And the winners are…

Thanks to all those who visited our booth at the BCTEAL [British Columbia Teachers of English as an Additional Language] conference over the weekend. Interest in Truth or Dare for English Language Learners was overwhelming at times. It surely didn’t hurt that our table was positioned directly in front of the munchies table. We appreciate the many positive comments and encouragement that we heard over the course of the two-day event. As the de facto “coming out” party for Truth or Dare, TEAL 2011 was a resounding success with plenty of interest in this novel communication game, not to mention on-the-spot sales.

For those who entered the “business card” draw, winners have been selected. The following will each receive a complimentary copy of Truth or Dare:

  1. Elizabeth Faulkner, STEP Program instructor at Langara College
  2. Don Bury, University Pathways Manager at EF Education First
  3. Sandra Carignan, Instructional Coordinator for International Studies at ISS of BC

Three additional copies of the novel communication game were also given out to the 40+ participants of the Catalyst workshop [Experience as a Catalyst for Student-Centered, Conversation-Enabled Learning] led by Truth or Dare creator, Brian Grover.

Truth or Dare Debuts at Conference

In addition to leading the presentation mentioned below, I’ll be hosting a publisher’s table at the upcoming BCTEAL Conference where Truth or Dare for English Language Learners will make its commercial debut. Drop by our table to see the game first hand, steal snacks or simply shoot the breeze.

The BCTEAL [British Columbia Teachers of English as an Additional Language] conference takes place at Simon Fraser University’s Harbour Centre campus [515 West Hastings Street in Vancouver] Friday, May 6th and Saturday, May 7th, 2011.

Presentation at TEAL Conference

I’ll be presenting at the upcoming BCTEAL [British Columbia Teachers of English as an Additional Language] Conference. Be sure to catch the side-show in Room 1325. The action starts promptly at 9 AM on Saturday, May 7th.

There will be a number of Truth or Dare for English Language Learners games given away as door prizes.

Here’s the blurb:

Experience as a Catalyst
for Student-Centered,
Conversation-Enabled Learning

Linguistic associations are frequently shaped by underlying events, experiences, attitudes and values and can be useful in instantaneously accessing a rich source of topics in conversation-enabled classrooms. Such experiential elements are the ideal fodder for communication. As memories are recoded into the linguistic symbols of L2 this new experience of sharing and retelling lends a certain “stickiness” to lexical, grammatical and structural components of language, resulting in stronger bonds of retention. In this session we’ll learn to harness word associations to create a truly student-centred classroom.

Starting from a few quick exercises designed to acclimatize students to making associations, we’ll move step-by-step towards expanding those associations to produce communicative output directly in L2. Associations are then leveraged to practice and acquire communication strategies and self- and peer-assessment techniques. Initially, students simply listen and write. Next, listen and speak. Then they’ll be developing chains of associations and working onwards towards extending those single word chains to full sentences, exposition and, finally, full-on oral communication. Within a few lessons, extensive, student-generated conversation becomes the rule, not the exception. Students come up with their own topics freeing the instructor to focus on enhancing the Krashen Monitor instead.

The TEAL conference takes place at Simon Fraser University’s Harbour Centre campus [515 West Hastings Street in Vancouver] Friday, May 6th and Saturday, May 7th, 2011.

Game Use Survey Compiled

Results of the Speekeezy Game Use Survey are in and can be reviewed here.

Thanks to all those who took part. We had excellent participation with 513 respondents altogether.

While there is probably nothing revelatory about the results, a number of fallacies have been put to rest once and for all.

Anyone with an interest in the use of games in the English language learning classroom will find the comments especially good reading. 239 respondents shared insights on Favourite Games while 151 left extensive observations behind in the final comments section.



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The Speekeezy Games Use Survey came about as a result of a conversation with an editor at one of the major ESL publishers. He had previously expressed interest in the idea of a commercial-quality game dedicated specifically to adult ESL learners and had vowed to undertake research into the market potential. In fact, he seemed surprisingly enthusiastic about the game which was an early precursor to the game Truth or Dare for English Language Learners that you’ll see on this site.

Scroll ahead a few months and his conclusion was that “teachers are not interested in games”. That surprised me too. When pressed as to how he had reached that conclusion he revealed the science that drives major publishing decisions, indicating that he had asked a couple guys in the office about it while hanging around the water cooler. From that I drew a few conclusions of my own including that even from within the black pit of a coma I could easily trump such feeble “market research”. The notion that teachers are not interested in games struck me as bizarre in the extreme, certainly not what I had noted anecdotally, and I set about assessing a broader range of opinions with a “water cooler” of my own.

The result became known as the Speekeezy Games Use Survey. Here we look at the results, one year later. Follow the links below for a detailed, if quirky, analysis.


The resulting Speekeezy Games Use Survey was comprised of 17 questions aimed at garnering greater insight into attitudes towards the use of games by English language teaching professionals. I used an open-source framework called LimeSurvey and deployed the survey through two websites devoted to ESL/EFL pedagogy which I maintain. For the course of one year [March 11, 2015 – March 10, 2016] visitors to either neko.ca or speekeezy.ca could take the questionnaire. Popular ESL/EFL notice boards, forums and listserves were advised of the survey and a number of professional periodicals picked it up, passing word on to their readers and members.

The Speekeezy Games Use Survey was comprised of four sections as follows:

  • Demographic Questions
  • Opinions and attitudes towards the use of games
  • An analysis of game types
  • Comments

Most questions divide responses into ten discrete units. Though one could argue doing so splits opinion too finely, the advantage of using ten units over five is that respondents must take a stand. They can hug the fence but they cannot sit on it.

Survey Fatigue

I undertook a quick analysis of non-participation from a chronological point of view to see if survey fatigue was having any discernible effect on responses. Fatigue should manifest itself as a distinct downward trend in participation but the curve suggests other factors such as a lack of opinion or interest in specific topics rather than steadily flagging interest.

Right off the mark, participation droops as we grind through the tedious initial demographic questions. Surprisingly, the downward trend continues with a few noticeable rallies as we trudge through a series of questions on attitudes towards game use in the classroom. Note how participation starts to ascend again as the topic changes towards an analysis of particular game types. After reaching dizzying heights participation falls off again precipitously on the final two questions. No surprise there as these were the call for additional comments. The real surprise was that 239 out of 513 of the respondents took the time to leave additional insights. All surveys suffer from a certain amount of fatigue but in this case at least it wasn’t strikingly apparent.

Survey Participation Curve

Survey Fatigue


In total, 513 respondents answered the questionnaire. The margin of error is calculated to be ± 4%.


While nearly 12% declined to admit to having any gender at all, 51% of respondents professed to be female and 38%, male. We’ll never really know, will we?

Role: I am working in the following area of the ESL profession

Fully 71% of respondents were educational professionals with another 11% working in administrative roles. One of those claimed, through the comments field, to be a “Principle”. A guiding principle, perhaps? Five percent were either students of English or learning how to teach and another two percent belong to peripheral industries such as study abroad or homestay agencies, publishers and so on. A final 11% declined to answer.

Role Play

Experience: How long have you been working in the ESL profession?

Respondents were, by and large, members of the targeted demographic and not just random Internet trolls. Indeed those who took the time to complete the survey reported considerable experience in the field. Just under five percent of respondents admitted to working in the ESL profession for less than one year. And while 18% declined to answer at all, the majority of respondents were veteran professionals, battered and bandaged yet ready to keep up the good fight. Thirty-two percent confessed to more than ten years of classroom experience with many boasting through the comments field of multiple decades in the trenches. Pip, pip, tally-ho and all that rot! Twenty-one percent reported five to ten years in the profession while a further twenty-four percent had already devoted one to five years to the cause.

I have to admit that I was initially worried that the survey would reach an inordinate number of the kind of travelers who see teaching English as a ticket to globetrotting. Clearly this was not the case. Respondents were committed professionals with valuable insights to share.

Click Image to Zoom

Experience is the Best Teacher

Demographics – Education

Education: Please indicate the highest level of education completed

I flubbed up big time when concocting the education question, allowing multiple responses when I should have kept things like high school and Ph.D.’s mutually exclusive with the underlying assumption that if you have a graduate degree you probably finished high school. As a result some of those with higher level degrees probably also indicated each step along the way resulting in 155% response rate. As a consequence, it is impossible to tell exact demarcation lines. We can, however, conclude that as a whole, respondents were a well edu-ma-cated bunch.

Nine percent reported having taken multiple degrees with seven percent having Ph.D.’s. This is probably accurate with no double counting. As we move down the scale of educational attainment the probability of double counting increases. So while just under 40% of respondents reported earning a Masters degree, as many as seven percent may have gone on to get that doctorate while still failing to READ THE QUESTION CAREFULLY! Chances are the amount of double counting is not that excessive but we will never know for sure.

An additional 43% were in possession of a Bachelors degree. Twenty-five percent indicated high school as the highest level of education completed though I have no doubt that at least some of these neglected to read the question closely enough.

Just 32% percent reported having a TESL/TEFL certificate of some kind which strikes me as somewhat low. This suggests that those who did read, understand and answer the question with precision may have omitted this option.

Even though the question was probably clear enough the mechanics of answering were ambiguous resulting in less than perfect data. In retrospect the whole question of certification programs should have been separated out into a distinct query. What can I say? Doh!

High school
TESL/TEFL certification
Bachelors Degree
Masters Degree
Multiple Degrees taken

Demographics – Geography

Where in the world are you involved in ESL/EFL education?

Again, 11% of respondents declined to indicate their geographic location. That 1/8th of respondents are consistently not answering could indicate a secret cadre of nonconformists in our midst. Watch your back! And your front.

Unsurprisingly, the largest contingent of respondents, 32%, hails from Asia with 11% positioned in China alone. A nearly equal number, 31%, of respondents hail from the English-speaking part of North America, possibly indicating a skew to the data resulting from the kinds of North American-based journals, periodicals and Internet resources which passed on word of the survey to their interest groups.

Europe-centered professionals accounted for nine percent while those in Mexico and Latin America accounted for just six percent of respondents. Africa was almost a no-show while the Middle East and Anza made a showing of seven percent and four percent respectively.

Central/South America
Other Asia
Middle East
Australia/New Zealand
No answer

Opinions 1: Waste of Time vs Effective Tool

The first set of questions deals with general opinions about the use of games in the classroom. From the responses there should be no question anymore about whether teachers believe games have a place in English language learning. A resounding 93% of respondents disagreed with the statement “games are a waste of valuable classroom time” with responses clustered at the stronger end of the opinion scale as in: “Absolutely NOT!”.

Likewise 86% of respondents agreed with the statement “games are an effective learning tool”. And, while respondents were quick to defend this category of learning materials, a common theme emerged in the final comments section with many qualifying their strong support with caveats such as the need for relevance and clear goals driven by competent instructors. You can view a few of those comments below. Dozens more will be found in the final two pages of these Game Survey Results.


I think many students from other (that is, non-North American) cultures think that games are not “serious” learning. Even though I don’t think games are a waste of time, some of my students have mentioned this, as if to say, “Why are we wasting our time with this? When will we get to the real learning?” This is despite announcing at the start of the game the goals and what skills it practices. Many students seem to have quite a dismissive attitude towards this kind of learning. This is why I don’t incorporate more games more often.

The teacher must be assured that the students are learning and applying the language correctly, not just having fun.

Games should not dominate class time, but should complement the instruction and serve as an aid to student motivation. Games can reach students who may not respond well to some other modes of learning. Finally, any game used in the language classroom needs to have clear relevance to the curriculum.

I don’t think games are useful or NOT useful – it always depends on how the teacher integrates them into the learning task. An excellent game can be very poorly used and a not-so-useful game can be highly effective – depending on the teacher, the task at hand, the target language, etc. Games are not an end unto themselves.

Personally I think games should be an important part of an esl classroom but what matters most is the techers ability to use those games. Most games are not suitable for use in most class room context. So a good teacher should be able to pick out those games which work best in his/her classroom situation.

Only as effective as the teacher who introduces, models, facilitates and sometimes creates

Your question about the usefulness of games is impossible to answer. It depends on whether the game chosen fits the goals of the class. One game might be perfect as a review or practice activity but totally useless in another class where it is too difficult and the students are not prepared. Games should fit the lesson as a form of practice, but should not be used as mere fillers, I believe. Also, with adults, I sometimes avoid the term “game” as it can be seen as demeaning for an adult who is paying a lot of money for a professional language teacher to merely “play games.” They may even get upset at a teacher who uses “too many” games in their lessons. In those cases, I prefer to call them “a practice activity” and state the language goal clearly.

