Monthly Archives: January 2011

Gaming Statistics

Here are a few statistics on the video gaming phenomenon.  The source is quoted at the bottom of the page.

Gaming against bullying

Level: Upper Intermediate +

Language: Modals of probability

Skills Focus: Speaking

Location: Connected classroom

Game: Dixie the Nerd

I used this game as a platform to discuss issues connected with bullying at school


First I printed off a single copy of the Dixie the Nerd walkthrough for me to use.  I also played the game myself so i could assess the appropriacy of some of the images within the game for my class.


1 I wrote the word ‘Bully’ on the board and asked the class for a definition and elicited examples of a bully’s behaviour.  Learners answers ranged from physical to mental cruelty (the latter led to name calling and subsequently the word ‘nerd’ which is part of the title of the computer game.

2 Then in class I dictated three questions:

Who are the people in the room?

What’s going to happen?

How can a bad outcome be avoided?

3 Then my learners sat in groups of four at their tables and watched the game which I had on a screen at the front of the classroom.  In each group there was a secretary (to make notes) and a spokesperson (to report the groups ideas to the class).  In the first class I did this with the other two team members were simply part of the discussion group but in a later class I asked one of them to take the side of the main character (the nerd) and the other to take the side of the other characters in the game (the possible bullies).

4 I then started the game so that it was on the first screen.  I told the groups to look at the game and discuss the three dictation questions.  I monitored and provided help with language items which the secretary was encouraged to make a note of.  After a few minutes the spokesperson then reported what their group had discussed to the class.

5 We then returned to the game where I elicited from my learners what I had to do in the game.  I had the walkthrough so I was able to give them clues on what they should tell me to do.  e.g. in the first screen I asked them what class it was (science), what was on the table (a generator), what was on the chair etc.  They then effectively reproduced the walkthrough I had in my hand orally.

6 We repeated the above steps for the whole game.  It’s a fairly short game (six different puzzles or screen stages) but it is considerably longer once you start to generate a discussion about the elements in the game.

Personal Reflections

Most of the questions were generated by my learners but there’s no reason why you can’t join in and throw in a few pertinent questions of your own.  Below is a list of the six gaming areas and a few questions and issues I introduced for the class:

Science Room – is violence against a bully justified?  Who should be punished and how?  Is there an alternative to punishment?

The Gym – How and why do people belong to groups?  Can groups of people bully? How?  Why?

The Canteen – How do you recognise a bully?  Can a bully be a victim?  How do you recognise a victim?

The School Play – How can you be part of a group?  What should a group do to welcome a new person?  How are groups responsible?

The Locker Room – Does bullying just happen at school and during school time?

The Park – What obstacles and challenges face you outside school?

Post Play

As a post play activity I gave everyone the task of writing a report based on discussion points raised in the class.  First I asked each group to decide on a title for their report.  Then the  secretary of each group had the responsibility of deciding what notes and language items they had noted down would be helpful for writing this report.  They then dictated these items to the rest of their group.  In retrospect it would have been nice to have each group to compare and pool their notes possibly as a pyramid discussion.


Throughout the task Learners were engaged in the topic, the task of discussing some very serious issues and in completing the game itself.  I felt the game drove the speaking activities well and provided both a focus and a common experience to which the class responded very positively to.  I also felt that the level of both content and language produced in my learners’ compositions significantly benefitted and were of a noticeably higher standard.

I hope that if you get a chance to use this game in a similar way that you have an equally positive and rewarding experience.


Help the nerd, Hewitt, get a date

The goal in this adventure game is to help Hewitt find a girl for the dance. The game is large, so it takes a while to load – it’s also a long game and takes a long time to finish.

There are detailed instructions at the beginning of the game, too

Recommended Use with English Learners:

  • It’s best to play this game in a connected classroom (i.e. one with an IWB or Data Projector)
  • Play the game in class together and deal with vocabulary as you play the game
  • Get the learners to take turns to play Hewit and stop and ask for suggestions / advice on what he should do as the game progresses (e.g. What should Hewit do now? Why? etc.)
  • An extra activity here is to ask the learners to write what happens in the game as a story afterwards – they can always continue playing after class if they really like the game, or use their imagination to describe what happens in the end


It’s an easy game to use in class, and one that requires little preparation – the most important thing is to take your time playing the game and make the most of all the language opportunities (the questions, vocabulary, etc.) that emerge as you are playing. Don’t let the playing of the game overtake the real reason for using it – i.e. to practise language!

