Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

I’m Looking For Research On Using Games To Teach ESL/EFL


Can you help me out?

I’m looking for the best research out there showing the effectiveness of using games (classroom or online) in teaching English Language Learners.

If you have some suggestions, please leave them in the comments section of this post.


Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.


  1. Hi Harry,

    I’ve been using the free apps from the website and loved the Fling the teacher game.
    A multiple choice kind of game that lets you review the essentials from the past lesson. It also works offline. I also used the space invader game that used to be free. A great warm up that students love. Not the latest app available but nice.

  2. Larry, try researching the concept of Constructionism, Seymour Papert and Idit Harel, Globaloria. While it’s no English as a second language, it is using the building of games to learn computer programming and content, specifically STEM related subjects. But I think its directly applicable about ELL, for example, building a game about a ELL concept.

  3. Hi Larry,
    I use games in my teaching and I can assure you they work.
    You can find material about games in my blog above.
    You can find a lot of experiences by clicking on the labels about games.
    On post #259 you can find a list of more than 100 games that have proved to work good. They’re sorted out according to a increasing level of difficulty or level or challenge. They include from TPR to spelling, vocabulary, sentence constructing, texts, discussions, presentations, resume composing, etc.
    They can be implemented in varied level-classes of English, from false beginners to C-2 learners (European Common Framework; C-2 is the uppest level).
    Hope it be any useful.
    Fernando Díez Gallego
    Granada, Spain

  4. Last year I did a project for my Master’s that focused on creating a game for foreign language learning (I created a simple prototype for a voice-recognition game for practicing communicating directions). I did a lot of research for the project, but I didn’t really track each source very closely since the project focus was on rapid execution rather than formal academic research.

    Nonetheless, what I found when I went digging in the literature is that: (A) a lot of useful information for games and language acquisition is hidden under “CALL” (Computer-Assisted Language Learning), (B) it’s hard to find generally applicable information about the effectiveness of games for foreign language instruction–you may have to be more specific about the type of game or what aspect of language learning (e.g. vocabulary acquisition, fluency development, discrete skills, etc.), (C) the literature is somewhat lacking for the application to foreign language (excepting what amount to endorsements of specific products by some researchers) so it might be more useful to investigate games and their link to learning gains in other subjects.

    Lastly, there are a couple companies that might be able to provide some insight here if you want to set up a talk with a designer or project leader (something I did a lot of in the prototype process). 8D World has a product called Wiz World Online for Chinese students learning English (a MMO game with voice-recognition; the site is in Chinese ( but you could set up an interview with one of their designers in the U.S.). is a website for vocabulary acquisition I recommend for my students. The management of Quizlet seems to be rather interested in the potential of games; they would probably have a lot of data and could potentially be interested in collaborating on that topic.

    This is a good area to research–the DoD has been slinging a good bit of money around here so perhaps some more usable research will emerge from that soon. Creating games for deep language learning is one of my top areas of interest (though I’m not in a great position to act on it quite yet) so I would love to discuss what I’ve found in more depth at some point.

  5. Hayao reinders empirical study titled “The effects of digital games on interaction and willingness to communicate in a foreign language” proves a very interesting read – he has a publication called ‘Learn English or die’ planned which will conatin collected academic articles on gaming and language acquisition.

  6. It depends on the game and it depends on how you use it. Some aren’t very educational and some are. They can be used different ways, but one way is to make something boring more fun. Language learning or learning anything requires repetition. The game or activity makes it more fun.

Leave a Reply

Required fields are marked *.

Skip to toolbar