I consider a game to be an activity to enhance a lesson, not just to be used as a filler.

A complete list of all 151 comments will be found at the bottom of this page.

Opinions 2: School Support

The next two questions involve workplace attitudes at the administrative level towards game use in the classroom. Opinion was fairly polarized on the question of whether “my school provides enough resources for using games in the classroom”. Half agreed and half disagreed with opinion from both camps being tinged with intensity. Considering that this veteran swath of the profession has long since grown accustomed to creating their own materials on an ad hoc basis, schools could do better.

While schools may not be providing the resources they do at least encourage the use of games. Fifty-nine percent of respondents somewhat strongly agreed with the statement “my school encourages the use of games in the classroom”. So while many school administrators are onside with the notion that gameplay makes good pedagogical sense, they have yet to proactively support that notion with the purchase of suitable materials or professional development opportunities. Still I find it disturbing that forty one percent of respondents somewhat weakly perceived a lack of encouragement in the realm of learning games at their place of employment. These teachers are on their own from both a resource and support point of view.

Opinions 3: Adults and Games

As I was in the process of designing a number of commercial quality games expressly for adult learners of English perhaps I can be forgiven for asking the next question three different ways. This was the mission-critical stuff and I needed to make sure attitudes were clearly understood. They certainly seem to be: a resounding majority of respondents strenuously expressed their belief that games are suitable, beneficial and enjoyable for adult learners of English, putting the lie to three stubborn fallacies. There are caveats, of course. Scroll down to the comments for a selection of those.

Adults do not benefit from the use of games in the classroom
89% Disagreement
Games are more suited to the teaching of children than adults
72% Disagreement
Adults do not enjoy playing games in the classroom
81% Disagreement


This particular topic garnered many interesting comments as well, including the following:

For smaller children, non-competitive or cooperative games are best. Older kids and adults like competitive games.

Games should be an integral part of every language classroom, be it for adults or children alike. They can be used to introduce, practice and reinforce language learned. But there does need to be a balance, that games are not the sole, nor necessarily the main activity in a lesson as all play and no work does not make for a pedagogically sound environment.

I use more abstract and competitive games with younger learners, and more realistic activities with adults.

My adults love games. Even if it is just a sorting activity, I call it a game. A game usually generates laughter, and if you can get the students to laugh, they are relaxed and it relieves tension. Games are excellent for review. I have customized a lot of games.

Games are the greatest teaching tool I know whether with Children, young adults or adult.

It’s not the game that is valuable in itself. It’s how it’s used. If students understand games’ roles in their learning, then they’re perfectly happy to use them, whether adults and otherwise. The decreased affective filters that games can engender — together with an understanding of a game’s value — can enhance acquisition of students’ learning. If the teacher is relaxed, prepared, confident, and learning-focused, then the students can trust more easily, take risks in the service of their learning, and incorporate learning more easily into their lives.

Adults need to be playful sometimes.

If the games and the way in which they are used are not tailored to promote language use, many students question their use in the classroom, which I believe they should do. Students’ acceptance of games depends on the type of program. Games are not as often appropriate in academic settings; they’re more acceptable to students in adult education programs though.

Games are a fun learning tool for both children and adults, if used correctly. In other words, they must have some relevance to what is currently being studied. They are also a quick assessment/review tool to see how the students have grasped the material being covered.

Games are an excellent tool for learning and if introduced correctly are well received by adults as well as younger learners. Games usually involve repeated but purposeful language usage which enhances absorption and retention of vocab. Games relax learners and provide an atmosphere in which learners are willing to experiment without fear of looking foolish.

A complete list of all 151 comments will be found at the bottom of this page.

Opinions 4: A Variety of Insights

Curiosity Killed the Cat

The final three general opinion questions are all over the map thematically and simply represent topics I was curious about. The first one involves whether instructors are deploying games in the classroom as often as they would like. One of the reasons for getting into the business of designing games in the first place was the observation that devising effective classroom materials is a time consuming process often precluded by the demands of lesson planning, administrative duties and, of course, the instructional role. Teachers need access to highly presentable, high quality, reusable materials, games included, to take some of the pressure off. That 65% agree with the statement “I should probably use games more often” seems to support that long-held belief. One of the barriers that teachers are up against is simply a matter of time constraints. Using games is fine but not always possible when you have to make them yourself.

The Elements of Lingo

The second of the miscellaneous opinion questions concerns the perceived effectiveness of game-like activities vis-à-vis different attributes of language learning. I was surprised to see that oral production ranked as high as it did in both the global conversation practice and the speaking categories. In the numerous games that I’ve designed I’ve always aimed to foster uninhibited oral output and recognize how hard it is to achieve.

Recognition Runs Deep

The final question in this section is related to the dynamics of bringing materials to the classroom. I recognize a lot of the people I have met over the years in the numbers. In how many other industries would 21% of the employees go out and purchase essential matériel? Teachers do it all the time. That 26% would try bypassing the limitations of personal budgets and parsimonious administrators by knocking off commercial offerings is no surprise either when I recall the countless times I’ve seen teachers chopping up little bits of paper, gluing or taping other bits in a rush to beat the clock. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve never had a request for resources turned down by a school. The roughly 40% who would go that route are equally fortunate. Forty percent is a good number but administrators need to be more supportive still.


I don’t know of many commercial ESL games.

I think we should incorporate the use of games in classrooms. But I don’t know where to get those commercial games for ESL. 🙁

I am not at all aware of where to get good games for the adult ESL classroom. I’d love to know!

Make them more affordable!

I have much more trouble using games with classes with behavior problems because they cannot stay on task in groups. It also takes a lot of time to make any games, which limits the games I can play with my students. I think games are great, but those are some of my challenges.

I appreciate most the commercial materials that provide a game idea that I can apply in various ways to my own particular class.

A complete list of all 151 comments will be found at the bottom of this page.

Game Types – Intro

An Evaluation of Game Types

A number of game types were evaluated from the standpoint of four attributes: frequency of use, effectiveness, adaptation required and overall quality. The game types evaluated include:

  • Old Standards1
  • Card games2
  • Self-Designed Games
  • Games from ESL resource books
  • Commercial table-top games3
  • Computer games
  • Commercial ESL/EFL Games

1Includes such classroom favorites as “Twenty Questions”, “I Spy” and so on.
2Includes such games as poker, fish, rummy, tarot and so on.
3Includes commercial games such as Monopoly, trivia games, Pictionary, and so on.

Evaluation was conducted on a ten point Likert scale. Though most responses cluster around the midpoint, results were subjected to the Friedman analysis of variance to determine whether the results were significant or not. They were.

A word about card games

Since most card games require a great deal of adaptation before making it in the language learning classroom, it is likely that such resources were accounted for under the Self-Designed Games category. As a consequence card games, though popular among teachers, were rated somewhat poorly in each and every question in Speekeezy Game Use Survey.

Computer games

Though I’ve long felt that there’s a lot of potential in computer games, especially in the realm of teacherless teaching, the marketplace has yet to provide much in the way of dedicated ESL resources probably due to the extreme development costs up front. Adapting existing computer games can also be challenging with perhaps limited payback.

Game Types – Frequency of Use

Question 1: How often do you incorporate these game types into your lesson plan?

As you can see from the table below, Self-Designed Games, that is games designed by the respondent, came out on top of a scale ranging from a low of “Never” to a high of “Always” with a rating of 6.5 or slightly above the middle ground of “Sometimes”.

It’s important to note the limitations of this statistic. We cannot conclude that teachers use games 65% of the time, or that, when they use games, they use self-designed ones two thirds of the time. In fact, reporting averages for these Likert-type rating scales is considered problematic by statisticians though their use is widespread in the realm of market research. We can’t even say that language teaching professionals use self-designed games more frequently than any other type. We can however, conclude that teachers believe that they do. The fact that such games are designed or heavily adapted by the respondent would tend to make that kind of game stand out more than any other type. The time invested in developing and polishing the game is also being included in the evaluation to a certain extent. Nonetheless, common sense tells us that the top two types of games are probably used more frequently than any of the others due to the vested interest element of Self-Designed Games and due to the very definition of Old Standards. Such games didn’t get to be old standards by taking the low road to obscurity. They are, as a group, well-known, easy to deploy, require little adaptation and effective, hence, their place in the frequency pyramid.

Game Types – Effectiveness Rating

Question 2: Please rate the effectiveness  of these game types as a language learning tool?

Again, Self-Designed Games tops out the results for all the same reasons outlined above. Nonetheless, another factor besides vested interest is at work. Being somehow “owned” by the respondent we can safely assume that such games have already undergone extensive development, transformation and adaptation for the particular needs of that individual’s teaching situation. Presumably they have reached a high level of effectiveness, or at least that perception, along the way.

That Commercial ESL/EFL Games ranks second probably indicates that respondents had the teaching of children in mind. While the Speekeezy Game Use Survey revealed that our profession clearly believes gameplay should not be limited to children, apart from Truth or Dare for English Language Learners, there are very few commercial offerings directed at adult English language learners.

Rated on a ten-point Likert scale ranging from Not Effective [1] to Extremely Effective [10]

Game Types – Adaptation

Question 3: How much adaptation is required before using these game types in the classroom?

Since we can presume that Self-Designed Games have already undergone extensive adaptation en route to “ownership” this class of games was left out of the question altogether, being replaced with a category Games from ESL resource books.

Respondents felt that Commercial ESL/EFL Games could be most readily taken off the shelf and moved into the classroom. That’s certainly the theory behind Truth or Dare for English Language Learners. Due to the aforementioned paucity of commercial offerings for adults, whether this statistic indicates what exists or what should be is a whole other question.

That commercial tabletop games such as Monopoly or Clue occupies the bottom rung is somewhat surprising since the popular Pictionary is frequently used right out of the box. Clearly the same cannot be said for other such offerings. As a side note, I have created a couple of very effective Monopoly clones and can verify that the amount of adaptation required in order to achieve that effectiveness is massive. As the voice-over says: do not attempt this at home.

Rated on a ten-point Likert scale ranging from No Adaptation [1] to A Great Deal of Adaptation [10]

Game Types – Quality

Question 4: What is your opinion of the quality of these game types?

Again, since there is little value in having teachers, or their mothers, rate the resources which they themselves have developed, the Self-Designed Games category has been left out in favor of those adapted from ESL resource books. In fact such games took top honors on the question of quality. Whether teachers are actually using such games in the classroom is not clear. Rather this ranking could indicate an uncritical belief in our profession that, being previously vetted by major publishers in the field, such resources should be of high quality. My own experience of such resource books is that many of the game-like resources are either Old Standards in new clothes or not very effective at all.

Rated on a ten-point Likert scale ranging from Low Quality [1] to High Quality [10]

Favourite Games

151 Responses to the question “Use the space below to add additional insights into the use of games in the English language learning classroom.”

“Question/answer games adapted to class level and interest (jeopardy, trivial pursuit)

Get Talking, Taboo, Apples to Apples, Word rummy, Scrabble, Scattergories, Balderdash

Anything that encourages conversation information gaps asking/answering

Reading Jigsaws: print out story; cut into sentence strips; have teams reconstruct story in proper order. Listening/Speaking: print out paragraph and tape to blackboard; a team member goes to the board, reads the first phrase and returns to the teammates and tells them the phrase. They must write it down. They can ask clarifying questions of the runner. Continue till the paragraph is written and verified. Pictionary: old standard, but we make cards with our target vocabulary words (for example, from our reading lesson or listening/speaking lesson).

grammar,vocabulary,listening and speaking/pronunciation game

scruples, pictionary, apples to apples, 20 questions, headbanz

Picture/Word Bingo,LCR,Hot Dots Learning Cards, Flash Cards,Memory

Hangman, Charades, Run and write, Pictionary, Snakes and ladders, Chinese whispers

Taking surveys, Sress and tone.

Any type of concentration type card game for vocab, jeopardy type for general knowledge, silly sentence building games, team games for conversation, online simulation type to promote conversation with peers

Old Standards – 20 Questions. Complete a sentence or passage derived from Hangman.

I’m afraid they dont have names. I use different games to revise vocabulary, to engage students to conversation… I’m sorry, but I’m not able to help you in this matter.



