Tips for Getting Students to Play Games and Learn This Summer

In many countries, students are taking a break for the summer. Yes, we want our students to enjoy their time away from classes, however, we don’t want them to lose the language they’ve acquired. Learning a language requires continuous practice and the best practice is always outside the classroom within a context. One way to motivate students to practice their English in a fun way is to get them to do it while they play! I can guarantee you that every one of your students will find time to play this summer, online and offline! The trick is getting your students to use English while playing their games. These ideas have helped me motivate my students to play games outside the classroom.

Find Out Your Students’ Gaming Habits

Use one of your class discussions to explore your students’ gaming habits. Have them break up in groups or pairs and discuss how much time a week and month they spend playing games, if these games are offline or online, what devices they play on, if they play online games, and what kind of games they like to play. Some of your students will love word games, others may like war games, and others make like active games. Some of your students will prefer playing outdoors and others will be glued to their PS3s or mobile phones. Take a poll to find out how many play games using technology and how many still play outdoor games or board games. This will be an interesting lesson that sparks a lot of discussion, while revealing how you might be able to integrate language learning into your students’ gaming habits. If you collaborate with classes in another country, you can compare results with this class and discuss the cultural and societal differences.

Engage Parents

Conduct a parent workshop to teach parents how to help their children play the games and reinforce the language at home. I invite parents to a free workshop where I serve delicious snacks so they will come. Then we talk about their concerns with their children using various technologies and we talk about how I will use technology to encourage their children to practice English. I ask them to sign permission slips and Acceptable Use Policies. I ask for their ideas of games their children like to play and what games they play with their children offline. We then talk about various ways they can play with the children online and offline and use English. To encourage them to use these ideas, I have them listed in my Children’s Wiki by theme. I also tell parents that I would like their children to blog about their game play or post on a social site (if they are teens) to encourage them to continue playing the game. After all, children love to tell their friends what they are up to and what games they are playing.

Encourage Game Play for Young Learners

Parents are very important in motivating very young children to play games. I suggest to parents various board games, card games, jump rope games, clapping games, travel games, and more ways to play and use English. The parents find these games listed in my English Story Time wiki accompanied by any videos I find that will demonstrate how to play the game. For those who do not access the wiki, I list them in a letter I send home and email the games to the parents. The parents also let me know what games they already play with their children and we talk about ways to introduce some English into these games. If your students have access to the Internet, students are able to play online games you suggest in a wiki, blog or website. Moreover, in a wiki or blog, the parents can automatically receive updates to their email accounts.

Encourage Game Play for Teens

If your students have access to the Internet, students are able to practice English in a fun way through online games. They can play the games you suggest in a wiki, blog, website, or social forum. I prefer social forums such as Edmodo, Facebook, or Twitter. The trick is finding what social networks your students are already active on and creating a private, safe group. If you work with teenagers, then you can have them create a private Facebook group where they update their status, post their scores, write notes about tricks they learned for certain levels, and overall what games they recommend others play. You can easily and quickly add your gaming suggestions, interesting articles about the games, tips you find, or walkthroughs that will encourage your students to read in English and apply the language to their game playing. Also, you can list links to polls and encourage them to post pics of levels they reach and so forth. You can have them chat with each other when they need help from another student about the various levels they are playing and how to pass them. Language is social and helps in getting your students interested in speaking English through their game playing.

Encourage Game Play for Adults

Adults also play games. They often love games such as Scrabble, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, or Bingo. Encourage the adults to host a weekly game night where they try playing English games such as charades, Apples to Apples, Clue, Taboo, Family Feud, Twister, Monopoly, or other English language games with the family. In this way, you also support family time or time with friends and many of the adults will thank you for this. Many will also play games on their mobile devices. Words with Friends is a great free app for the iPhone and Android that is like Scrabble but has a chat feature to make it social. If your language learners love language games, then you may also want to check out the ESL-Library’s Thematic Activities Book, which eases learners into their new language through the use of illustrations and popular word games.

Other related articles:

Learning Beyond Walls- Games and Wikis!
Let’s Play! 20+ Sites for Young Learners

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Leave a Comment ↓

  1. ESL Library Staff says:

    Jun 16, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    Thanks Terri. You could try posting this suggestion on our Facebook page:



    Terri Reh says:

    Jun 15, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    I would be willing to set uo Twiducate with my class and anyone else and they can chat. We are in Colorado, USA. BUT we are third grade, so keep that in mind.

    Or we can schedule a couple of back channels on Today’s Meet. My kids love to do that also.



    Tara Benwell says:

    Jun 14, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    Hi Beatriz,
    Are you a member of ESL-Library? You may want to try our Discussion Starter series. Many of these topics are of interest to teenagers. If you’re not a member, try the sample first.

    Also, watch our blog for the Something to Talk About posts:

    Sorry to hear you have had trouble with your mail. Did you order Word Up from ESL-Library?



    Beatriz Mares says:

    Jun 13, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    Thanks for your information. However I need some suggestions for EFL, I teach hign school students in Mexico. It´s very difficult to have then speak in English in the classroom so I have no idea how to have them chat on the web in Enlgish. Also, I have problems finding English board games in Mexico – it’s a town away from large cities and many don’t have PC’s or cyber cafe. I’v tried ordering throu mail but they never arrived. I’m in need of ideas.



    Tara Benwell says:

    May 31, 2011 at 3:08 pm

    Hey Shelly!
    Thanks for the post about playing games throughout the summer! Do you ever play Bananagrams with your students? What about Boggle? Skipping is also a fun way to play and practise English. Before school lets out, teach your young learners some fun skipping songs from your own childhood!


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