What makes a good ESL game?

Over the last couple months Off2Class has been developing our own ESL Games to pair with our library of lesson content.

While planning our first foray into ESL games we’ve done lots of research. We’ve chatted with ESL content creators, game developers and of course the dedicated base of teachers that use Off2Class to teach their ESL lessons. At some point through this research we decided to document our thoughts on what makes a good ESL game. Here’s our list!


First a bit of background on the teachers that use Off2Class…good-ESL-game

Many teachers that use Off2Class provide private tuition to ESL students either online or in-person. Often these are one-on-one lessons or small group lessons. So, when assessing what makes a good ESL game we are specifically considering ESL games that can be played in private one-on-one lessons (either in-person or online).

What makes a good ESL game?

1. A good ESL game needs to be participatory 

If you’re playing a game in a private ESL lesson the game needs to be participatory (i.e. participatory between the teacher and the student). The teacher simply sitting back and watching the student play a single-player game doesn’t capture the dynamic of the one-on-one teacher/student relationship. The teacher needs to have an active role in playing the game. This is not to say the teacher and student need to be playing against each other. The teacher can still maintain his or her role as a coach. For example, in a Jeopardy style game the teacher needs to assess whether the student’s answers meet the answer key (often up to interpretation).

2. A good ESL game needs to provide gap analysis 

If you’re going to be playing a game with your student it should link to the ESL content or curriculum that you’ve been tackling. This way, you can use the game as a form of informal assessment to determine whether your student has grasped the target language you’ve been working on. Unfortunately, I don’t have a great example of games that are linked to a content base or curriculum!

3. And finally, the most important thing…

A game needs to be fun! There’s no sense in playing an ESL game with your students if it’s not fun. Of course, the definition of what’s fun will be different depending on the age of your students and their learning level. You can read a bit about my favourite sites for good ESL games here.

So this is the criteria we are using to develop our own online ESL games for Off2Class. They’ll be fully linked to to our ESL content base and you’ll be able to use the games as an informal assessment tool with your students. And most importantly we promise they’ll be fun…

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