I believe that most types of games can be adapted to suit the lessons aims and objectives, whether vocab, grammar, fluency or theme related etc. Teachers have to be culturally sensitive as not all games will work with particular students or may prove to be extremely popular. I’ve learnt through trail and error. However, it’s important to try a few times as games may not always be successful first time round.

Hot seat. Speech Craft, Story Maker, hangman, twenty questions.

charades, flashcard games where they hit the cards. Games they get points at.

Guessing game(using flash cards) Blackboard game(sentence formation) Chain word game

pictionary, pass the ball wherein students will pass a ball to someone and whoever receives the ball should say something which is related to the topic/lesson.

boggle, scrabble, hangman, battleship, clue, find the item, alphabet soup, shark attack, bingo etc.

Hot Potato – toss a crumpled ball to the next ‘victim’ AFTER I’ve correctly voiced target pattern I (do this) but HE (DOES that) Where I live… (I have, there is, we live, you can see…) That is a … (vocab practice while on bus, train, in the car) My best friend has ……..

Jeopardy, Hangman, Charades, Simon Says,

No favorites

quizzes, guessing games, facial expressions, moods, needs, what’s wrong with machines, people, situations and so on.

Word Up, Read and Run, Password (guessing a given thing that is described by teammates), Adjective Game (describing a given thing), tac-tac-toe, stop the bus, Categories (making lists according to types), Taboo, Change if you’re wearing…, hangman (with sentences and teams), what will you take with you (to a desert island or if your house is one fire), describing pictures from magazines


1. bring me something 2. crossing the river 3. hangman 4. crossword puzzles 5. find it game

hang man 7up my own games that I’ve created (too many to explain them all)

Pair games where students refer to images for speaking, can be phonetic games, preposition games like giving directions Boardgames can be great but usually have to make them myself as school not going to buy enough for a whole class Interactive blended games like treasure hunts using barcodes with url lnks and students mobiles are good too

Role-plays for business adult groups, card games to teach opposites or numbers, board games for group vocabulary teaching, taboo, twister to teach colors and body parts to kids, bbc online games to teach spelling to kids.

Games which involve very little preparation such as vocabulary pass the parcel, pronunciation telephone game etc.

i don’t teach AS YET

card games, pictures cutouts, scrabble, jigsaw puzzles, games with post-its

There are lots of games that can be used by: -Fruit baskets. -Toilet Paper. -Alphebtization. -Name’s game. -object game. -Whoozit. -Hot seats. -Chain Spelling. -Charades. -Word Race. -Sentence Race. -Running Dictation. -Board Slapping. -Pictionary. -Airoplane game. -Telegrams. among other games.

I like to use several communication activities similar to ones in EFL teacher’s resource books.

1}brain stroming.2} quiz 3 dialouge 4)show a picture then said studnets explain the picture.

I like pictionary, and I use a lot of material from Reward resource pack whenever I can.

Tell Us About… from Keep Talking The board games in the same book, most that I have adapated

Mallets mallet, Back to the board adaptations, ppt game shows: Who wants to be a millionaire, jeopardy, blockbusters, Are you smarter than a 5th grader, own ppts. Own boardgames, Chinese whispers

Toss, Just-a-minute, Professions, Blindsiding

finish a story-spy on me-acting-who am 1?

Classroom Basketball is a favorite, I have also adapted this to the blackboard with a wet tissue. Blind Robot for directions is also great. Both have little preparation, all resources are available in any classroom, they are useful learning tools and the students love them.

active, moving around, interactive games that can be varied with different themes, but still focus on one theme at a time.

1.group games 2. Follow the leader 3. Number sharing 4. Shouting numbers 5. Passing on the buck 6. musical chairs 7. Clapping games 8. Hide and seek 9. Find the odd man out 10. Puzzles 11. Fill the blanks 12. Arrange the order.

Primary: the hang man Middle school: I spy, hot seat. Uni: I find that Uni s/s here have low interest in classroom games for learning purposes.


snakes and ladders quiz games who’s who

Anograms, Chinese Whispers, Detective & Murderer, I spy, Simon says, Alphabet games.

Games online

CALL: Jumpstart, Carmen Sandiego series, hidden object games (i.e. Dire Grove), Clue Finders, and MANY others. Board games: Monopoly, Life, Scrabble, Boggle, Wordingo… ESL games: Word Up, Pharoah’s Phonics… Card games: Mostly Go Fish style – simple double prints of flash cards from sites.

I have found secondlife,IMVU,There very useful games for language practice as well as for socilizing. What about you?

homemade board games, homemade jepordy, activities with a standard deck of cards

Crossword puzzles (for Reading and vocabulary), Jeopardy-type games (using Power Point), Conversation Cards (for speaking class)

I don’t use games in the classroom.

Puzzle, describing the picture,fill in the gap, and flash cards.

self designed board game utilizing the monopoly idea.

BINGO, Hearts, scrabble

Scrabble Cleudo Monopoly Pictionary Online Memory Jeopardy

IQ Quizes General Knowledge quiz ESL games in the market (Photocopied Penguin series, published by Longman)

A-games online – mostly games for young boys, we are able to practice using a significant amount of language to talk about the games. Dominos, card matching games and hang-man are also popular and effective.

I love tic tac toe because it’s versatile, requires nothing other than chalk and blackboard, and the adult ESL students enjoy it. They get quite competitive! I also like pronunciation safari using minimal pairs.

Othello, story-cards, Samorost (with English walk-through (check online), Questionaut (also online) Scrabble slam, build it (using cuisenaire rods)

Role Play, Drama,Quizzes

spelling games sudoku oh cross word puzle

any game that elicits laughter, proactive interaction, is highly visual, considered great fun (perceived more as entertainment than learning, allows teacher to be more a minimal player than an over engaged leader.

UNO card game. My own adapted version of snakes and ladders.

Guessing games, like 20 Questions, or Who am I? Communication-based table games (like trivia games). Draw and guess. Puzzles. Memory games. Jigsaws.

For small groups I like using plays and skits the most.

Name that object, Simon said, sing and dance based on the subject.

Taboo Scattergories Mad Libs 20 Questions word scrambles

all my teaching is on the internet using Skype or MSN or QQ. I use flash cards and make games from them.

None i dont use them. I teach them English how to speak the eng;ish language not playing games because it teaches them nothing


I like to create notecard-based games that students use in pairs, switch with their partner, and find another partner. These can be created for any lesson and can be from extremely structured to free. I also like game boards made based on what the students have been learning. I have a template that I found on a website somewhere for chutes and ladders that I just fill in as the opportunity presents itself. Anything that motivates the student helps them improve, in my opinion.

back-to-the-board, spelling and/or vocab competitions, sentence construction comps (using specifics like present cont, past cont + past simple, perfect forms etc), matching pictures to function choices, pictionary

British council’s online stories,room makers, alien makers, monster makers card games, bingo, Kim’s game, Guessing game with 4 corners, Have you got?

Taboo, Have You Ever?, Scattergories, Who Am I?/Guess Who?, Would You Rather?, Bingo

loto, computer games

go-fish with sight words, memory, computer games, simon says

scrabble crosswords wordfind

1. language game 2. role-play 3. hang man 4. lucky number 5. dancing with a ball….

Cards- Uno- with themes like clothes, countries, places, etc. Pirate Poker Poker Black Jack memory word games – word scramble rhyming games ad libs throwing of a sticky ball on the whiteboard – where I have drawn a circle that looks like a dart board with game options.

For Kindergarten: Anything action, like red light-green light. Hide and seek with items, not people (teacher calls an item, the kids search for it).

conversation board games blackboard drill review games five minutes filler games

scrabble, monopoly, matching, go fish,

Games that blend uses of writing, reading, speaking, and listening. I’ve used A Great Wind Blows, In the Manner of the Word, Charades, crossword puzzles, simulation games (such as First Thanksgiving, Wild West, New World, and others), and games that utilize student interaction through mobile devices (ones I’ve made up myself).

Impossible too many to list – see the Kindersite http://www.kindersite.org/Directory/EG1.htm for about 100 games that can be used directly for ESL or within a CLIL environment. Also see the ARG game we produced http://arg.paisley.ac.uk/ you will also find in the download page a number of documents that may be useful for you, especially the methodology about using games in the classroom. ARGuing also presented 5 peer reviewed academic papers at 3rd European Conference on Game-based learning. The coordinator of the ARGuing project is the co-chair of this annual conference.

cards; questions and answers; reading books and asking questions about certain chapters

Pictionary, hot seat, miming

In no particular order Whiteboard vocabulary revision like blockbusters or connect four which revise vocabulary Grammar auction for correcting mistakes Board games that make students speak domino games for collocations games that force students to work together to order stuff; words, sentences, ideas guessing games and games involving falsehoods

Holding auctions (this is not a game, but they are good practice, and the students require no training in how they work). Having students describe a person (real or imagined) and the other students draw him. 20 questions. Take some archaic, inscrutable, comical law that has never been repealed, and ask groups of students to try to work out what the original legislative justification for it may have been. (That can get very funny!)

Role play games board games using different tense, verb etc Past tnese games

Adapted pictionary, trivial pursuit, scattegories, guesstures, family feud, boggle, scrabble, Q20, memory, ‘I went on a vacation and took…’, etc.

I like to use game to grammar activities but time is reduced and classes are large and not always is possible to play a game in the classroom.

Games adapted from Improv theatre in general

Jenga, Fish, Uno, Concentration, Whiteboard games such as snakes and ladders, tic-tac-toe, etc.

motivational, intuitional, creative and innovative led games.

Diplomacy (Avalon Hill), Apples to apples, Scrabble, Up words, Taboo

Apples to Apples, Scrabble, Clue, 20 Questions

Depending on the age group and time available I usually choose games that incorporate a series of I say.. you say and each in turn.. allowing the parents to hear their child speaking and reenforce the language aim. Sometime I feel that using games in the classroom only opens the door for chaotic play…. It is difficult to keep the younger children under control.

A board game which was ‘words that begin with ..’ adapted to use with parts of speech, tenses ,questions etc Jeopardy, Most board games With more advanced students I use board games but instead of a dice students have a bag of random words and the number of words they can use is the number of places they can move (with caveats to limit the move to a maximum of say 6 or 7 places) There are a couple of thers but my brain has gone dead

Simon Says, 21 Questions

Role Plays, Scrabble,Taking cards, Guessing Game, Simon Says

The games in Blockbuster CDs Puzzles with vocabulary PPS designed as games Cutting a story into pieces and asking the groups to put them in order. The one who does it the fastest wins

* grammar auction * sexi taxi * vocabulary hangman * various types of role-play activities carried out in two groups * defining words in two groups (Ss have to define a words wihout using the word in their definitions. This is played in two groups. Within a groups, one learners has to guess the word and the rest of the group has to define it. The first person to guess the word earns a point for his/her group).


pictionary variation of flyswatter match the pictures frying pan

Scrabble, hangman, anagrams

Fly Swatter Having student call out certain words that pertain to a unit and another student writes them on the board.

pictionary, word games, my own inventions, charades, computer vocabulary games

Scattergories, Jeopardy (adapted), Pyramid, Boggle, etc.

all the usual ones from the using games in ESL Teaching style books.

Bingo crosswords

I prefer those that promote more language use, such as 20 questions, find someone who ice breaker, some information gap games

Uno, GoFish, Gestures, OldMaid, charades, pictionary (adapted), and games on the internet

I like several websites and enjoy sharing them with students, particularly those that are more autonomous, where the students chooses his or her pace and what they want to work on. Computers and MP3 help in educational technology and keep the learner’s interest. I like games that fill in the last 10 minutes of class, that you do not need much preparation and allows the student to leave with a smile on their face, feeling they have learned or practiced somethiong. Traditional games, board games, ELT games are fun but sometimes very static or do not fit the context they are used in, thus not culturally sensitive or appropriate.

darts, UNO

Telling time Hang man Puzzles

board and card games, games from resourcepacks, computergames, games where they have to movve around and stand up

Club Penguin, Chobots, Fantage, Artix Entertainment games, Webkinz

Fly Swat the Flash Cards

Guess the vocab. List the words with the letter. Self-designed computer games

1. Bingo 2. Slapping board 3. Hopping 4. Racing 5. Telephoning

tic-tc-toe, memoramas (pairs), change chairs, simon says, 20 questions, hangman, stop, guess who, etc.

Board games created by myself or other teachers specifically for ESL but not commercially sold go fish/karuta/bingo for vocabulary

As a language learner or a teacher, or just to play?

