Category Archives: Resources


FluentU: A Blog for German Language and Culture

Here at Games2Teach, we are always looking for resources where language learning and gaming intersect in meaningful ways. In a recent post from FluentU, a blog about German language and culture, they wrote a post about various techniques on how to practice listening, reading, and even speaking skills in German. From listening to commentary while playing a soccer game to making difficult decisions for characters surviving in a zombie apocalypse, this blog post gives a number of helpful suggestions for people who are interested in using games to teach German. The post also gives some ideas on how to use games at various proficiency levels, which is often a difficult thing to gauge for those who are looking to use games for the first time. Take a look for yourself by clicking on the link provided here!


Contextualized Vocabulary Interpretation and Games

When looking at how to use games in the classroom, considering the NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statements is always beneficial, as well as thinking about how they might be executed in a classroom using a game as a source text. For example, one of the NCSSFL-ACTFL Can-Do Statement main indicators is “I can recognize words, phrases, and characters when I associate them with things I already know” (Interpretive Reading, Novice Mid). This learning target can be easily achieved through use of a game with highly contextualized vocabulary, such as Parable of the Polygons, a web-browser game that explores issues such as cultural and racial segregation. With one such game, learners are empowered to interpret target vocabulary based on the context.


Below is an example activity that inspires vocabulary interpretation using Parable of the Polygons. Even though the text used in the game is at a higher proficiency level than the learners who would use a Novice Mid indicator, they will be impressed with seeing how much they can accomplish by using the contextual clues within the site as well as the words that they already know.

Parable of the Polygons Activity

Related Can-Do Statement

I can recognize words, phrases, and characters when I associate them with things I already know.

Pre-Activity Self-Reflection

How well do you think that you can engage in the Can-Do Statement for this activity?

 This is a goal  Can do with help  Can do  Can do well


You will read and play Parable of the Polygons (, a half-blog, half-game regarding likeness and sameness. As you play, use context to define the words below. If you need to, feel free to work with a partner.

Tip: It is better to move the polygons manually in each screen than to simply allow for the computer automation (when it exists) to arrange the shapes. Playing the game this way will allow for more time to reflect on small changes and how they impact the overall composition of society.

 Word  Definition  Example from the text

– Stephanie Knight


The Case for Commercial Games: Confessions of a Reformed Language Educator

I have always loved games and loved language. Perhaps there is no greater example of that truth than my lesson plans from my first year of teaching. Learning via competition (i.e., verb conjugation races, vocabulary guessing games, and grammar/vocabulary review modeled after Jeopardy) was ubiquitous in my classroom. As a result, I was confident that my students had memorized grammar and vocabulary well by the end of the school year.

In many ways, my classroom was like a run-off-the-mill language learning game or mobile app; it was more about language itself than it was about the application of linguistic knowledge for communication. I made learning fun, but I did not show students why language learning is important beyond its identification by the State Board of Education as a requirement. I confess that my classroom was limited by that equivocation.

If I could go back and tell my former self how to use games in the classroom, I would explain that the search for games should be expanded beyond games that are explicitly designed for learning words. I would urge myself to carefully select commercial games in the target language that provide contexts within which language learning is purposeful beyond the walls of the classroom. I would tell myself that though it may feel beyond the realm of academia to use commercial games, the intentional incorporation of such games in the classroom promotes higher-order thinking and the application of knowledge in various contexts. Simply put, commercial games have the potential to foment meaningful communication.

A game like Plague Inc. serves as a great example of this potential. The purpose of the game is to mutate the genetic code of a pathogen so that it wipes out the population of the world. As players engage, they not only witness the slow destruction of humanity, but also humanity’s response to its impending destruction. As the disease spreads, a news reel reveals calls for international collaboration and research. The more time that people have to respond to the pathogen, the more difficult it becomes to spread it. While learners playing the game do learn target vocabulary through gameplay, they are drawn to consider language beyond word-level meaning. In this example, they consider high-level concepts such as systems, communities, and collaboration.

