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Adapting Games for Online Classes

In this post we’re looking at a few classroom games I’ve adapted for online classes. As a majority of my classes have been one-to-one, that’s been my primary focus, but they can work for small group classes too.

To Adapt or not?

There are a few things to consider before you adapt a classroom game for your online lessons:

•     Consider the limitations of remote learning

•     Explore what’s already available

•     Does the interactive part of the game work when the players aren’t in the same room?

•     Will you reuse the lesson / is it a worthwhile time investment?

There are so many apps and games online that what you’re trying to make or adapt might exist already. Since you’re able to easily share links with students and play these games remotely, see if there’s a version you can use online before you spend time on your own.

Next, think about the interactions that make the game work. I’ve found that some of my favourite classroom games just don’t work online, or require so much work to adapt that it would be better to make something specifically for an online class, rather than adapting something pre-made. There are a lot of interesting things you can do when teaching remotely that you could never do in a classroom.

Finally, whenever you’re making something for a lesson it’s always better to spend time on something that you can use again and again, rather than something you’re only going to use once.

What follows are a few games I have used with success in my online classes.

Deduction Puzzle

Here’s a link to the original:

The online version is much the same, except I use a shared screen and I take the role of the second player. The player chooses which box to remove, then describes what they see and speculates on what is happening outside of the parts that have been revealed so far.

If you were playing with a small group, they could take it in turns or write their responses

When playing a game like this in a one-to-one class, it’s important to think about your role as the second player. You should be a good model of the answers you’re hoping for, and leave any language feedback until the end of the game.

To make the puzzles, you can take any of the photos from the original activity and resize the blue boxes for that picture. You could do the same with any picture that had lots of people and plenty to talk about. I have included two examples and a custom template to use.

Unfolding Mysteries

Here’s a link to the original:

The online version works the same as the original. I reveal the clues by shrinking the blue box. Students can speculate out loud, or type their guesses.

Similarly, after we’ve played a few rounds with me revealing the clues, I would ask students to make their own mysteries. One-to-one, or in small groups, students can reveal their mystery one clue at a time, either speaking or in the chat box.

Quick discussion – exam prep

Here’s a link to the original:

This isn’t really a game, but I like how this has worked in my exam classes. The original randomises the questions and the various locations of a city with two decks of cards. This grid system translates that random selection quite well, as students choose grid locations to reveal different places.

You could easily use the same template to choose random items in lots of games and activities as an alternative to decks of cards.

The discussion itself works well either in one-to-one lessons or group classes with break-out rooms.


Thanks for reading and I hope you find this useful

I was a little hesitant to post anything about online teaching, as there are so many excellent resources online, and my focus has always been classroom games. While the activities in this post have worked well for me, this is by no means my area of expertise. However, as more and more of my teaching is online there is likely to be more online based content in the future.

Adapting games – Apples to apples

Apples to apples is a word association game in which players match nouns and verb phrases to adjectives. Its popularity can be attributed to the funny combinations that come up and the simplicity of its design. Continue reading “Adapting games – Apples to apples”

Adapting games – Dobble

This post is looking at Dobble (or Spot It in America) and the application of its basic features as a teaching device, both for revising vocabulary and grammar. I’ll be showing you a simple, two page template so that you can adapt the game to your needs and syllabus. Continue reading “Adapting games – Dobble”

Adapting your go-to games: backs to the board

While this site usually looks at how teachers can extend their repertoire of games, this post examines ways to bring new life to a game you already use. I mentioned this idea in a recent article I wrote for Voices and wanted to go into more detail here.

Continue reading “Adapting your go-to games: backs to the board”

Playing board games in class – Adapting ‘roll and move’ games

When you look online for grammar or vocabulary board games you often find simple ‘roll and move’ games. This post will look at ways we can expand this style of board game to make it more fun and a better tool for language acquisition.

Continue reading “Playing board games in class – Adapting ‘roll and move’ games”

Games to practise phrasal verbs

This post outlines a number of strategies that can be used to help students practise phrasal verbs. While students play these games they are forming personal contexts for a difficult to understand part of the English language.

The recycling and reproduction of the language in meaningful ‘chunks’ helps to make phrasal verbs, even idiomatic ones, more memorable. Continue reading “Games to practise phrasal verbs”

Adapting the alibi game – part 2

If you haven’t heard of the alibi game you should read part 1 first by clicking here

The ‘alibi’ game requires students to invent a story in pairs and then recall the details, while being interviewed by other students. It’s fun because it involves creativity and role play within a context that feels realistic. It also allows for effective practice of the past tense and question forms.

Continue reading “Adapting the alibi game – part 2”

Adapting the alibi game – part 1

The alibi game is popular with teachers and students. It’s an effective way to practise narrative tenses and question forms. There are lots of versions of this activity out there but for the purposes of part 2, where we’ll be discussing ways to adapt the game, here’s my version.
Continue reading “Adapting the alibi game – part 1”

Vocabulary revision – adapting ‘Codenames’

This guest post was written by Luke Raymond. You can read below about how he has adapted the game ‘Codenames’ into a vocabulary practice and revision game.
Continue reading “Vocabulary revision – adapting ‘Codenames’”

Simple games you can use with the coursebook

Adapting coursebook material – reading and listening texts

With most of my classes I have a set coursebook to follow and I often look for ways to adapt texts or individual exercises to include little games. This post will introduce games that can be used as a stage within a reading or listening lesson, from introduction of the text to discovery of the grammar.

Continue reading “Simple games you can use with the coursebook”

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