It’s that time of year for my annual list of the best online learning games. In order to make it on this list, games had to:
* be accessible to English Language Learners.
* provide exceptionally engaging content.
* not provide access to other non-educational games on their site, though there is one on this list that doesn’t quite meet this particular criteria.
* be seen by me during 2010. So they might have been around prior to this time, but I’m still counting them in this year’s list.
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Ordinarily, I rank the games on this list, and I have a larger number. However, I have to say that, thought there are some nice games here, I was less-than-impressed with this year’s “crop.” So I’m not going to list them in any order of preference. Let me know if you think I’m being too harsh.
Here are my choices for The Best Online Learning Games — 2010:
Enchanted Palace is a pretty neat and accessible game that helps players learn about the history of Kensington Palace in England. Even if students are not interested in English history, it provides engaging English language-learning opportunities.
Whack Attack is a game from the BBC that tests knowledge on Math, English or Science. It’s probably accessible to Intermediate English Language Learners. The questions are good, though the game is a little weird. You’re given three answer choices. Each answer is color-coded, and in order to choose an answer, you have to “whack” the correctly-colored figure that keeps popping up.
In2English is, I think, the BBC site to assist Chinese speakers learn English. Most of the activities there, though, are also accessible to any other English Language Learners. I especially liked their games section, called English For Fun.
If you’ve ever wanted to be a dragon, Choice of the Dragon is the game for you. You get to be one — as nice or as mean as you want! It’s “choose your own adventure game” and makes for very engaging reading. I wouldn’t say the content is particularly educational, but reading is learning! It’s accessible to Intermediate ELL’s.
Man vs. The Wild is another “choose your own adventure game” and it comes from the Discovery Network.
Darwin’s Footsteps is a very simple and interactive game about Charles Darwin and his discoveries. It’s accessible to Early Intermediate English Language Learners.
Grace’s Diary is a “point-and-click” game about teen dating violence. There’s no audio support for the text, but it’s fairly simple language. It’s an opportunity for ELL’s to learn a little more English and learn a bit about an issue they or their friends might be facing.
Jeopardy Labs lets teachers and students create their own online games of Jeopardy. No registration is required, and each game has its own unique url address. Most other apps to create Jeopardy games require a software download, which makes Jeopardy Labs really stand-out since none is required.
Only Connect is a BBC game show that also has an online site. There are sixteen squares with words on each one. The player needs to use the words to create four categories of four words each. It’s a great game that helps develop the higher-order thinking skill of categorization. The online game is too difficult for all but advanced English Language Learners, plus you only get three minutes to complete it. However, the idea is a wonderful one for the English Language Learner classroom (and even mainstream ones, too). Students can create their own, and then can exchange their creations with a classmate, who in turn can try to solve them. All students need is to make sixteen boxes on their paper.
Headline Clues from Michigan State University also fits into the category of an online game that might be difficult for all but advanced English Language Learners, but is a great idea that can be adapted for using in the classroom with paper and pen. In the game, you’re shown the lead paragraph, but letters from two words in the headline are missing. Players have to use clues in the first paragraph to identify what the missing words should be. As you play the online version, you can ask for clues. One of the great things about using this game in the classroom is that students can create their own and have classmates trying to figure out the answers, as well as giving them clues if needed.
Feedback is welcome.