Desert Island Misc.

Level: Pre – intermediate

Language: Vocabulary – action verb + noun

Skills Focus: Dictionary work / Speaking

Location: Connected Classroom

Game: Dream Machine

Nice little one screen game activity.


Play the game and familiarise yourself with how to complete it using the Dream machine walkthrough.

Pre-play task

1. Dictate the following text in chunks using as natural speech as possible:

You go to sleep one night / and dream you are on a / small desert island. / You are very hungry / and you imagine / what you need / to catch and cook a fish. / As soon as you imagine / each of the things / they appear on the island.  / What things / do you think of?

Learners may ask you to repeat what you say and slow down.  It’s good to repeat (the chunks) using natural speech but not slowly.

2. Learners should compare what they have written with others, discuss any differences and make corrections if possible.  They can then ask you for clarification on any doubts they may have OR you can show them a copy of the original text for them to compare with what they have written.

3. Show the game to the class and elicit a name for the character.  Then brainstorm all the objects that they can see (rocks, palm trees, fishing rod, fire (place??), (fire)wood, etc).  Learners could use dictionaries at this stage before adding any new words to their list.

4. Then ask learners what they think the character should do first?  If their suggestion works tell them to to write down ‘1’ in their notebooks and cooperatively decide on the sentence for everyone to write down.

e.g. Pedro picks up the fishing rod.

Essentially the class is writing the game walkthrough.

5. Once the first few sentences or so have been written down tell learners to continue in pairs.

NOTE – the annotation in the game offers an abridged ‘pick up fishing rod’ so be sure to elicit the definite / indefinite articles.

6. Pairs then compare their walkthrough with another group and expand on their own walkthrough by incorporating and copying any sentences another group has written that they think are valid.

Play Task

1. Learners read out the walkthrough which now becomes a dictation on how to proceed in the game.

2. If any sentences produced do not produce an effect in the game encourage learners to improvise orally.  You can listen and encourage self correction.

3. Any improvised sentences that produce an effect in the game that moves the game towards the end should be written down by learners.

4. When the character finds the map inside the fish (after he has eaten it) ask learners to theorise about what the map is for, what each of the parts of the map represent and finally to guide you to what you should do (dig) and where

There’s a nice little end sequence to the island dream.

Post Play activity

  • Using their walkthrough learners go home and play the game and continue the walkthrough with the next scene (which, incidentally, is quite short and not as good as the first – it’s the demo version).
  • Learners change the walkthrough into a narrative starting:

“One day last week I had a strange dream . . . “


Level: Advanced

Location: Computer room

Topic: Revision & test of course book vocabulary.

Language focus: Reading

Game:  Blockbusters

Screen shot 2010-05-19 at 10.54.17 AMHow to play

Your learner plays the single red team against the computer (the two blue guys).  The aim of the game is to make a white line across the board from top to bottom (or the other way round) by answering questions to which the answers start with the letter in the hexagon.

This game is actually designed to challenge native English speakers so may prove particularly hard to English language learners.  However, playing the game gives them a very quick way to learn how to play the game.  You could get them to play in pairs and predict the instructions.  They then read the instructions (button on the bottom right) to see if the were right.

Now they have a better understanding of what the game blockbusters is they can now have a go at writing their own powerpoint version.

Blockbusters Template

You could ask learners to only use their coursebooks to find vocabulary items.  This makes the activity a fun revision activity while the actual playing of the game becomes a fun test.   Make sure they read the instructions on slide 3 carefully.  I find that it usually takes a little bit of trial and error to figure out what to do but once someone in the class has figured it out they can always explain it to others.


There’s no reason why you can’t use the Blockbuster Template with much lower levels.  Unfortunately the online game is too difficult for lower levels.  It would also be good if the game paused for bigger intervals and there wasn’t a time limit between being given the question and having to give the answer.  If there was that would be a great opportunity for a dictionary race.  They could read the question, identify the answer in their own language, look it up in a translation dictionary and give the answer in English.  Oh well!

Happy Family dress up

Level: Beginners

Location: Computer room

Language Focus: Physical description: clothes/ body.

