Best Language Learning Games: Part 1 of 5

Full size imageA Guest Post by Marc Anderson
Marc Anderson is the CEO of online English training company that teaches English online to students around the world.  During his free time he likes to read, travel, and enjoy life. 


It was that time again. Another school year was ready to begin, and I was moving to a different classroom down the hallway. As I packed up my things, I stumbled upon a box of homemade language games in the corner of the closet. I couldn’t help but unpack this box first when I got to my new room and be reminded of my former English language students who enjoyed playing these games and learned valuable English skills along the way.

Although you may have heard of some of these, I thought it would be helpful to share a few of these games for those teachers who may not be familiar with them and for those of you who are beginning a career of EL teaching. These are my Best of the Best.

Learn How to Play Scrambleword

My all-time favorite is a game similar to the traditional Scrabble game that I like to call Scrambleword. It’s a simple game, but it is played with individual players (or partners). The goal is to arrange all of your given letter cards into your own personal crossword. When an individual (or team) uses all of his or her cards to create words, he or she shouts “Check my spelling!” and the other players look at the completed crossword to make sure the words that were created are indeed words. If correct, then everyone, including the individual, draws two more letter cards from the pile. These new cards are added to your crossword.


If the crossword puzzle of the student who shouted “Check my spelling” is not correct (e.g., it contains spelling errors), the game continues until someone else shouts “Check my spelling!” You can change your crossword at any time by rearranging letters and words. When the center pile of cards is gone and one player finishes a crossword, the game is over.

Game Variations

If you want to make the game competitive, you can count the points on the cards for an individual total and subtract the points of cards not used. A suggestion along the way is to have the students read the words to the group while the spelling is checked. As a teacher, you can point out what words are really not words as the individual crosswords are created and supply a dictionary for students to use to self-check. Other players can question if these are indeed words, what they mean, etc.

One option is to record points and each time you play the game have the students try to beat their previous scores. You could give a bonus for the longest word per game. You might want to consider having several groups play the game at various stations throughout the classroom at the same time (depending on the number of students in your classroom) or use multiple sets of mixed cards with a larger group of students. This game will immediately increase reading, vocabulary, spelling skills and overall language ability.

Materials Needed

  1. 47 small unlined index cards
  2. Black marker
  3. Score pad and pencil (optional)

How to Make the Game

  1. Divide the index cards into four sections.
  2. Print one letter (using the black marker) in each space and, under the letter, print the point value. Letters, the quantity of each letter (though you may want to increase the quantity of index cards for larger classrooms), and point values are as follows:
Letter Quantity of index cards Point value
A 16 5
B 3 10
C 3 10
D 6 10
E 22 5
F 3 10
G 4 10
H 4 10
I 16 5
J 2 10
K 4 10
L 6 10
M 4 10
N 9 10
O 14 5
P 3 10
Q 2 25
R 9 10
S 9 10
T 9 10
U 7 5
V 3 10
W 3 10
X 2 25
Y 10 10
Z 2 25
Wild As many as you’d like 5
  1. Laminate (optional) and cut out the cards.

Directions for Play

  1. Turn the cards face-down on a large table surface.
  2. Each player picks eight cards and tries to create one crossword with these cards. Words must be at least two letters long. There are no proper nouns, contractions, foreign words, or slang words allowed.
  3. Play continues until one person uses all their cards. He or she shouts “Check my spelling!”
  4. The players and teacher check the spelling and discuss the words.
  5. Everyone takes two more cards and continues play.
  6. The game continues until all of the cards are drawn from the table and one person uses all of his or her cards correctly.
  7. Points are counted (optional) on each of the cards used for a grand total per person. Any cards in a player’s hand that are not used are subtracted from that person’s grand total.
  8. The winner is the person with the most points.

What other ways might you use this game in your English language classroom?

Look for Part 2 of my Best of the Best next Thursday!

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10 Responses to Best Language Learning Games: Part 1 of 5

  1. 강남OP says:

    After I originally left a comment I appear to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are
    added- checkbox and now whenever a comment is added I receive four emails with the exact same comment.
    There has to be an easy method you can remove me from that service?

    Appreciate it!

  2. Caitlin says:

    Really love this idea and can’t wait to try it in a class. Thanks!

  3. Stephen says:

    Thank you so much for this wonderful game. In each of my classes I have close to 50 students. How do I run this game with such number.

    • You could play with partners or even as a team of 3 or 4 students, and have more than one game being played at the same time. Another suggestion is to use students to help you make sure the words are spelled correctly so if you have 3-4 games being played at once, it is easier to keep the games moving.

  4. Monica says:

    Hello Marc,

    I used the Scrambleword game last week in my univeristy classes here in China. I must say the game was a huge success…Students ended up on the floor to complete puzzle as the desk tops were not big enough. Asking them if they wanted to take a break, NO. Thanks for your insight.

  5. gladys says:

    Thank you Marc for sharing this with us! I find it very useful and interesting.

  6. Thanks for the comment Walton. Use the game as you please but please let us know how it went after trying it over multiple days 🙂

  7. Walton says:

    This game is great. I wonder how it would work if students played a little bit at a time. Say every class they took 10 minutes to add a word. That way the game could last all semester long and also students would be practicing and adding new vocabulary.

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