Ways to Incorporate Games into Your English Learning

The use of games can encourage enjoyment and social interaction for English Language Learners (ELLs).

A Registered Psychologist and an educator with over 30 years of experience working with individuals with a variety of learning needs. She has taught at the junior and senior high school level and has been an educational consultant for the past 18 years. She is also an English as a Second Language specialist and has her TESOL Level 1 designation.

Over 30 years of experience and accomplishments with students and teachers in elementary, junior and high schools, teaching in the classroom as well as leading, guiding and instructional coaching in a variety of settings. She is an English As a Second Language Specialist, has her TESOL Level 1 designation and currently continues to enjoy teaching adults English at the University level.

Middle and Upper Grade Learners 

Research shows that game-based learning has the capacity to motivate students, activate knowledge, and enhance critical thinking capacities (McClarty et al, 2012). The use of games can encourage enjoyment and social interaction for English Language Learners (ELLs). These interactions can foster the development of conversational and academic language. Participating in games and solving puzzles, helps to motivate, build critical thinking skills and activate knowledge. 

Cooperative groups are an important way to get students to work together. Cooperative games stimulate conversation and promote positive relationships.  

Board Games: 

Research shows that game-based learning has the capacity to motivate students, activate knowledge, and enhance critical thinking capacities (McClarty et al, 2012). The use of games can encourage enjoyment and social interaction for English Language Learners (ELLs). These interactions can foster the development of conversational and academic language. Participating in games and solving puzzles, helps to motivate, build critical thinking skills and activate knowledge. 

Cooperative groups are an important way to get students to work together. Cooperative games stimulate conversation and promote positive relationships.  

Board Games: 

DIXIT is a guessing game in which players select from a series of cards with images. The game begins with each player drawing six cards. Then, one player serves as the storyteller. The storyteller examines their six cards, then chooses one of the cards and creates a sentence that describes the image on their card. It is critical that the storyteller does not describe the card too accurately but instead constructs a sentence that leaves room for interpretation. 

Scattergories  is a word game where players score points by naming objects within a set of categories, given an initial letter, within a time limit. 

Apples to Apples  is another word game that has two decks of cards (things and descriptors). A description card is drawn and then the other players have to choose a “thing” card in their hand that best matches the description card and then defend their answer.  

The Resistance is a social deduction game. In this game, the players all work toward a common goal; however, one or several players work to conspire against the group. The language and communication aspects of the game revolve around players trying to convince one another who is a villain and who is a hero. 

Virtual Games:  

Activate is an interactive gaming platform rooted in civic participation. Activate coaches players toward positive community engagement within their communities. 

Planet Hunters TESS invites users to engage in purposeful space exploration. Players navigate space using data captured by the NASA space telescope Kepler via collaborative star quests, with the goal of discovering new extrasolar planets. Brief tutorials with visual supports, opportunities for collaborative conversation, and links to resources for building background knowledge help you to develop your English Language skills.  

Foldit allows players to work alongside actual scientists to test out ways to solve for unknowns in protein structure and design. Each move within the game translates to real-time research. Players accumulate points for correctly manipulating strands of amino acids. Foldit has led to important advances in treating HIV/AIDS, cancer, and Alzheimer’s. Recommended grades: 9–12. There are embedded supports such as: labeled imagery, modeled practice, class chat, video supports, and hands-on engagement. 

Quizlet  provides various ways for ELLs to learn vocabulary words (flash cards, matching, embedding images, etc.).  It does not replace vocabulary instruction; it simply augments it. 

Minecraft is great for language learning, creative writing and world history. Currently, there are three versions of the game and choosing the best version for you is mostly a matter of what you want to learn.