Pressing the right keys: Gamification in ESL & EFL classrooms

Pressing the right keys: Gamification in ESL & EFL classrooms

There is no doubt that our living in the modern era mandates a revolutionary approach to teaching. Modern learners, whether aged nine or twenty-nine, seem prone to engage in any visual content given to them rather than in dense textbook explanations. In other words, brevity is the key! The question, however, is; how can teachers sustain student interest both inside and outside the classroom? 

Gamification in Education

An answer to the aforementioned question might be found in the term “Gamification”. Gamification in Education is defined as the inclusion of game-like elements in learning. More specifically, “Effective games typically feature a series of goals or progressions, clear rules, elements of story, high interactivity, and continual feedback including some kind of reward. They may also incorporate social elements of teamwork and communication.” Using games, either as a form of assessment or as a method of familiarising students with the learning material, offers numerous benefits. 

The Comfort of Play

Firstly, by playing games, they feel like they are in their own territory, since they have been acquainted with play from a very young age. Therefore, every time the students play “hangman” to consolidate vocabulary, they experience relaxation and stress relief as it feels like an easy-to-do task. 

Effortless Online Games for Effective Learning

Secondly, it has become effortless to create straightforward online games for students of all levels, focusing on what has been taught in class. As a result, online games can be used for educational purposes and several studies have shown that they facilitate the development of significant skills. These can be speed, selective attention, sustained attention, sequencing, and problem-solving. Take, for instance, an online quiz revolving around the Present Simple and the Present Continuous. However daunting the particular topic may be for young learners, the implementation of a cheerful frog, hopping on leaves in a pond, keeps their attention sustained as they are prompted to think hard before they click on the correct answer and help it reach land. Plus, they get extra points for quickness. 

Promoting Values through Team Games

Thirdly, team games promote all the values that we, as educators, ought to hold and enlighten our students with; respect, enjoyment, trust, and sportsmanship. When learners leave the classroom having congratulated classmates or collaborated to find solutions, it signifies a successful day of learning. 

The Impact of Gaming on Learning

According to a study published by Nottingham Trent University, engaging in gaming affects various aspects, such as involvement, cognitive skills, and, notably, the acquisition of knowledge and understanding of content. To my mind, engagement refers to their excitement to return to the lesson, and learn more things which can be turned into games. In this way, all the rest occur naturally; they utilise their memory to apply the rules and turn theory into practice, make predictions using material taught in the classroom to move on to the next game level, and they better comprehend the content through trial and error, e.g. when they click on the wrong answer and scream “Oh! It was what you told us not to do!”.

Embracing Gamification for Enhanced Learning

In conclusion, educators should explore the myriad gaming resources available to enhance lessons and create a comfortable learning atmosphere. By integrating gamification into teaching practices, educators can tap into students' natural affinity for play while fostering a conducive environment for learning and growth. 

Danai Stavropoulou, MA in Applied Linguistics/TESOL, BA in English Language and Literature, is the Director of English Studies at The English School, dedicated to empowering students through language education.


Domínguez, A., Sáenz-de-Navarrete, J., de-Marcos, L., Fernández-Sanz, L., Pagés, C., & Martínez-Herráiz, J. J. Gamifying learning experiences: Practical implications and outcomes. 

Green, C. S., & Bavelier, D. Learning, attentional control, and action video games.

Boulton, H., Hughes-Roberts, T., Brown, D., Beltran, X., Tinney, J., Shopland, N., & Barrett, R. (Year). Exploring the use of game-making across the school curriculum.


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