Skills Practice: Reading

Game: Happy Family Dress up

Screen shot 2010-05-31 at 7.00.39 AM


1.  Play a game yourself and write out a description of the family like this:

  • The boy has got black hair and dark skin. He’s wearing an orange striped top with short sleeves and a long-sleeved white top underneath. He is wearing green combat trousers and white trainers. He is also wearing a black baseball cap.
  • The man has got blonde hair and pale skin. He’s wearing a blue checked shirt, black jeans and brown shoes. He isn’t wearing many accessories but he is wearing a pair of dark sunglasses.
  • The woman has got long straight brown hair and dark skin. She’s wearing a light brown top, a white skirt and knee high brown boots. She is also wearing a white necklace with red rubies which matches her glasses.
  • The girl has got long blonde hair and a pigtail. She’s got light skin. She’s wearing a pink hat, a pink flowery dress and boots like her mum but they are light brown. She’s also wearing sunglasses a simple necklace and some coloured bracelets.
  • They are all on holiday at the beach.
  • 2.  Print out the description for each learner or provide access to an electronic copy on each computer.
    3.  Take a screenshot of the family and print it out or save it on a separate document.


    1. Learners read the description and reproduce the family.
    2. Learners stand up and look at other learner’s results and spot any differences from the written description.
    3. Learners compare their result with the screenshot and write down any differences.

    Post Play

    • Learners create their own families and write a description down using the original as a model.
    • Learners expand on the written description to either include other elements (hats, gloves etc) or expand on the complexity of the language (an expensive long-sleeved checked shirt etc).
    • Learners reproduce a family from the written description of another learner.

    Game Talk : Angry Birds

    Happy New Year, everyone! Here’s a simple conversation activity/warmer that might be of interest to you when you go back to teaching after the winter break.

    Talking about games with learners can be a very useful activity, especially if you choose a game that everyone has heard of or played. So, which one to choose? Well, there can be few people now who haven’t heard of Angry Birds, the most successful smartphone games of 2010 (and number 2 in Time’s list of top 10 video games of 2010). And talking about this game, you can also find out what games were your learners favourites


    How to start:

    If you can, show the picture above, or a similar one, featuring the game characters. If you hide the title, then you can ask the learners to tell you what the picture shows, and ask the ones who are familiar with the game to explain it briefly to the others. They should end up saying something like this:

    It’s a game that consists of you, the player, firing one of six types of birds at a number of different constructions where green pigs are hiding. The objective of the game is to destroy the pigs and collect the golden eggs. Each time you do this, you move to the next level, which is harder.

    If necessary, show the learners a screenshot of the actual game and ask them about different parts of it (an example screenshot is shown below)


    Here are some questions/prompts you can ask your learners about the game, to keep the conversation flowing, with some answers you may hear your learners say:

    • Why is the game so successful? (Because of its surreal humour / it’s fun, challenging, and frustrating)
    • What is the story behind the game? (The pigs have stolen the birds eggs, making the birds angry)
    • What makes people keep playing the game? (you can go back and get a better score / more points)

    Following on

    If the learners are interested when you bring up the game, you might want to ask them more about the specifics. For example, focus on the five types of birds in the illustration above and ask them to say what their special powers are.There’s also one type of bird that isn’t featured in the illustration – you can ask the learners to tell you which one that is and what its special power is (it’s the last one in the list below).

    They should end up telling you:-

    • small, blue bird. Good for breaking through glass. Splits into three when screen is touched after launched.
    • small red bird. No special powers. Bigger red bird is heavier though, and can smash through a number of different constructions.
    • Black bird. A bomb. Turns red then explodes when screen is pressed or after it first touches something. Good for destroying stone.
    • Triangular yellow bird. Accelerates when screen is touched after launch. Good for breaking through wood.
    • Fat, white bird. Drops an explosive egg when screen is touched after launch.
    • (not in illustration) Green and white parrot-like bird. Returns at an angle (like a boomerang) when screen is touched after launch. This makes it good for attacking things that are otherwise difficult to get at.

    After this, or if the learners aren’t that interested in the game, ask them about their favourite game of the year (if you like, tell them about Angry Birds being number 2 and challenge them to guess the rest of Time magazines Top 10 games).

    Hope you have fun talking about games in class!