I have not taught ESL for the last 20 years so I’m not sure my opinions are of much value now

Sorry, Junior Monopoly, Clue, Life, Outburst, Apples to Apples Jr. Board games made for ESL/EFL include Speaker Friendly and Rock Talk. Card games include UNO and many classic card games.

I like card games. I make cards with the specific vocab I am using. I can play concentrations Go Fish or distribute them for the students to ask each other about. I like the versatility.

Good board games that are fun and useful for review. Fun discussion games. Games for kids that include a physical element.

20 questions Alibi bingo

Apples to Apples, Once upon a time

word association running dictation pictionary passing an object/ball juggling and story telling things I brough – remembering a list objective role-plays

Bingofor practising phonetics,card games for vocab,board games for speaking practice.

(You won’t know any of these because they are of my own making) Speed Game Point Game Mystery Find Memory Game Word Game


Card games Team games singing games

20 questions

Jeopardy, Charades, Password, Find Someone Who . . ., $5000 Pyramid, TPR Boards, TPR Robot (instructor acts as robot that students give directions to), Role Plays (Flea Market, Restaurants, etc.), Tell a Lie (give 4 statements about self and 1 is a lie; other students have to guess which is the lie), Which one doesn’t belong (can be used with pictures or lists of words), 20 Questions, etc. etc.

Karute (Japanese style slap card game), concentration, twenty questions, I spy, Bafa Bafa (intercultural simulation), charades,

flash card pick up games, hangman, guess who, starting letter games, describing things activities, etc.

Most are self-made so have no name, or no name that someone else would know. One good commercial one Just a Minute.

Games that encourage movement and use of images, flashcards, photos, etc.

back yo board


I have not used games in the classroom

Phrazzle Me I spy with my little eye Hangman Listening to music and deciphering the lyrics Scrabble

Speed Quiz, BAAM, Jeopardy, Trivia

Word games (Hangman, Scrabble, etc.)

Vocabulary games (bingo, hangman, wordsearch, crossword, online word games…) Clue games Cooperative games (Content-based, Task-based Approaches) WebQuests, webtasks, quiz online or by email…

Simon Says

Pictionary, 20 questions, riddles

Hangman, scabby queen (variants), hot seat, scrabble, name swap, who am I, 3 hints, Mr. Wolf questions,

Category (where kids stand in a circle and clap and have to say a vocab word in a particular category on beat), big booty (where students have to listen as people say their own number and then another person’s number)

Uno, Challenge card games, Guess Who? and Guess Where?

pair-work, group, speaking, getting to know you


Snakes and Ladders

role plays flash cards bingo game

board games , card games, my own games, memory games….

Twenty Questions Bingo Oxford Picture Dictionary CD-ROM teacher-created game board to practice grammar and vocabulary

Connecting nouns on the board–this is great when working in teams of 2, especially at the end of the class; it gets Ss out of their seats & they have to work w/their teams to connect words, usually nouns, like this: HamburgeRinDoGoaTeaMaN etc. (letters were capitalized to signify endings & beginnings of words) Ss go to the board one at a time & use dictionaries, other team members, & can borrow from the other team’s list on the board if it fits their list. The competitiveness of having 2 teams keeps the interest & energy going, & Ss have fun while trying to enhance their vocabulary skills, incl. spelling. Boggle–great for spelling & Ss have to think fast as there is a timer Telephone tag for listening comprehension & speaking–pass a message around & see what is said at the end; this always brings a lot of laughter–at the end of the listening part of the game game make sure Ss know the original message, then put them into groups of 2 & have the message printed, but broken into strips of paper so that Ss have to re-assemble the original message. Putting the message back in order gives them extra practice, plus each teams tries to finish first.

Animal game, hangman, 4 letter word game, simon says

charades, shiritori, I spy, card matching , games using cards and homemade dice for sports and their verb collocations, grab bag(20 questions)

boggle, headlines, scrabble slam, whatzit (outside the box), take 2 scrabble, etc, etc, etc – I have a multitude

Pictionary, Paint me a picture, Guess what? in Twenty Questions,Word games like scrabble, scribbage, Mind Jolt Games, Word bank, Hang man, Tic-tac-toe

go fish, board game,

Fish, jigsaws, concentration, anything on the snakes and ladders board, any board game adaptable to the lesson material, games of chance: bingo

Apples to Apples Scrabble English Jeopardy Fly swatter activities

Kaboom !

21 Questions, Yes/no Game… Crib, Backgammo, Monopoly

None specific but they need to be participative and demonstrate a team ethic. My focus is really on Business studies so it is important to be innovative as well as interesting

Talkopoly (a conversation adaptation of Monopoly, by David Martin, EFL Press); Syllable Soup and Sound Maze games (from an old book called Pronunciation games); Bingo (especially good for vocabulary learning and keeping the attention of younger/newer learners). For higher learners, a number game called BUZZ is fun (1,2,3,4,5,6, BUZZ, 8,9,10,11,12,13,BUZZ – Replace numbers that contain a 7 or are divisible by 7 with the word BUZZ). Rock-scissors-paper, hugely popular in Japan, is useful for getting students to change partners during or after an activity. The loser has to stand and find a new partner. 20 questions is useful in getting students guessing about recent current events and news stories.

I spy

Twenty questions, hangman, Jeopardy, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, bingo games, etc.

Vocab games of differnt sorts Role plays

flashcard and vocabulary games

poon and buzz

Clue Oregon Trail Spelling Bee type game but vocabulary and definitions

Hangman- to use vocabulary and practice writing skills and spelling. Riddlee Riddlee Rhee I see something you don’t see and it’s. . . (to learn vocab, use descriptive words. Jeopardy- to review concepts

Second Life and similar — e.g., treasure hunt card games, e.g., concentration to learn words, synonyms, etc. Oregon Trail The Sims Lingo/Bingo-type games

Jeopardy Uno Boggle I spy Games with music

I teach university and there is no time to play games. It would be fun but we wouldn’t get through the curriculum if we stopped to play. There is too much to cover and that is sad. Adults and college students in general consider playing a waste of time and don’t understand that learning is going on. If they have this attitude, their minds are closed to whatever learning might have taken place and they fulfill their own expectation. Without a lot of convincing, it is less effective to use games with older students. They think learning has a certain look to it and think you are being frivolous and wasting their time with games. children LOVE games and enjoy them as if they were in L1. I am Montessori trained and have the work in concrete objects on my shelves but the adults don’t even look at them as if the concrete objects were only toys. I guess I could try using them to see if I could break the barrier and change their preconceptions…. I have not tried using games to teach adults English.

‘Find someone who…’- classic ice-breaker Hangman as a team game for spelling/vocab

Commercial games: Apples to Apples, Snatch, Scrabble, Outburst Classroom games: Battleship on Paper, Letter by Letter, Do You Love Your Neighbor?, Bingo, Go Fish

Bingo, a play with a soft ball

taboo scattergories last word funglish password uno (for teaching contrastive stress)

I like the games availabe on rosetta stone. I also like simulation games where the students apply real life application answers. I love the games that allow the students the opportunity to create. Thank you.

monopoly, 20 questions, jenga fitted with phrasal verbs or irregular verbs, the telephone game, irregular verb tennis,there are some great books out there with games that fit specific classes and situations. I also found some good recommendations in some of the Focus on Grammar teacher’s edition- extension activities. But honestly, the only time I use them is in a summer program where maybe the class is big and interest is not as high.

self-made board games, flash cards, blackboard competitions, any practice turned into a competition by adding the element of time.

Taboo, Scrabble, Boggle, Scattegories, and Upwords

Open Scrabble where teams play to construct the best word from letters before it is added to the board. Various Snakes and Ladders activities. Computer-based spelling games

group dictation in teams, citizenship jeopardy, scattergories, apples to apples (ESL version of this would be AWESOME), imaginiff

Fredericka Klippel’s Keep Talking games Apples to Apples Bingo Tic Tac Toe Clue 20 questions Guess who!

I spy, Go fish, Boggle, Hang-man, grammar games

Bingo; Concentration; Jeopardy; Pictionary; Guess Who.

Variety of simple card games, Guess Who, versions of Who Am I?, scrabble and other such word games, I spy, I have been to Paris and bought, etc. Cluedo, Monopoly, Pictionary,

my younger students love playing go fish, I use sight word cards, or different picture cards to practice vocab including opposites, syn and ant, ect.

Dominoes – picture on one side of card, word on the other, so that players must be able to read the word and recognize the object in order to match Geo-Safari — a fun way to build receptive language and memorization. Downside – no oral communication required but can be modified to make that part of the requirements Board games – specifically for ESL and Speech and Language development (I’m at home and don’t remember the names of the games) – where the student spins or throws a dice and moves to a category, then players go around naming something in that category Scrabble junior

Guess who, 20 questions, I spy, Pictionary using specific words from the curriculum,

Too many to list.

In general, games that require a lot of language use. Games with knowledge gaps (where partners are trying to figure out information that only one of them has…).

Karuta Word-work in Read 180 15 language battleship Pronoun dice game cardstock card games past-tense squares verb tense fishing StarFall Tumblereaders (some items)

Rummikub, Sorry, memory games with a variety of vocab and pictures, Sumsky and Tensky (sort of go fish for adding practice), Hangman (for pronounciation, vocab, learning letters), Bingo (grammar structures, vocab), Talk Around (define a word without saying it and try to get another person to guess the word), Guess who (for descriptive vocab about people)

Bingo Memory Game Jeopardy Money games

Egg-spert ?Como se dice? team competitions oraciones divertidas perquacky

Vocabulary game that I’ve read about in books like Zero Prep and Perfect Pics; teacher posts pictures on the board, then students line up in teams with flyswatter. Teacher says a word, and students try to swat it with the flyswatter before opposing team does. Tic-tac-toe is good with Perfect Pics; Bingo is great but involves a lot of teacher prep. (Perfect Pics has a bingo template, but teacher has to spend HOURS making the bingo cards.) I also like to adapt for ESL the Spanish and French games I’ve found on the SUNY listserv, including ones that combine skill and luck, so that the same students don’t win all the time. After a student holds up the right card for a vocabulary game, he/she has to pull a stick out of a jar, and it might say swap, double, or forfeit so that all the team’s points might be lost or doubled.

Flash card games, powerpoint games using triggers to make them interactive, hangman, pictionary, charades, board games, relay games

online interactive games Greed for math study Zingo for newcomers

Go-Fish to teach alphabet letters/sounds or sight words; Chip-O; Bingo (for money, consonants, vocabulary, etc.)

Kim’s game Monoploy Matching activites Warmers and Introductory games with langauge focus

Twenty questions, the pyramid game, running dictation, Identify the Lie, Pair the joke and the answer from those posted on the wall, building up pictures on the board.

UNO, Skip-Bo, CandyLand, Chutes and Ladders, Memory, Go-fish (modified to whatever we’re studying), Flyswatter, generic game board with question spots/cards.

Linguisystems No Glamour language cards, Tic-Tac-Toe language games, Bingo, Go Fish, computer games, etc.

Jeopardy War with vocabulary – card game Pictionary Spelling games – students have to hold up alphabet cards – work in groups Relays – writing sentences on the board

Card games: Go Fish, Don’t Bug Me, Old Maid, etc. Lotto games with a variety of vocabulary themes For older students, Password For all ages, Pictionary type games

Go Fish using vocabulary words – ex. Do you have a chair? Concept / ABC sorting activity – The kids LOVE them, so they think of it like a game Sequencing puzzles


I enjoy online educational games, interactive whiteboard games, and language games from Linguisystems and Super Duper Publications


Go Fish, matching, scrabble, 20 questions,

Chunks, chunking words together. ABSeas, go fish, computer games, jeopardy.

Spellominoes, Scrabble Slam, Boggle, Scrabble, several Smartboard resources, (listed on my school computer) Language Egg Carton Games

Look who’s listening, blurt, 20 questions, crazy 8s (more basic than Uno), reading comprehension games, sentence building games

hangman, tic tac toe, I spy, what’s my job and other yes/no’s. Auction (incorrect and correct sentences). Spot the difference pairwork, half a crossword, re-ordering and saying based on pictures (teams), describe and draw/build, fortune teller role-play (with cards), other role plays. Pass the bomb

Password, Fact or Crap, Jeopardy, race type games involving dry erase boards, flyswatter game

Bingo, vocabulary jeopardy, Charades,

Envision Math Center Games

chinese whispers any game that involves being put into teams of 4 and vying for first place

What is wrong stimulus pictures, where the children have to describe the picture, what it is supposed to look like & how it is incorrect.

