Monthly Archives: May 2011

A Fun Adventure For Eyes And Ears

Stage 07 is a fun and engaging adventure game where you play the part of young woman called Ms Webb who is on an assignment for her job.  As you play the game you begin to understand that things are not as simple as they at first appear.  At the heart of the game there is a mystery that unfolds as you journey to different locations and talk to different in-game characters.

The main reason I like this game is that you can listen to the characters speak while reading what they say in the speech bubbles.  This provides learners with some nice listening and reading practice.  The dialogue is delivered a little slower than natural speech but this is probably a good thing when using it with English language learners.

This game is also a favourite of mine because you have to engage with the language content.  At times you will start a conversation with someone and you will then be given a choice of possible things you could say.  Depending on what you decide to say affects how the story of the game unfolds.  This provides some great opportunities to discuss in open class what you should say and why.  Then, once the decisions have been made and the dialogue in the game has been completed, you can discuss how good or effective the choices were.

I’ve used this game in both the classroom, presenting the game to the whole class on one computer, and a computer room, with learners playing the game in pairs.  In the latter, I simply get learners to open 3 internet explorer windows for the game, the walkthrough and an online dictionary.  Either way you use the game it definitely helps if you have a copy of the stage 07 walkthrough to hand.  I also found it useful to play the game myself before using it with the class.  There’s one point where the character is walking round the streets and has to talk a couple of times to a man on a bench.  If I hadn’t played the game before nor had I had the walkthrough I think the game would have ground to a halt here.

As we played the game I would ask ‘wh’ questions to ensure learners both understood what was happening, to guide them along the lines of the walkthrough and also just to generate language.  Common questions would be:

“Who is this person?” and “How do you think they can help us?” The singular use of ‘they’ proved of interest to some learners.

What do we know so far?” and “Where do we do next?” An opportunity to recap on and then predict the storyline

Generally if I play the game using the walkthrough I don’t have to think about much other than language issues.  This can be as simple as just helping learners to reach a greater understanding of the game or/and, as opportunities arise, to recycle grammar and vocabulary we’ve covered in the term.

Play the Stage 07 game

Read the walkthrough

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Abuba The Alien

Level: Pre-intermediate

Location: Computer room

Language Focus: Game vocabulary (things in the street)

Skills Focus:  Receptive – Reading

Game: Abuba the alien

Preparation

Download and print a copy of the Abuba the alien worksheet for each learner.

Pre Play

  1. Hand out dictionaries and the worksheet for learners to work through.
  2. Learners complete page 1 of the Abuba the alien worksheet (exercise 1 – 3).
  3. As you monitor help with some of the dictionary work by having your own copy and working backwards on the pictures.
  4. As feed back describe one of the objects for learners to guess.
  5. Do exercise 4 on page 2 as an open class activity.  If you can have the image above displayed.  To help learners ask questions like:

“Which of the objects can you see in the street?”

“What do people in films use a pin to open?”

6. Choose a volunteer to read the instructions for exercise 5

Play

  1. Learners play the game in pairs.  They may use an online dictionary.  One learner plays the other completes the work sheet (change roles every 5 minutes or so).
  2. Learners use the answers from exercise 4 to complete the first part of the game (screenshot above).
  3. Then encourage learners to continue playing but to write the game instructions for the next two screens.
  4. For fast finishers they may play an extra screen as long as they continue to write the instructions/ walkthrough.
  5. Stop the activity when all learners have completed the next two screens.

Post Play

  • Learners make their own vocabulary / picture activity for ‘The dog’ and ‘The manhole’ stages of the game (see Abuba the alien worksheet page 1 as an example).
  • For homework learners play some more of the game and write the instructions / walkthrough.

10 Gaming Genres To Adapt In Class

Here’s a brief description of ten gaming genres and some tips on how they can be used in the classroom.  All these games were chosen because they are popular with young language learners, engaging and fun.  You can read lesson ideas and plans on this blog by following the links.

1  Point and click

http://www.flickr.com/photos/myklroventine/3832410200/

These games rely on you moving the cursor around the screen and clicking the mouse.  By printing off a written walkthrough or by using a video walkthrough, a large variety of language activities can be generated.   Try a relay dictation using either a written or video walkthrough or simply use either of them yourself to dictate game play.  Alternatively check out these games – the anti-bullying Dixie the Nerd, a selection of ten point-and-click games and their walkthroughs or Windosill.

2 Escape the room

A sub genre of point and click games where typically you have to find and possibly combine objects in a room or house to get out through a locked door.  As previously mentioned above, with a written walkthrough or a video walkthrough a large variety of language activities can be generated.  You could also get learners to write out their own walkthroughs as they play.  Alternatively check out these games – MOTAS, Kitchen Escape or the scary reader for the the zombie game I Remain.

3 Arcade

Arcade games generally rely on reaction speeds rather than logic or puzzle solving skills. Passing to the next stage usually means completing a simple task within a specific time limit. The next stage and subsequent stages usually require the player to complete the same task but with an increasing complexity or in a faster time. Language generated tends to be quite simple and repetitive.  Some of these games are great for drilling the language of directions (pacman), colours (sveerz) and spelling (Alphaattack and Type ’em up).

