Play and Learn! Game-Based Language Learning for Kids

“Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning.” —Fred Rogers

Spring and summer breaks are right around the corner. Motivate your young learners to continue practicing their English skills beyond the classroom with free online games. Many websites and apps have free games to help children enhance their reading, writing, speaking and listening skills. Children will play these games for hours till they achieve a certain score or pass to the next level. Children will also learn vocabulary within a multimedia-rich context. Many games include an interesting background story, which comes alive through colorful worlds and animated characters. Below are tips and resources to get you started on your journey integrating games in the classroom.

Learn Online with a Game

Check out any of these sites to find games to help your young learners improve their English skills: Kindersite, Learn English Kids, Sheppard Software, Pumkin English, TinyTap, GetKahoot, Nick Jr., and Brainnook. Adolescents might enjoy the games on English Attack and Learn English Teens.

Once you decide on a game to support your learning objectives or theme, you need a place for learners to easily access the game and find instructions. Put a link to the game and the instructions in a Wiki or your Learning Management System (Edmodo, Schoology, Moodle, Edublogs Campus, Educlipper, etc.). Check out my wiki, English Story Time, with examples of various themes and games listed for my young language learners.

While Playing the Game

Students will need to prove to you they played the game and in some cases, they will need to show they achieved a certain level or score. Here are some options for getting students to demonstrate their learning and submit proof they played the game.

  • Give students a handout to complete and turn in. The handout may get them to draw in the characters, describe the plot, and reflect on the learning.
  • Students can turn in a screenshot showing they completed the game.
  • Learners can upload the screenshot as evidence to receive a digital badge. Credly is one of the easiest and fastest ways to create and give digital badges. Set to “automatically approve” in the settings so that when students submit the screenshot, they are given the badge automatically.
  • Students can create a walkthrough of the game (see next section).


To ensure students achieve objectives, have them create a walkthrough or provide them with a walkthrough. A walkthrough is a visual and written description of the various parts of the game. It follows the order of the game and will often provide tips on how to pass the level or earn points, bonuses, lives, or rewards. Find great tips and instructions for creating a walkthrough here. Find walkthroughs for various sites in my bookmarks.

Related Resources

  • Sprout English has a Games Room section full of educational card games, and board games, and other fun games and worksheets.
  • David Dodgson has many posts and presentations on integrating games like Minecraft with young language learners on his site, The ELT Sandbox.
  • Graham Stanley, who has an ELTon-awarded book on gaming with language learners, has created this wiki with resources.
  • Larry Ferlazzo has a collection of the best online learning games in this post.

What are your tips for getting children to learn by playing games?


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Shelly Terrell

Shelly Sanchez Terrell is the author of Learning To Go and The 30 Goals Challenge for Educators. She is also an adjunct professor, teacher trainer, and international speaker. She has trained teachers in over 25 countries and is a founder of the Bammy Award-winning #Edchat, the ELTON-nominated ELTChat, and The Reform Symposium E-Conference. She is the host of American TESOL’s Free Friday Webinars and shares regularly via, Twitter (@ShellTerrell),, and She has taught toddlers to adults English in various countries including the US, Germany, Croatia, Slovenia, and Greece.

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