Spinner and dice games, communicative crosswords, barrier games. I find the BEST games are those that are relevant and meaningful to the classroom context. As a result I encourage teachers to make their own games. A website with ready made templates where teachers can input their own language structures and features would be most useful. e.g. www.puzzlemaker.com

Teacher made games Bingo, Card games, word games, scrabble, conversation games

Computer picture/word match for beginners Computer grammar Grammar and listening/speaking board games Bingo – various grammar applications

Card Games Computer Games involving Maths Language Concentration Bingo Matching

I have made cards for the fish game format for initial sounds (pictures of regular words starting with particular sounds), 100 most common sight words, verb tenses, homophones, unusual plurals and grammar terms. For a bit of variety we sometimes play memories with the pairs. The children never seem to tire of the game but for my own sanity I need a bit more variety.

board games related to reading a short selection and answering a question concerning details, main idea, predicting, etc computer/puzzle – matching letter, word, color to picture

Headway grammar website

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Parting Comments

151 Responses to the question Use the space below to add additional insights into the use of games in the English language learning classroom.

Provide a structure for the teachers to facilitate having students construct their own games

I think many students from other (that is, non-North American) cultures think that games are not serious learning. Even though I don’t think games are a waste of time, some of my students have mentioned this, as if to say, Why are we wasting our time with this? When will we get to the real learning? This is despite announcing at the start of the game the goals and what skills it practices. Many studens seem to have quite a dismissive attitude towards this kind of learning. This is why I don’t incorporate more games more often.

games is useful and encourage students to study a foreign language and make them not feel bore but have interest to study it.In other words,i think,it is good to use games at times to teach.

Play is a child’s work. The use of games engages the whole child and holds their attention better than paper pencil activities. Children learn through movement and activity. Games are essential tools for all teachers of young children.

Most games I have seen do not cater for the large class where poverty is the main. Classes are of 70 to 120 students are almost impossible to organize so games can be played to have a lasting affect on the students.

Millions of people. myself included have learned to speak English well – including millions of foreigners for whom English is a 2nd language – with no emphasis on the use of games. I am sick of people coming along wanting to ‘fix’ a proven educational process that has been in existence since education began, when it does not need ‘fixing’. It merely needs to be done well and it will continue to work well. I teach in the time-honoured way – students sitting quietly at desks in ranks and rows. I teach my students whether young or old very successfully and I hold their attention and respect by treating them firmly but fairly. I use lots of humour and I give them opportunity to express tgheir views even if they are primary school students. Inventing ‘new’ approaches and insisting that the best teaching methods involve the use of music, or games or art, self-expression, when for hundreds of years education has been successfully imparted in the ‘traditional’ way – is in my judgement a complete and utter waste of time. Please remove me from your mailing list as this is the second time I have had this survey thrust at me. Have a nice day!

games can be used as warm-ups or closing games to teach or to revise particular vocab. or piece of grammar.I use them in all these contexts. Games are very good not just for children, but also for adults. Some students even dont realize they are in a process of learning. Some of students say that the situational activities revise on their own at home, at work..etc. Which is great. I can only recommend this way of teaching other languages, because there are great results if you use appropriate game in appropriate time. You easily get the whole class to concentrate at a game rather than at grammar or vocabulary presentation. I use Oxford and Cambridge students books and I (and my students) am happy with the style of their materials.

I think that using games is a good way to involve everyone and make the learning aspect of the previous weeks lessons more relevant. I use games once every week to two weeks, especially during difficult or very boring concepts of English. Some of the verb tenses are especially useful in these circumstances.

Personally I think games should be an important part of an esl classroom but what matters most is the techers ability to use those games.Most games are not suitable for use in most class room context.So a good teacher should be able to pick out those games which work best in his/her classroom situation.

I think we should incorporate use of games in classrooms. But I don’t know where to get those commercial games for ESL. 🙁

I think by trying to alter your process of teaching you give students more exposure to a subject many do not already like. Students of all ages benefit by playing games that make them forget they are learning a new subject and words. You can invent or use many games to come up with ideas that you can use in your own classroom to improve the skill levels of your own students.

Humans are STORYTELLING creatures! When we WANT to tell stories in THEIR language, but haven’t the hooks, lines and sinkers to touch, move and inspire listeners in the target language, GAMES (structured word-play with predictable PLEASURABLE PAYOFFS) are an invaluable asset to the Second Language teacher… A language student’s obstacles and enemies are the boredom and frustration that come with repetition and practice, so it is almost criminal to deny learners access to a pleasant, enjoyable counter-balance to that boredom… I began my adult teaching career at age 20, teaching Korean to NATO and US adults at the Defense Language Institute, Monterey, CA. Thousands of hours of ESL teaching IN THE CLASSROOM have only served to strengthen my conviction that learning CAN AND SHOULD RIGHTLY BE FUN… Oh, and in your survey, RESOURCE should have one S and one C, instead of two S’s…

I am new to teaching abroad and am going through massive Culture Shock. My experience will be short (6 months), but while I’m here I want to make the best of my experience and do my best to teach the children. It would be great to informed of various games for varying levels to build my arsenal (so to speak.) Luc Lalonde [email protected]

I teach adults and mostly use games as an end-of-the-class stress relief/relaxation activity after a long and challenging TOEFL, TOEIC or IELTS test prep class.


I am all for using all kinds of tools and materials to accelerate language learning. I am a tutor and I am always looking to spice up each class and make it fun for the students. The level of my students is PP = Pre-production, so it is very difficult for them to put two and two together just yet. Is there anything, games, websites or otherwise that you recommend I use? Thanks

In my opinion, there are two types of games for children when teaching English, games that help them review what they’ve learned and games just for fun for them to relax before they learn more or finish class. Most of the time I choose not to use games unless they work hard. If its a favorite class of mine (because they like to work hard), I will be much more lax in my approach as I have more confidence in their ability and self discipline. This approach actually motivates them to learn more and in some cases they even teach each other! Teaching English is fun with the right students and the right attitude towards teaching.

games are useful for me – and my school, which includes a teacher training program – if they are truly communicative

i would do it if i could get a position……

I sometimes struggle in finding games that can help me revise the previously done topics. Also the specific grammar topics such as ‘going to’ or ‘past perfect’ etc. I would love to see something more specific to learner levels (CEFR levels) and topics which are coverred under them. so that I can prepare for a class with less efforts. you can write to me for specifications [email protected] Pra?

Certainly Teachers resort to use games in teaching 4 skills: -To have fun while learning. -To provide a context for meaningful communication. -To provide further practice of a wider variety of lexical & grammatical items. -To make sure that students will not forget the vocabulary words because it was done in an interesting way. -To encourage,teach,entertain and promote fluency. Teachers use games in different occasions: -as short warm-up activities at the beginning of the class. -There is extra time at the end of the lesson. -In the presentation-practice-production framework. -Use it as a way to revise and recycle previous taught material.

I consider a game to be an activity to enhance a lesson, not just to be used as a filler.

brain stroming: teacher should write the topic on the borad ans then ask the studnet one by one tell about it your ur opion any word or phrase, like school is topic then they will tell differnet opnion about it for exapmle school palce of learning, playing, motivation, adventure, fun like this way they have to speak in english and the will the languge. dialouge, make a pair of studnet and give them adialouge they have to prsent this is also very good way or leaning english . story telling: studnet will eplain the story for all in their own word , teacher should give them free hand where no tenstion og gr, voc like that thing so then improve their english. pictures, give the studnets any pictures and falsh card and they to narrate the story. i think these are the best way oe lang learning, and there are many other games .etc

Making resources that are useful in situations where the ability to copy is limited. would be greatly appreciated. Many people forget that most of the world doesn’t have easy access to a copy machine.

i often need to use different versions of the same game to suit my students learning behaviour as I teach at all levels and ages. Anything can be a game if you’re teaching a 7 year old! I like simple boardgames with outrageous and funny ways of using the target language (again, needs to be tuned for class) Adapted versions of old classics are great for lower levels. Card game rules can be confusing Textbook games can be dull Games that offer rewards work best. (sad but true!)

The games should be aimed at developing the vocabulary and optimal use of new words.They should develop a passion in the pupil to use different and apt usage of vocabulary at different times. It should be aimed to develop not only the language but also should be able to give a kind of recreation and rest for the brain and mind.

I personally feel that games are good fillers for boring lessons in the primary and Junior middle school field. Above those levels the interest slowly but steadily fades away and it is replaced by a greater hunger for teacher-student interaction and a thirst for information on western culture which is vastly unknown in this area of the world. Of course, the internet provides some of this but as the students mature and acquire more confidence in expressing themselves in a foreign language, they show a greater interest in talking face to face with a foreign teacher rather than playing childish games or looking at a screen.For what it’s worth….From China.


I teach small kids (6 years old) and everybody tells me that they will learn more through games. My believe is that they learn more through physical examples rather than games. It works in my class – but hey – ifgames work for somebody else – good for them. That is why everybody has his/her own style of teaching. The how you teach is not important for me – the getting of the correct result is the important issue.

We utilize dozens of CALL/MALL programs/games for all ages and in all styles. Card games (Go Fish) are great and easy to make (multiple prints of flash cards)….easy to augment current lesson(s). We also use non-English games (ex. Jenga) in tandem with flash card review (Let’s Go series, for example)…in order to spice up a review session.

Practice makes perfect! well designed games are fun ,so it can stimulate EFL or ESL learners.

My adults love games. Even if it is just a sorting activity, I call it a game. A game usually generates laughter, and if you can get the students to laugh, they are relaxed and it relieves tension. Games are excellent for review. I have customized a lot of games.

Games should not dominate class time, but should complement the instruction and serve as an aid to student motivation. Games can reach students who may not respond well to some other modes of learning. Finally, any game used in the language classroom needs to have clear relevance to the curriculum.

Interesting ideas for game making. Personally like to see students intercat with each other as oposed to using comuters all the time.

Schools use educational games within their programs however students sometimes think the game time is just a time to talk. It suits the purpose of testing to review as much as possible. Regular use of games can be good for review however if these review games are used too frequently and too structured they are not as interesting. It depends on what the game is. If students are noisy or disruptive the ‘game plan’ can go out the window and then a backup ‘study plan’ is useful. While students like games like hangman they are very simple and repetitive. Students can take the path of least resistance. Korean students seem to view play very differently to American students. IMHO the best use of games is as follows… A flexible part of the lesson A potential reward for work well done A quick one for an ice breaker or warm up (work should be done first at times, ideally). One planned for the end of the lesson in case the lesson finishes early. Destress time. When sleepiness or headaches come in games are useful. Students were noisy whenever the word ‘game’ was mentioned and also asked for them at the beginning of the lesson when I first came. They had their own ideas of the games they wanted however, these were the games that were easy and they knew well. To more commonly introduce common games from our home countries would be doing a service. The internet is a great resource. Adult games are a huge untapped resource. These ‘games’ or activities are interesting if they are challenging and unlike children’s games one has to be careful of the level.

I don’t think games are useful or NOT useful – it always depends on how the teacher integrates them into the learning task. An excellent game can be very poorly used and a not-so-useful game can be highly effective – depending on the teacher, the task at hand, the target language, etc. Games are not an end unto themselves.

I am not at all aware of where to get good games for the adult ESL classroom. I’d love to know!

You should differentiate between computer games and classroom games.

I donot use many games in my teaching style. Games can be useful if used in the proper environment. Especially games are a good tool to hold students’ attention or to bring their attention back to you and the classroom.

Every good learning process requires fun and action to be truly, deeply effective.

Games are the greatest teaching tool I know whether with Children, young adults or adult managers/executives in corporate training.

I think games are a very important part of teaching. I try to have a game activity in the final 15 minutes of a class so that students end by having fun and are allowed to freely produce language in a relaxed and fun environment

Play is an integral part of human nature. On this basis, games should not be shunned from the language classroom, but more opportunities to include them should be sought out. games should be integrated purposefully though, with clear learning goals in mind.

If you would like any proof about the effectiveness of games just check these testimonials: http://www.teachingenglishgames.com/testimonials.htm All provided by real teachers using games – the proof is in the pudding! People who think games are a waste of time don’t know how to use them properly. Bye for now a I look forward to your results. Kind regards Shelley Vernon

kids need visuals makes learning fun and exciting.