4. Puzzle Games

These games tend to be quite abstract and typically involve arranging geometric forms to achieve a goal (e.g. Tetris). Puzzles usually involve solving rather simple problems. Problem solving games generally test a players awareness of patterns and/ or short term memory.  Language generated tends to be isolated to individual language items such as object vocabulary, instructions and prepositions.  Puzzle games include spookymatch or Orbox.  They are great games to play as a reward for good work or behaviour as they are generally over very quickly or can be paused and returned to later.

5 Strategy Games

This is a game in which the gamer is presented with a number of possible choices in game play which will effect how they progress in the game. Try the games stop disasters, 3rd world farmer or Age of Empires.  The first two provide a context for some interesting discussions when used in a classroom while the last one takes place over a longer time frame and provides writing practice and an opportunity for learners to report on the game and progress in class time.

6 Adventure Games

Adventure games are a sub genre of point and click games but usually differ in that the game has got strong narrative elements.  There is usually a central character, a storyline, objectives to be achieved, an enemy and an outcome at the end.  Games covered in this genre on this blog include Morningstar (a sci-fi story), The Miller Estate (a spooky mystery), Hetherdale ( a jungle adventure) and Avalon (a fantasy text based adventure game) to name just four.

Casual Games

These games are aimed at a mass audience of people who tend to play games on a casual basis.  These games have been brought into the news recently with their rise in popularity on social network sites such as facebook.  Games such as farmville, mafia wars, scrabble like game, word games and puzzles can all be included in this genre.  Why not ask your learners if they play any and if they play any in common then get them to describe and compare their game playing.  Here’s a list of 10 casual games on facebook.

8 Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs)

Is a computer role playing genre in which a massive number of players interact with one another within a fictional virtual world.  The player assumes the role and takes control of the actions of a fictional character.  There are a lot of MMORPGs out there but one we have looked at already on this blog is Astro Empires.  The most famous MMORPG is probably World of Warcraft.

9 Alternate Reality Games

Sometimes abbreviated to an ARG.  These games consist of an interactive narrative that is based in the real world.  Typically they often use multiple media and game elements, to establish a narrative that the gamer can affect by either contributing ideas or taking actions.  Two ARGs we’ve already looked at on this blog were Smokescreen and Urgent Evoke.  We have also done a spotlight on ARG developer Jane McGonigal.

10 Virtual Worlds

This is a computer based simulated environment which has a strong online community element.  A virtual world such as second life has generated a lot of interest in education.   Here is a post we did on a Robin Hood learning Quest in Second Life.



It's not a walkthrough – it's a marathon!

Level: Advanced

Topic: Discussing a sequence of events

Language Focus: Linkers and sequencers, (first of all, then, after that, finally, etc)

Location: Classroom/ Computer room

Game: War Bears: Mission 1

I like this game because well, it’s fun first and foremost.  It’s also very easy to keep an eye on learner’s progress in the game as 90% of the game takes place in the screenshot you can see below.  It’s one of the longest walkthroughs you’ll have seen to date on the Digital Play Blog with a word count just shy of 300, so lots of language to process..  You may have to show learners how to fight in the game – place the cursor over the Bear in the Bandana on the roof and then click on one of the fight options that appear in the mini drop down window.  You also have to stress that they have to restart the mission (by pressing the button in the top right hand corner) if any of the War Bears or hostages get killed.  Have fun!

War bears mission 1Screenshot of the game ‘War Bears’

Preparation

Print out a copy of the cut up War Bears Walkthrough one copy for each group of 3 or 4 learners. Cut the sections up and shuffle them.

Pre-Play

  1. Write ‘game walkthrough‘ on the board and ask learners what they think it means.
  2. Tell learners they are going to play a game but first they have to order the game walkthrough in the correct order.
  3. Hand out a copy of the War Bears Walkthrough to each group of leaners and set a time limit of 5 minutes.  Learners should be encouraged to use the target language (language focus above).
  4. Feedback and ask learners to compare and justify their order.  Learners should again be encouraged to use the target language (language focus above).
  5. Read out the headings in the correct order to give the answer.

Play

  1. In the computer room tell learners they are going to play the game competitively.
  2. They should use the game walkthrough and the pair who has got the furthest through the game at the end of the computer room session is the winner.
  3. For help with language they may ask you or use an online dictionary.
  4. Monitor to make sure the walkthrough is being used.
  5. Stop the activity and declare a winner.

Post Play

  • Set the remainder of the walkthrough as a reading activity for homework.
  • Learners extract the nouns and organise them in a ‘gamers dictionary’ and write a definition/ translation.
  • Write a short story based on the game starting with the sentence:

“When the War Bears arrived they found that the Brown Bears had taken several hostages. It looked like an impossible mission for the WB team.”

  • Write a newsflash news report that covers the events in the game.