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[EDUCATORS] Games that Teach Language Arts

Readorium loves books.  We read them voraciously.  We write them (specifically books that change to fit their reader’s individual literacy levels). We even write about them, from time to time. But we also recognize that books aren’t the only way to teach students language skills. In fact, a variety of different media can be used to create a multimodal teaching environment for students, leveraging the particular power of each medium both for enhanced instruction as well as increased student engagement.

So why not use games as well? Games, interactive and procedural media can be used to teach all kinds of topics (for example, we recently created a free little mystery game to teach students a little Cell Biology). But certain games can be particularly helpful in helping students learn. Here’s our pick for a few games (both digital and otherwise) that educators can bring into the English Language Arts classroom

1) Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple by Evil Hat Production

Games for Education | Readorium

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At $10 for a PDF file, this tabletop role-playing game is an affordable (and pretty fun) way to teach students vocabulary, sentence construction and creative storytelling through fun, slapstick humour. Players are young travelers whose aim is to help people in need, but who more often than not get themselves into trouble! Players need to complete stories by using specific “goal words”, and teachers can adapt the pre-written adventures or (write their own) to introduce more complex words and realign the game for different age-groups (the game mechanics themselves are appropriate for a wide range of ages). Gameplay is fast, fun, and in shared storytelling games like this, there’s really no way to “lose”.

Dear Monk(s)
Hi how are you! My name is Melanie. I come from a very small planet.
There is me, my house, my cat, and two trees (see drawing).
I am not so good, because my planet has been eaten by a whale.
It is a very small planet. I woke up and I was inside a whale. I don’t want to get (more) eaten.
Please help!
your freind
Melanie (age 8)
P.S. Drawing is on the other side.
P.P.S. I will make you cookies.

Great For Teaching

Vocab (any language)

2) Elegy for a Dead World by Dejobaan Games

Games for Education | Readorium

Image Source: Dejobaan

A videogame that’s specifically meant to encourage creative writing, Elegy has won critical acclaim from the likes of Indiecade and GDC. Players are astronauts exploring planets (inspired by luminaries such as Shelley and Byron) whose inhabitants are long gone. What happened to them? Well that’s for players to decide! Players are given writing prompts about the history of the planet as they explore the haunting and beautiful landscapes, and the stories they write can be shared with others to create a rich narrative tapestry about these lost worlds. And the art is simply stunning. As Kill Screen’s Jess Joho wrote: “I honestly dare someone to look at these hand-painted landscapes and not feel inspired in some way.”

Your mission is unchanged: explore the three lost civilizations and record your findings.

Great For Teaching

Creative Writing

3) 80 Days by inkle

Games for Education | Readorium

Image Source: Inkle

If you’re looking for reading material that’s not a traditional book, you might want to try 80 Days, both Time Magazine’s and The New Yorker’s 2014 Game of the Year. Inspired by Jules Verne’s classic, you play as Passepartout, navigating 170 cities and 200,000 words of text, trying to get Phileas Fogg to complete his journey in 80 days. Developer Inkle adds a steampunk twist to the game, adding to the adventure and mystery. Will you earn Fogg’s trust and complete the voyage on time? Or will you go bankrupt and doom your master to failure?

The Aegean below sparkles like a diamond-covered cloth: even from this great height, we could see the ferry-boats plying their trade back and forth across the water.

Great For Teaching


Further Reading

The Role of Different Media in Designing Learning Environments, Allan Collins, Peter Neville, Katerine Bielaczyc (International Journal of Artificial Intelligence in Education)

Yes, video games can be good for kids, Suzanne Kantra, (USA Today)

The Role of Video Games in the English Classroom, Terry Heick (Edutopia)

Systems-based literacy practices: Digital games research, gameplay and design, Christopher Walsh (Journal of Language and Literacy)

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