I understand how useful they can be in teaching. Since I only teach one student at a time, it is more challenging to find existing games that I can use. I ususally make up my own.

Games alleviate the boredom of doing written and spoken excercises, while able to test vocab, spelling and basic understanding of concepts currently taught i.e. they consolidate whatever has been (just) taught.

audio visual learning native speaker voices, authentic english high motivation for kids, discovering things, something for the eyes children learn computer skills

My favorite use of games in my upper-intermediate/advanced high school class of all-Arabic speakers is to get them to speak spontaneously in English. Group work rarely accomplishes oral production of English, as they are all from the same L1, but games are a fun way to push them a bit.

I have much more trouble using games with classes with behavior problems because they cannot stay on task in groups. It also takes a lot of time to make any games, which limits the games I can play with my students. I think games are great, but those are some of my challenges.

I feel that games need to be clearly integrated into lesson….i.e., they need to serve a distinct learning purpose just not a random activity or a ‘baby-sitting’ exercise used by teachers. So perhaps developing games as part of a learning sequence might more easily be picked up by teachers and use more, and with more confidentce.

Students in China have a lot of pressure on them when it comes to school. In my classroom, I like to let them have fun with songs and games and other things that they find interesting. When they are having fun, they forget to be shy, or nervous. Many children are scared to speak english to a foreigner, because China’s school system focuses on reading, writing, and grammar. My class is supposed to focus on improving their oral English Skills. The games help them have a break from the daily lesson. I usually begin the class by having a brief period of small-talk with each student, then we will work on the lesson. The lesson may be about cultures, or introductions etc. The lesson may have 4-5 sections. Between each section, I will have each student throw the sticky ball at the drawn dart board on the white board. Instead of numbers, they aim the sticky ball at game options, such as pirate poker, rhyme cards, Hangman, word scrambler, etc.

I do find that the activities have to suit the class’ general attitude and they’re all very different. You really have to be prepared and have back up material when you’re first trying new activities. Even a different spin on the same game works very well when adapted to the class level.

I make games mostly for my lower level students to review and apply topics, vocabulary or grammatical structures we have studied. I also use games to motivate students at the end of a long day or to fill a five to ten minute gap when starting new material would not be appropriate. I most appreciate the commercial materials that provide a game idea that I can apply in various ways to my own particular class. A book like Bridge the Gap by Ferrer and Werner is a book I can get a lot of use out of.

It’s not the game that is valuable in itself. It’s how it’s used. If students understand games’ roles in their learning, then they’re perfectly happy to use them, whether adults and otherwise. The decreased affective filters that games can engender — together with an understanding of a game’s value — can enhance acquisition of students’ learning. If the teacher is relaxed, prepared, confident, and learning-focused, then the students can trust more easily, take risks in the service of their learning, and incorporate learning more easily into their lives.

Games are great for kids. They make the lesson fun for the kids and for the teachers. Pictionary and hot seat are the most fun and easy. I think they are effective and that kids do learn from them. It might be better to save the games for the end of class, but this isn’t always so. You can use the games as a tool for classroom discipline by stating to the class that, every time someone misbehaves, you will take away a minute from the game at the end of class.

Define effective! Many games are effective in getting students to speak, relax and intereact, and many are effective in getting students to think about about a language problem. But how many are effective in getting students to produce English in a natural way, or in getting students to be better language learners. I am less than convinced that games are effective in producing something that is memorable and useful in the longterm. So, whta does the question mean by effective. Define quality in the ESL environment.

I believe that we should respect students’ learning styles and meet them where they are, rather than forcing on them what currently popular pedagogical theory says works. My adult students have all done well in the past and feel comfortable in an old-fashioned teacher-centered learning environment, so I provide that for them, although it’s more participative and humorous than what they probably experienced in their own countries. The ESL world has a maddening tendency to treat adult students as if they were children. This is probably because so many instructors enter adult ESL by way of primary education. Most of my students have had enough of teachers talking down to them, and you can see their point, when the ESL teacher tells a surgeon, an engineer or a nurse exactly what sorts of school supplies to buy, etc., as if they were 10 years old. These students see games as part of this whole complex of patronizing, denigrating behavior, so out of respect for them, I don’t usually use them. They told me they especially resented an instructor dividing a class into a boys against the girls game. Games are an inefficient way to learn if the students already speak English at work or during their regular day, so they don’t need the speaking practice games provide. The students don’t see most games as efficient use of their time, and I generally agree with them.

Great opportunity to practice language without the fear of making mistakes

I am aware that games are a usefulness tool in classes but our curriculum is too rigid and not always provides the opportunity to do this activity. However it is necesary in order to promote a relax moment wint the students.

My company Interacting www.interacting,info specialized in adapting theatre games to language learning. Most of our work in the games field is directed to teacher’s CPD and teachers get funding in Europe to attend such courses. Thanks for your enthusiasm. Back in 2002 we toured Japan with an Interactive theatre show titled Football Crazy and the British Council hosted our games workshops which were very well received.

To be effective games must have a language target and a point. They should never be used as a reward for doing other work. They should be structured so that use of the language does not impede gameplay. For smaller children, non-competitive or cooperative games are best. Older kids and adults like cometitive games.

the young children ruin their lives, Parents, and elders have either no control or ignore these. Western world ruining the valuable cultures of the world. Powerful countries like US / UK spark wars with the support or cartel manner with UN/WB/ADB. They are ruining world for their commercial gains. Through games, for different segments this should be inculcated.

Classes of 45+ mean that it is not possible to monitor (or hear) effectively so my observations may be skewed. I have no access to computers nor do my schools provide materials therefore most of my materials are self made or from ESL sites on the internet, it would be very helpful if those available on the interned had the facility to be adapted (some do, but not all) to suit the ability and vocabulary of my students. All of my classes include an ‘activity’, as this is completely alien to their normal teaching routine the teacher can be seen as ‘soft’. Some students don’t use the game as envisioned, although others settle down to use it as intended and bring joy to my heart – unfortunately, given the class sizes, I can’t give them the attention I would like to. Activity books, although well intentioned, live in an ideal world. The likelihood of them ‘discussing with your partner ….’ is nothing if not remote. I suppose they would be helpful with a class in which all the students wanted (underlined) to learn. Also ‘mingling’ games are not possible as there is no room to get up and move in the classroom. I do try to take the students outside when weather permits, but they can get so excited at this deviation from the norm that it can be chaotic Thank you for this opportunity

Games are fun during class and makes the time go faster but it can also deter the student’s ability to learn. They are useful when teaching in a form of a lecture does not appeal as an effective way of teaching.

Playing games brings the students together. They are forced to interact which gives them more practice is speaking English. In turn the students become more confident speakers and more at ease in the classroom.

Hi, This is Bob from eslhandouts.com. I hope you’ll find my anwers helpful. I also suggest that you add your website to my ESL directory at http://www.eslhandouts.com/wpdir/ This will help you promote it and possibly more people will take the survey! Best regards, Bob [email protected]


I tend to use Hangman to elicit a topic…not much more than that really. Ditto for anagrams. I sometimes find games online that are ESL specific…often ones that relate to a grammar point, that involve speaking and last ten minutes as a filler. Scrabble is something I have used with different groups in different settings….I find its good for vocab building, but this does rely on students being very pro-active in using the game

I hate word searches. Most esl computer games are restrictive and not very imaginative; they’re not worth the price.

A game is only as good as its focus. At times, the games I chose early on in my career had nothing to do with the focus of the lesson. People did use language and it seemed communicative – but the strategies that the students often used to play were not strategies that transferred outside of the classroom. I train my students to use games…for all levels; however, choose a game where they use language that you’ve taught them and will help build competence.

If the games and the way in which they are used are not tailored to promoted language use, many students question their use in the classroom, which I believe they should do. Students’ acceptance of games depends on the type of program. Games are not as often appropriate in academic settings; they’re more acceptable to students in adult education programs though.

Good luck on your study… Computers are wonderful things, but often times games have to be adapted for language, content or context… Autonomy is the way to go, allowing the learner to choose is very important in this society where you can be public in private, meaning you can be social though never leave your keyboard. Hasta Pronto! I will be following your progress! Luiza Collin Universidad Aut¢noma de Tamaulipas Centro de Lenguas y Ling¡stica Aplicada Coordinaci¢n de Formaci¢n de Profesores Cd. Victoria, Tamaulipas (834) 31 81800 ext. 2981 fax 2971

English language games to me are very significant because students find them interesting, challenging and above all without noticing it they learn new words and ask questions, they are interested. Games should be done when students are not paying attention or distracted or when they are daydreaming it’s a way to wake them up and get them into the teaching class again. Games in the English language can also be done half hour before school finishes. Students go home happy.


Seen a number of games that have been and are played by teachers that have very little learning value.

The teacher must be assured that the students are learning and applying the language correctly, not just having fun.

Games are for Teachers who don’t want to teach and have no concern for students. ESL students taught that learning is a game never learn or develop any real study skills. Games perpetuate students’ immaturity and lack of focus, inability to concentrate on details, and inability to think critically. Supposedly ingenious and innovative methods of merely entertaining students and keeping them occupied serve only to perpetuate students? fixation on and stagnation in the fast-forward phantasmagoria of contemporary culture. Lesson plans that play out like an MTV video or Nickelodeon game show serve only to continue the learning obstacles students bring to college. These methods keep students trapped in their inabilities to provide the attention and engage in the careful thought processes that learning requires. Students need the ability to focus intently and think critically for extended periods of time. Interestingly, while employed as an IELTS test preparation instructor at a National University in China, a professor visiting from one of the exchange program’s universities in the UK complained extensively that students they admitted from China were completely unprepared for academic environments, but my foreign teacher colleagues continually engaged students in Fun activities that merely kept the students occupied and did not include any advancement of English skills to the academic level, which was my focus. My students immediately began to earn higher scores on their IELTs exams while my colleagues students scores declined. Games are for poseurs who use teaching jobs to fund their vacations in foreign countries, or worse, get into the good graces of their students in order to exploit students.

I wasn’t sure how to answer some questions since there is such a variety of each type of game and a significant range in quality. For example, there are outstanding computer games and there are poor ones, too. With regards to general opinions about the the use/effectiveness of games, a lot depends on the context, including the class size, the students, their ages, group dynamics, expectations, beliefs, goals, course objectives, institutional and other stake-holder interests, so it’s rather difficult to generalise and when one does, it may mean painting with such a broad brush so as to make the answers irrelevant to any specific context. To give you a slightly clearer picture, I teach in the following contexts: 1) Kindergarten where students have about twenty, 20-25 minute classes a year with 17-30 students per class and their HRT; 2) JHS & HS where classes of 22-26 students have about thirty 50-minute classes a year with a focus on oral communication, presentation, video-making and extensive reading; 3) Private language & test preparation school with small classes of up to 10-12 highly motivated students aim to go to top universities in Japan or overseas; 4) A university with a content-based medical English course with 13-14 students per class that meets 13-14 times per semester for 90 minutes; 5) A university with a focus on developing students academic literacy & communication skills, including research, discussion & debate, and presentation of student selected/negotiated content on social, political, legal, and/or international issues. There are fourteen 90-minute classes per week with 24-26 students per class. As you can imagine, the nature of games and the degree of use varies considerably across these situations. Good luck with all your endeavours. Gaming and the use of games remains a fascinating area to explore and research!

I have not taught ESL for the last 20 years so I’m not sure my opinions are of much value now…games were not in-vogue when I was teaching ESL: 1967-1987

In general the use of games has been a once a month activity day in my home school, plus end of class activities to send the kids home on a good note. I like competitive games that challenge students to use their thinking skills, which is why computer games interest me a lot. However, I can only use them occasionally because of the lack of resources to provide computer access to more than one or two kids at a time.

Motivation. Any enjoyable activity (i.e. Game) will increase internal motivation to participate and as a result the student will be more inclined to seek other uses of the langauge to re-invoke that pleasurable interaction. Conversely, if the activity is not interesting, then the student will not actively attempt to repeat the situation. I teach many different levels and different ages.

You should include more questions about teaching situation in your survey. The student populations, their expectations, and institutional requirements have a big impact on curricula. I teach in Japan, so this is EFL, not ESL. Almost all my classes are at university. Universities vary considerably, but they generally prefer a focus on academic English, such as reading challenging texts, research and writing of essays. I teach other groups, such as children, occasionally. I tend to use more games with children.

