: I found a new role-playing game game to play, Cabal

G: Oh, really?Is it a PC game?

A: Sorry?

G: Do you play it on a PC? Is it a multiplayer game?

A: Yes. It’s the best role-playing game, I think. Well, WoW is the best, but this is the best free role-playing game

G: (seeing A glance at D when he said that) You looked at D there. Does that mean you play World of Warcraft?

D: In the past. I played it. I don’t now.

G: Ah, you used to play it?

D: Yes

This exchange took place in English, without prompting, as it was initiated by the students themselves, and was all about a topic close to their heart: gaming. Wherever I go, I hear complaints by teachers about not being able to engage their students: They don’t want to speak; They aren’t interested in English; They’re a difficult class to teach.

Every class is different, of course, and not all students are interested in games. But many are. And I am convinced there are lots of missed opportunities for natural, relevant, meaningful speaking moments like the one above in so many classrooms that are not happening simply because the teacher has no gaming knowledge or interest. And because the students know this, they don’t talk about games, and are never prompted to do so by the teacher. With some students, such as A and D in my class (above), gaming may even be their main interest and what they do with most of their time (outside of school). If so, what this means is that for some students there will be nothing of interest to talk about in your class.

There’s also another interesting point to make. Now, I know that A and D turn up early to class mainly to talk to me about games before the other students arrive. They know I’m interested in games and that we don’t usually talk about them much because some of the other students are not so interested in them (three people in the class have only a passing, casual interest). Occasionally, A and D and some of the other students linger at the end of the class to show me (on the IWB) a new game they have found, one they are playing, or would like to play. Those of you teachers out there who also teach teenagers will know that this is priceless.

Current Affairs

So what to do? You don’t have to be a games player in order to talk about games to your students. But you do have to know something. It’s a case of a little knowledge going a long way. For me, it’s the same with football. I have very little interest in football, but living in Barcelona, I have to know something about it in order to speak to my students. A few of the players names and knowing who won the last match / who they are playing next is usually enough. Then I can let the students speak. And all of this information I pick up from watching the TV news.

The same is true of gaming. Gaming is such big business nowadays, touches upon so many people’s free time, that it regularly features in the TV news and newspapers where I live (Spain). The same may well be true where you live too. IF so, then just keep an eye open for what’s happening. Here, it’s all about changing what you pay attention to, so you can talk about it with your students. Here are some of the latest news in the gaming world you should have noticed. How many of these could you start to have a conversation with your students about?

In the conversation that started with my students in class moved to WoW because I’d heard about the last one of these:

G: There’s a new upgrade to WoW out now, isn’t there?

A: Is there?

D: Not yet. Soon.

G: No, it’s out now. Just come out in the last few days.

D: Yes?

A: What is it?

D: It’s called Cataclysm. The level is increased to 85 and there’s a dragon who has changed the world…

This was the point that the other students walked into class. The conversation didn’t last for much longer, but the atmosphere in the room was already one full of vibrant conversation, where the students were doing most of the talking, about something that interested them. What more can a language teacher ask for?

I recommend you take a passing interest in games if your students are interested, and try it out too.

Happy Christmas Escape

Level: Beginners

Language: Prepositions of place

Skills Focus: Listening/ speaking

Location: Classroom room

Game: Happy Christmas Escape

Father Christmas wants to deliver his presents but he is locked in a house and he can’t get out.  Help him to find the keys that will help him escape.

Screen shot 2010-08-08 at 2.15.44 PM


Familiarise yourself with the walkthrough to this game.  Also make a list of useful vocabulary.  The vocabulary that is necessary to complete the game is listed below but you may want to preteach others or deal with them as you play.

Screen shot 2010-08-08 at 8.44.11 PM


  1. Sit your learners in front of the screen with a clear view of the game.
  2. Explain the problem – that father Christmas needs to escape form the house in order to deliver all the Christmas presents he’s got for all the good children.
  3. Elicit vocabulary by asking ‘What’s this (called)? or ‘Where’s the X?’
  4. Elicit from your learners what you need to do and where you need to look/ go.
  5. You can give hints by saying ‘you’re getting closer/ warmer’ or ‘you’re getting further away/ colder’.

To keep the pace moving shift between letting them direct you as an open class, calling on volunteers, giving clues etc

Post Activity

There are a number of activities but here are a few suggestions:

  • Learners write the walkthrough using vocabulary only.
  • Draw a picture of one of the rooms and label it.
  • Write a letter to Father Christmas.
  • Write a description of where the keys are.
  • Write where they would hide the keys (in a better place).