Teaching through Hidden Object Games!

I have always been obsessed with puzzles, riddles, mystery books and hidden object games. I love playing games that don’t simply focus on pressing keys and jumping over fences. I like games that are based on a narrative and get the player to deal with problem solving situations. I also feel though – as most of us teachers do- that playing games is one of the best ways to help our students boost their problem solving skills and learn English at the same time.
 So what can you teach through such games?

  • Vocabulary. HOGs involve finding a list of objects in a scene just like the ones you can see in the pic. below taken from one of my favourite games,Mystery Case Files: Ravenhearst. Since such games are not designed for EFL/ESL students, students are exposed to challenging everyday vocabulary which isn’t often icluded in textbooks.
  • Writing & Speaking. Most games start with a story that the players should be familiar with in order to understand what they have to do at each part of the game. In other cases, students have to start talking to one of the characters in the game and choose the most appropriate response each time so that they can keep the conversation going.
  • Grammar. Whether they like it or not, grammar is an inevitable part of all games since they have to do things in a certain order (usually based on the main characters’ needs) in order to be successful in the game. It is one of the easiest ways to understand the uses of past tenses which mainly focus on the order of actions. 
  • Boosting general knowledge. There are certain games such as the ones found in the different BBC websites that can help your students learn more about history, drama etc. They are also a great way to boost their critical thinking skills since everything comes down to one thing: solving a problem. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/interactive/games/, http://www.bbc.co.uk/drama/shakespeare/game.shtml)

How can we use them in our lessons?

First of all, start by choosing a game appropriate to your students’ age and needs. There are lots of games you can find online, the best of which can be found in the bigfish website (http://www.bigfishgames.com) Try to encourage them to play and include some small-talk activities in your class routine to check upon their progress and achievements. Once in a while, try to incorporate some vocabulary revision exercises which you can present them as “memory games” in order to check how many words your students actually remember. As far as the storyline is concerned, there are lots of activities you can design based on it. You can print some of the pictures in the story and ask your students to put them in the correct order, you can even ask them to write a walkthrough to the game and upload it online.
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