For games to be used effectively there needs to be a clear purpose and direct relation to learning. As an EFL teacher/EFL teacher-trainer/Psychologist I consider games to be important, but usually see their use as distractions from, rather than attraction to, learning. From High School on, students themselves often don’t see any learning through games. The connection needs to be made clearer to the students.

I use more abstract and competitive games with younger learners, and more realistic activities with adults.

Games can be effective, but they cannot be relied upon. Too many teachers use them regularly as a reward for students therefore misunderstanding their purpose resulting in little effectiveness. It takes the right kind of teacher to know when and how to use games, which games will be effective for which kind of students, and the right time intervals in which games should be applied. There are too many of what we call here in Korea ‘edu-tainers’ in our industry. Teachers who are well-liked by the students, and subsequently the parents and staff at the school, simply because they play a lot of games. These teachers lack the sufficient knowledge and expertise to actually make a difference and bring about any improvement in their students’ English and it is sad that Korea is throwing away so much money on them. But, such is life, and I have to interview and hire these ‘jokers’ on a regular basis…

I taught for over 8 years in a foreign language high school in South Korea. The students found games a waste of time, except for the week after final exams, when they wanted to let their brains rest. The rest of the semester the students could not understand how playing games helped them to pass a university interview or write an essay. It all comes down to the motivational factors of the student.

Games are an excellent tool for learning and if introduced correctly are well received by adults as well as younger learners. Games usually involve repeated but purposeful language usage which enhances absorption and retention of vocab. Games relax learners and provide an atmosphere in which learners are willing to experiment without fear of looking foolish.

This survey seems to be biased towards activities that have students seated, but I like to get students up and moving around at least once during every class. It makes the class less static, energizes them, and frees them from the confinement of chairs, desks, and books.

Gaming is critical, but it needs to be part of task chain to review, rehash, practice the project or content being studied. We need adaptable gaming tools, for teachers to author, not ready-made games. There is a role for game books which give me ideas to apply to my situation.

Games are excellent for teaching children a love of the English language, but they are not sufficient for ensuring students pass an IELTs test or any other kind of respected national qualification.

Sorry, I’m out of touch these days but I always thought games were a wonderful way to learn. Best of luck!

computer game

Do you want to know about teachers teaching children, adults or both? Please be more specific.

I found that most games for ESL are quite lame. Only Phrazzle Me teaches structure of phrases and questions, vocabulary, keywords, encourages to write long, grammatically correct, sentences. It teaches and encourages to use connectors as well. Scrabble is great at teaching and encouraging the learning of vocabulary but doesn’t teach the rules of English like Phrazzle Me does: To be + ing To do and modal verbs + base form To have + past participle He, she and it + s I hope Phrazzle Me has started something new: Games that clearly work and teach while having fun. Marcelo Montecinos.

It is important to know the students and their personalities and learning styles when applying games to the classroom. Too often teachers use them as time fillers instead of having a particular purpose in mind when using them.

You can read about in my webpage (in Spanish, but samples in English): http://letsticenglish.wikispaces.com/ActividadesTIC

I often thought of teaching a class on game theory or how to incorporate games into self learning

In general, the quality needs to be better, ESP. In resource books. Easily accessible and adaptable.

This took a lot longer than the 3-4 minutes promised!

games offer a better perspective and understanding – students learn and help each other

I’ve done very little classroom teaching for awhile because I’ve been using myself as a student guinea pig in the Mandarin classroom, where very few games are played. I see the advantages of games as the following: they allow the students to learn, and solidify learning, drill and/or practice in a relaxed, non-threatening environment. There is also something of a TPR aspect to more movement in the classroom, and the change of pace can refresh students. Games are sometimes an avenue for shy students to express their individuality, and thus consolidate learning. Adults may resent time spent playing games.This may be countered by calling these practice activities. ( I heard a story where(Asian) parents were upset to hear their children were playing games in class, when they were paying tuition for English lessons, so the teacher renamed the activity). From my experience in the Mandarin class, plodding through textbooks and memorizing endless lists of disjointed vocabulary items in no particular order seems to be the current practice, and reading aloud is confused with speaking. I think games are needed to provide insight and a variety of approaches to any language topic, and also to allow review in an enjoyable fashion. I believe that one reason children learn languages more easily than adults is that they DO play games. Enjoyable activites increase the number of teachable moments for the learner.

I call games challenges and make sure to identify or get the students to identify the objectives of each game and relate it to what skills are being developed. Once they see the game is not just a ‘game’ they are totally pen to the use of games to reinforce their learning

English games are very useful as warmers, as fillers (before the bell rings and there are still extra minutes to consume), as weekend activity, as English Game Marathon at the end of a course or program, and learners of all age groups enjoy this. It eliminates uneasiness among the students and builds trust and harmonious relationship as well among the students in my class.

I love to use games to practice material taught in a unit as well as to review. It is a great learning experience when students can laugh and enjoy time with their classmates in a stress free game.

I feel that most teachers use games to fill time and entertain their students. Games need to have clear language learning benefits and, more importantly, adult learners need to know what those are. They are another form of practice, beyond stale worksheets, and they often create real needs for language (as with Apples to Apples).

I am involved in students in higher education, and those international students trying to enter tertiary institutes in Canada/USA. This academic orientation is a reason for the very limited use of games in my courses. I suspect that adult ESL students may see games in class as a waste of time, or ‘childish’. I may be wrong about this, but I guess that I would be more inclined to use games if the ‘learning payoff’ was clear and substantial for the students in my classes.

Boggle’s World has an extensive list of printable cards.

Games are very useful but you need to be careful that like when playing with friend, everybody gets a good chance to play and an equal chance, regardless of their linguistic skilss, to win. Games need to be introduced very carefully, and like with friends, need to played more than once. In this way, students can learn the rules and strategy, which in turn, leads to more reading and speaking… Card games are okay.. but do not have as much language required. In a perfect work, Talisman or Settlers of Catin for small groups of 5 to 6 would be great… but then, how much English would be used in a homogenius class…

see above

I find them very useful, and would like to be better at fitting them in to lessons at every level. Feedback rom students indicates that many remember playing games during lessons.

Good Luck.

Games are definitely a very useful teaching tool. However, teachers need to be aware of its limitations and possible pitfalls. For example, computer games may lead to adiction and eat up study time without students’ realization. Using games as a change or a treat in a formal classroom setting is a good idea. Homework in a game format is also effective. Just don’t overuse games.

No particular comment, but I have found games quite useful. However, the use of games entirely depedns upon the teaching setting as well as the personality of the instructor. Cheers

I don’t think much about using games, but it would probably be a good thing if I did.

Games are important for interacting and hardwiring information.

I like to use games to review and provide extra practice for my ELls in grades K-12.

Games like Bingo are often adapted or repurposed. A game, like World of War or Civilization, but designed from the ground up to teach, practice, and use language, would be great

Games that include music and or the use of complete sentences are very effective. Cloze readings and other reading/writing activities can be converted into game-like activities.

My field is academic English language support for students enrolled in tertiary degrees – a lot of my work is individual consultations based on particular assignment tasks. This gives me much less time to include games in my teaching than when I was a classroom ESL teacher. But there’s a very heavy vocab learning load for uni students, and I’m convinced that well-designed games around the AWL and subject-specific vocab could be very helpful as a self-study option/approach for my students.

Games can be tricky. I like to use them because the kids enjoy playing games. But I have found that games need to be used in smaller groups so that all the students are speaking and participating. I do not like to use games that include the whole class. There always seems to be a few students who are not involved.

I love using games in the classroom, and use them whenever possible. I could have students reading sentences to practice a grammatical structure, or I could have them playing Battleship on Paper where all they know is that they’re playing the game, not reading, speaking, and listening. Your survey mentions computer games, but I haven’t seen many computer games for ESL. I’ve seen some a few years ago, but the software was several operating systems ago, so I don’t have access to them any more. It would be nice to find an affordable web-based program accessible by kids in the K-12 realm.

Students revise irregular verbs: I say the infinitive of the verb, those students who know the form of past tense and past participle raise their hands. I throw the ball to one of them, they give both forms (past tense and past participle) and throwthe ball back to me.

I have taught ESL and Foreign language and the key thing is to get a teacher that is able to motivate and stimulate the students to learn and participate in the games and in the language. Removing barriers and providing a classroom that would allow cultural expression so that the students do not feel rejected or hindered when learning, practicing or speaking in the target language.

Your question about the usefulness of games is impossible to answer. It depends on whether the game chosen fits the goals of the class. One game might be perfect as a review or practice activity but totally useless in another class where it is too difficult and the students are not prepared. Games should fit the lesson as a form of practice, but should not be used as mere fillers, I believe. Also, with adults, I sometimes avoid the term game as it can be seen as demeaning for an adult who is paying a lot of money for a professional language teacher to merely play games. They may even get upset at a teacher who uses too many games in their lessons. In those cases, I prefer to call them a practice activity and state the language goal clearly.

I think having students create their own games is far more motivating and, usually, entails greater involvement in the process, rather than simply looking at the product.

I notice your website is from Canada, and I have noticed that English language material writers who are NOT from my country, the U.S., seem to have the most creative materials. Especially the Brits. Why? I don’t know. Because of the Back to Basics movement in the U.S.? I’m not sure, but I definitely have noticed it.

Most of the games produce random concepts/words, require too much American cultural information, or are just too complex for certain ages (k-12).

I design Jeopardy board games for grammar classes. Everything else is mainly for listening/Speaking classes. I have yet to use games for reading and writing classes.

I don’t know how to use games very well in the classroom to facilitate language learning. But, I think it could be a fun and effective way to teach if I had more resources and if I was taught how to use games in the classroom.

I find games highly effective in the classroom. They serve to support much of the material and are invaluable in engaging and motivating students. I am still undecided as to whether games on their own support standard curricular objectives.

I find that games help people talk when they might otherwise feel shy. They provide a structure that allows me to direct the kind of talk. They permit students to try out different English structures in a controlled setting. They can be as competitive or collaborative as I feel is good for the particular group. They often relax people which allows more learning to happen.

students young & old like to have fun in learning. If you can present material and then have them practice it in games, they will learn it better.

Adults need to be playful sometimes. Charades or swat the word games get their bodies moving and renew energy. Also, language should involve a playful, risk-taking element. People who like language (including monolinguals interested in their own language) tend to play games like crossword puzzles because they’re just fascinated by words. This tendency should be encouraged.

Games should be an integral part of every language classroom, be it for adults or children alike. They can be used to introduce, practice and reinforce language learned. But there does need to be a balance, that games are not the sole, nor necessarily the main activity in a lesson as all play and no work does not make for a pedagogically sound environment.

I find games a very helpful way to encourage the quieter student to speak out. Once they have gotten comfortable in a game-like situation, they are more likely to speak in spontaneous conversation. I also create games that practice Do you have…? and Is it…? to help students get comfortable with those sentence types.

Only as effective as the teacher who introduces, models, facilitates and sometimes creates

I have difficulty using games – probably a dour personality. I find it easier to inject humour on an ad hoc basis – although I am constantly told that games work, hear the laughter from classes where they are using games, and admire teachers who can use them effectively. Games/activities always seem to take longer than the resource books say, and sometimes they fall flat when I try them the first time, while other times, I am surprised how much life they inject.

Games are a great way to motivate learning and help students with English language skills. I use many games in my classroom to help students acquire grammar rules, sentence structure, vocabulary, parts of speech, etc. The only missing link to using games is the assessment part.

I am retired now, and I tutor students using the same games I used in the classroom. I find that playing a game is the best way to elicit oral English and to augment the students’ vocabulary — all in a non-stressful way. I start young students with Go Fish using animal cards, and by the time they are in upper grades, I can use Go Fish games with grammar points, i.e. the 3 tenses of irregular verbs for instance.

make them more affordable!

Games make the classroom more exciting for the students. They are more willing to participate and become fully engaged when you use games.

I would be interested in more games involving actions. Info to be projected rather than photocopied might also add more variety and challenge (simple computer type, ex OHP), could also include instructions in the form of a video of people playing the game as a demo.

Games are a fun learning tool for both children and adults, if used correctly. In other words, they must have some relevance to what is currently being studied. They are also a quick assessment/review tool to see how the students have grasped the material being covered.

A teacher needs games to spice things up and get the adrenaline going. Students appear to like it when you cast the present work aside and say let’s have a game!