This conceptual observation and engagement serves to scaffold discussions related to real-world concerns that may seem beyond the proficiency level of students. For example, one of the intermediate activities we have developed for Plague Inc. requires learners to live tweet the spread of the pathogen, using hashtags and tagging to connect with other members of the class/learning community. While intermediate students may be of too low a proficiency level to truly dissect the importance of community in an in-depth class discussion, they can use their gameplay and related language production to experience the concept in action. As they engage in this experience, they acquire lexical knowledge and refine knowledge of other content related to summarizing and disseminating information (present-tense verbs, for example). Additionally, given their active participation in concept-based learning, they are likely to retain what they learn and empowered to apply it to other situations.

Opportunities for learning language are everywhere. It is the task of educators to harness those opportunities and shape them for our students’ learning.

– Stephanie Knight


Commercial Games and the World Language Classroom

Commercial Games and the World Language Classroom

A few weeks ago, at CALICO (Computer-Assisted Language Instruction Consortium) 2016, Johnathon Beals, Phillip Cameron, Brenda Imber, and Val Waldron gave a workshop entitled, “Meaningful Play: Gamers as Teachers.” This workshop addressed how to appropriately integrate commercially available games into course content. According to Reneé Marshall, workshop attendee, the workshop showed “how games can thoughtfully be used in the language classroom…this workshop [was] fun, informative and practical.”

As part of the workshop, presenters covered the Taxonomy Alignment for Gaming ( featured below.


This taxonomy alignment is particularly helpful for instructors trying to determine which games would be most appropriate to incorporate into the classroom.  As one can see, vocabulary and grammar memorization games like Duolingo, the games that are most readily-available and content-specific, involve the lowest order of thinking skills and are not always the best games to use. While the games certainly make the sometimes arduous task of memorization more fun, they do not necessarily serve to develop a learner’s language proficiency.

The potential for a game to aid a learner in improving his or her target language proficiency increases as one moves up the taxonomy featured here. Let us consider as our example Plague Inc., a digital commercial game (

This game, a game in which the player pretends that he or she is the CEO of a company trying to develop a disease that will successfully infect the entire world, involves a great deal of strategy, and to a lesser extent, exploration. While these aren’t the highest levels of cognition featured on the Taxonomy, the game provides for a clear example of how one might incorporate commercial games into the classroom.

To begin gameplay, each player names his or her disease. After that, the player picks a country to infect with the disease first. Before selecting the country, the player is able to find out additional information (socioeconomic standing, climate, topography, and population density) about the country in question in order to inform his or her selection.


As the player plays and the disease begins to spread, the player earns DNA points that can be used to evolve the disease in order to adapt it to the new countries that it enters.


At any point, the player can see the overall progression of the disease and can monitor any research being undertaken in order to combat the disease. This information will inform subsequent decision making.



So why use a game like this?

The answer to this question is multi-faceted and related to the high levels of active cognition employed both during gameplay and in potential follow-up activities. At the most basic level, the visual design of games like this provide players with so much visual context that even novice learners are able to infer the meaning of many targeted vocabulary words. Additionally, commercial games like Plague Inc. allow learners to explore and evaluate such concepts as innovation, community, and internationalism. These concepts ignite student engagement given their cross-curricular relevance. Finally, these games can serve as an inciting incident of sorts to springboard further classroom communication and exploration that is both authentic and contextualized. Novice learners can create semantic maps with the knowledge that the acquire through gameplay, intermediate learners can practice summarizing major events through live tweeting gameplay, and advanced learners can engage in roleplay scenarios in which the imagine the conversations that characters in the game would have. It is important to note that any of these activities should be supplemented by additional classroom discussion and instruction. In essence, the game not only involves contextualized language interpretation, but it also inspires contextualized and authentic language output on both the individual and classroom levels.

If you are interested in checking out activities to supplement Plague Inc. and a variety of other commercial games, check out what we have created at