Any activity – be it a game or any method to stimulate appropriate language is essential in ESL. I tend to use any resiurce that encourages and enhances taling – usually slef made. I do not have access to computers & often need to have resources on hand. A list of suitable websites might enocurage me to borrow the school laptops but I do not have time to trawl through a miriad of sites/resources.

I don’t know of many commercial ESL games.

When using games the learner does not feel as if they are being judged. It is a game , however the use of language may differ to accommodate the needs of the group playing.Talking/listening is such an important aspect of language acquisition from which writing and reading follow. I have for many years had to change and modify commercial games and computer games to suit the needs of the learners or make my own…it would be wonderful to have some ready made ESL games to use.

Because I keep the same format of the Fish game, the focus can be on the new words or concept. It is seen as a reward for after we have written a sentence(s) or whatever ‘task’ we are doing. If you are able to give feedback of what has worked well for others or to give us links to discussion groups or resources that would be great. Being an ESL teacher in a small country town is a fairly lonely task.

The students do not realize that games are learning situations. They use various strategies and metacognition without worrying about a grade.

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Catalyst: Sample Content

The How-to section of the Instruction Booklet that comes with Truth or Dare for English Language Learners is excerpted from a work-in-progress called variously “Conversation Dynamics,” “Catalyst ESL/EFL Handbook” or more typically, just “The Book”. The title is also a work-in-progress.

Following remarks made on the TESL-L Listserve on the topic of using word associations as a source for student-centered, communication-enabled, hyper-hyphenated conversation topics a number of list participants requested more details.

For that reason I’m including a selection of pages from “The Book” which can be downloaded as a PDF below.

Please note that this very much a work-in-progress and is most definitely going to change in the coming weeks. A number of security measures have been implemented including the disabling of printing and copying in an effort to protect my interests as copyright holder in the work. Feel free to try out the techniques described therein in your own day-to-day teaching but please respect the copyright of the work by refraining from attempting to circumvent these security features.

Feel free to leave comments, suggestions, rants or observations through the commenting feature of this Blog or take it back to TESL-L for a wider discussion.

I will be looking for testers once Beta testing commences later this spring so those hoping to get a more comprehensive look at the approach should send me an e-mail through this site.

Catalyst: Sample Content

“No” Means “Yes,” Maybe

Yes/No Questions can be a showstopper in the communicative classroom especially with lower-level students.  When confronted with a question like “Do you have a cat?” many will answer a simple “No” and leave the conversation hanging. The reason is simple: they haven’t sorted out what the expectations are yet. As often as not, they come from cultures that still ascribe to the empty vessel notion of teaching. This discredited idea may have  been repetitively reinforced over a dozen or more years by 60 or more teachers so in their minds, normal learning ought to be a very one-sided, top-down affair. Spend some time making it clear that a simple yes or no is not enough. Work through a few examples so that students come to understand that they are expected to give more, taking their response to two, three and many more levels.  So while yes or no is not enough with a question like “Do you have a cat?” The following would be acceptable responses.

  • No, I don’t but I have a dog.  She’s a beagle.  Her name is Snoopy….
  • No, I don’t but I did when I was a child.  She was gray….
  • No, I don’t but I have many fish. My favourite is called “Goldie”….

Of course students need to understand that they can carry their answers much further. Students also need to understand that communication works in two directions in the class as on the street. So in a pairwork situation both partners are equally responsible for the roles of interrogator and responder. Set aside time to practice ending an answer with a question. So in the case of the above examples, summing up with something like “How about you, do you have any pets?” would be ideal. The roles are reversed, the clock is reset and conversation goes on: Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.

Real Communication

The whole point of Truth or Dare for English Language Learners is real communication: gameplay demands it. Gameplay provides the incentive and structure that encourages language learners to share self-generated anecdotes and personal insights. Many homemade or freely-available games are really thinly disguised behavioral-structural drills. Pick up a card, move to a square and fill in the blank with the target du jour. This may arguably have a place in the language classroom but Truth or Dare for English Language Learners remains the antithesis of such mechanistic teaching.

Topics by Association

If you’ve ever taught a bona fide conversation course you’ve probably done this. You roll into class armed with a killer topic, fling it out there without a whole lot of prep because you know it’s foolproof. Then it shudders to a stop — dead! — right there in front of everybody. A few throats clear, some students squirm, mumble even, but the topic is roadkill. So what happened? An ill-wind driving bad feng shui? Sunspots? Monosodium glutamate?

At other times quite the opposite happens. Somehow a topic materializes out of nowhere. As a topic, it’s nothing special but the students grab it, hang on and roll with it. Discussion is animated, punctuated with laughter and carries on even outside after the class. You scratch your head, mystified, but grateful nonetheless.

A popular buzzword in teaching circles these days is “student-centered learning”. Surprisingly the term was coined in 1905 [O’Neill and McMahon; 2005] but that’s neither here nor there. The important point is that the concept is often at the heart of both sessions that soar and those that fall flat. When as a teacher you happen upon a topic that causes your heart to pitter-patter, there’s no guarantee that students will have the same reaction. I’ve had many students ask me why teachers all seem to want to talk about abortion or capital punishment or euthanasia or some other hot button topic. I usually do my best to explain that the answer lies in many of the materials published in both print and online that put forth such topics.

What really is going on in these two scenarios is a failure to communicate. In both scenarios empathy is lacking, impaired by a cultural gap, a generation gap, a power gap or a combination of all three. The top-down or teacher-centered process by which topics are doled out is seriously flawed, frequently incapable of bridging these gaps between the roles of student and teacher.

Empathy fails less often in Truth or Dare for English-language Learners [TOD] by design. TOD has a built-in mechanism for generating topics of high interest to participants. I call it Catalyst and a workbook by that name is in the works. Instead of handing students preconfigured questions, topics are student-generated through the mechanism of word associations. Like many revolutionary ideas, the beauty of this mechanism is in its simplicity. When a participant draws a Truth Card they’ll find a one- or two-word prompt. This is typically a broad-based lexical item that will resonate one way or another with just about every player from false beginners and up. Let’s look at an example.

Suppose a student from Japan, a snowboarding enthusiast, draws a prompt card from the Truth deck that says simply “Snow”. For her it will spawn many memories but might provoke a particularly strong recollection of a close call in a blizzard with an avalanche.

A student from Dubai, drawing the same card, might be momentarily baffled. Having already learned through exercises detailed in the TOD Instruction Guide that a negative experience is still an experience he’ll recover his momentary imbalance by mentioning that he’s never seen snow before but would like to. He adds that he has seen snow on TV of course and imagines it’s like the sandstorms back home. With that he’s on familiar territory, able to proceed in nearly any direction.

A student from Québec might have an entirely different take on snow, something involving a snow shovel no doubt.

Ideally, in the ebb and flow of gameplay, all three will share their unique, highly personal “truths” about the topic at hand.

The important point here is that the top-down gaps never enter the picture yet topics arise and conversation occurs precisely because the real topic of discussion is ME, everybody’s favourite topic.

Banter, Yes, but Hardly Idle

When you first started teaching you probably hit on the idea of using old favourites like Monopoly or Clue or Trivial Pursuits in the classroom. After all, the banter that goes along with gameplay seems to mesh ideally with your role in the classroom. You set it up and the students dutifully played along, making nary a peep for much of the class. Counting off [one, two, three…] or passing the dice with a curt “Your turn” were about the extent of productive output. Some students may have even wondered aloud why they were playing silly games when they came to school to study. With that you realized why those games were covered with dust, piled high in a back corner of the resource room.

So what went wrong?
Engaging gameplay is one thing but what really makes a commercial tabletop game work is the idle banter that accompanies it. As satisfying as crushing your opponents in the heady real estate market of Atlantic City might be, what really keeps people coming back is the opportunity to socialize and interact in a completely relaxing setting. Fun derives not from the mechanics of gameplay; rather as a by-product. When language learners are tasked with commercial analog games too often the demands of gameplay AND interaction are too much so they concentrate on the easiest element, joylessly.

How is Truth or Dare Different?
Banter is not simply a by-product of Truth or Dare for English Language Learners: it’s the whole point. Built right into the mechanics of gameplay is the need for discourse: exposition and interrogation and interaction and, well… yeah… a whole lot of fun.

That’s how we put banter back in the box.

Them’s the Breaks…

If your school only has one class set of Truth or Dare for English Language Learners make sure you book the game early through your materials department as you can expect demand to be red hot just prior to important holiday breaks like Xmas and Spring or Summer Break.

Black & White and Green All Over

With its bright, colorful graphics, it may be hard to tell at first glance but Truth or Dare for English Language Learners is actually green through and through. Both the game box and the spinner board are made with 100% post-consumer recycled fibre. The 24-page instruction booklet, the cards, the card boxes and the wrap are all a minimum 50% post-consumer fibre. The exact amount varies depending on sourcing at the manufacturing end.

Reduced impact is integral to other aspects of the design as well. Most games are designed to appear large on retail shelves to aid in merchandising the product. With a more compact design Truth or Dare for English Language Learners uses less materials overall even though game components are full-sized. Energy use at the shipping end is reduced as well.

The small footprint [19 x 19 x 3.2 cm; 7.5 x 7.5 x 1.3 inches] was also born out of a practical consideration for teachers who may need to lug several copies to the classroom depending on the class size.

Unlike with most retail products these days, we left the shrink wrap off. The outer finish is designed to be scuff-resistant, negating a need for that extra layer. We employed tighter standards to make sure the box top and bottom stay together. As a bonus, when browsing Truth or Dare for English Language Learners in a retail setting, you can view the contents first hand.

With durability built in, Truth or Dare for English Language Learners can be used and reused, over and over again. When it does eventually wear out, be assured, the whole thing is 100% recyclable.

Truth or Dare in Many Languages

The truth or dare of your youth is a game with nearly universal appeal. The reason is simple. More than just a pajama-party diversion, gameplay allows young people, just as their bodies are undergoing the hormonal shift into adulthood, a chance to explore topics that are often considered taboo in the wider society. Within the secure zone of their peer group and fortified with the loophole afforded by the “dare” element, participants are freed to broach topics that might be subject to censure in other contexts.

Truth or Dare for English Language Learners employs a wider topical range, of course, but still leverages for the classroom, those elements of traditional gameplay that make truth or dare a powerful communication tool.

Below is a list of nearly identical games from many corners of the globe. If you know of parallel games in other languages send us an e-mail and we’ll add them to the list. If you notice any incorrect info drop us a line as well so we can right that folly.

Language Game Name Transcription Literal Translation
Mandarin Chinese 真心話大冒險 zhēnxīnhuà dàmàoxiǎn Truth or Risk
Japanese 真実ゲーム 
shinjitsu ge-mu or
oosama ge-mu
Truth game or
King game
Korean 진실게임 jinsil geim Truth game
Russian Истины или осмеливается Truth or Dare
Finnish Totuus vai tehtävä Truth or Task
Swedish sanning eller
Truth or Impact
German Wahrheit oder Pflicht Truth or Duty
Dutch waarheid of uitdaging Truth or Challenge
French action ou verité Action or Truth
Italian vero o falso Truth or Falsehood
Portuguese verdade ou desafio Truth or Challenge
Spanish Juego de la botella The Bottle Game
Mexican Spanish verdad o mentira Truth or Lie
Turkish doğruluk mu cesaret mi Dare to face the truth
Arabic الحقيقة او يجرؤ Truth or Dare
Farsi شاه دزد Shah Dozd King Thief Game
Hebrew אמת או חובה Truth or Duty

The Tower of Babel
by Pieter Bruegel the Elder
Year circa 1563

tower of babel

We Learn…

We Learn…
10% of what we read
20% of what we hear
30% of what we see
50% of what we see and hear
70% of what we discuss
80% of what we experience
95% of what we teach others.

–Though often ascribed to William Glasser this quote was probably somehow derived from the many learning pyramids out there that were in themselves derived one way or another from Edgar Dale’s “Cone of Experience;” 1946. Dale did not ascribe numerical values to different learning modalities. These were added in the sixties by some hack in the Texas oil industry.


Games may therefore provide a context for apprenticeship in the use of language in ‘protected’ and ‘semi-authentic’ settings.

–Serious Games in Language Learning and Teaching – A Theoretical Perspective
by Birgitte Holm Sørensen and Bente Meyer The Danish University of Education

Speekeezy Publication Workshop