Gaming conversations – a class for language learners

Do you have a conversation class with many younger students who haven’t traveled much? Perhaps they are interested in gaming!

Of course, there are many different types of gaming – computer and console gaming, collectible card games, role playing, tabletop board games, card games, poker and so many more. Most younger students are interested in at least one of these, or are willing to learn to play either a card game or tabletop game.

This is a good class to use comparatives and superlatives (better, best), and to use the present tense and past tense.

Warm up

Of course, there may be new vocabulary to revise, especially when there are specific game terms, phrases and abbreviations. A class-wide brainstorming and explanation session is the best way to start.

You’ll see words and more like: mana, HP (hit points), exp (experience points), DM (dungeon master), character points, action points, crit, to counter, to fold your hand, to bluff, to raise, guilds, and many more.

Plus, you’ll also come across less commonly used words like charisma, endurance and stamina. Even if you are a gamer yourself, encourage the students to explain the terms to each other.

Gaming categories

This is a top ten, rapid-fire activity. You say a category of games, and small groups of 3-4 have to write down ten games that fit that category, and they get to yell out when they have completed their list. Get the groups to compare their lists after each category. It’s typically noisy, but fun!

You can use broad categories like PC or console games, card games, or be more specific – civilization building games, first person shooters or card games for four players. For more specific categories, a top five is easier and keeps the energy going. Some example categories:

  • PC/console games
  • Platformers
  • First person shooters
  • Empire building games
  • (Japanese) role playing games
  • MORPGs (Massive Online Role Playing Games)
  • Puzzle games
  • Card games
  • Tabletop board games
  • Tabletop wargaming
  • Trivia games
  • Role playing
  • Live action role playing
  • Reenactments
  • Party games like Pictionary, Cards against Humanity, or Exploding Kittens (yes, this is really a game – see it on Amazon!)

See if the students count things like puzzles, lego, chess, solitaire cards or mahjong tile-matching, or something else as gaming. Beware this might spark some friendly arguments!


In pairs, students should interview each other and find out what types of games they like and why. Here are some questions they can use to spark a conversation. Let them talk freely.

  • What is your favorite game and why do you love it?
  • Why types of games do you like to play?
  • Are there any types of games you hate? If yes, what don’t you like about them?
  • Do you prefer sports or games? Why?
  • How do you find the time to play?
  • What was the longest game you ever played?
  • Do you play with any others?
  • What are the rules? How do you play?
  • Are there any rules that don’t make any sense?
  • Have you ever played with house rules, or created them?
  • What was the first game you ever played and enjoyed? What made it fun?
  • Have your tastes in games changed over time? Why or why not?
  • What was your favorite character in a game?
  • Have you or has someone you know ever dressed up as a character from a game? If so, why did they choose that character, and how was their costume?
  • What new games are you looking forward to playing?
  • How does live action role playing work?
  • What are the best things to look for in an opponent when playing poker? What tells should I look for?
  • When you play a computer or console game where you can create a character, do you play something similar to yourself, someone you would love to be, or someone completely different? Why?

Let’s play!

You’ll need some props for this – games and cards that you bring to class. Try to make sure you give a game to a group of students where at least one person knows how to play.

I have two favorite games that I like to take into conversation classes as ‘backups’.

Gaming conversations - Rory's Story Cubes are great for language learners

With advance warning, you can get your students to bring in a game or decks of cards. Then set aside around 30 minutes where they can play. Obviously, these will need to be short games, with not much time needed to set them up or explain the rules. No mahjong or Settlers of Catan here!

First, get the students to explain the rules of their game to each other. Then let them play! I like to circulate and join in, or help one of the weaker students with a few of their turns.

This is also a good longer activity if you are running a weekend intensive language course. It gives students a break from trying to get their language use right, and lets them have fun.

What games do you like playing in language classes?

I’d love to know! Leave a comment or send me a mail.

Basic questions for beginner conversation classes

What does vegemite taste like?

Questions, questions, and more questions! Beginner conversation classes can be very difficult - students are often scared to talk when they are starting to learn a new language. But, talking is one of the fastest ways both to build confidence … [Continue reading]

An unconventional approach to translation

Translation - computers required

Firstly, a disclaimer: I'm not a trained translator. I'm well aware that my approach to translation is not how translators typically work. I have worked with several professional translators in the past, so I know my approach is not the … [Continue reading]

Write about a dream: Language activity for intermediate+ students

Where two oceans meet, Western Australia

Dreams are great to write about - there are plot twists and turns, fantastical characters, unlikely situations and worlds to explore. Many people like explaining their strange dreams to others - you can laugh about them, discuss likely (and unlikely) … [Continue reading]

Mistakes in a second language – cool! Mostly

Fountain pen

I've recently moved areas from East to West Germany, and amazed at how much more comfortable everyone here is with using English. In Leipzig, very few people could speak any English, and it was always a (good!) surprise when a shopkeeper asked me … [Continue reading]

Cheat sheets for English conversation classes

English Teaching Books

Someone has asked to see examples of my grammar cheat sheets from when I taught larger EFL conversation classes. That's why I'm posting a few and hoping that they will help conversation class teachers everywhere. It's been a while since I have … [Continue reading]

Why you must prepare to teach a conversation class

Why You Must Prepare To Teach A Conversation Class

I've been teaching English conversation classes for nearly 7 years now. My students have been a varied bunch. From teenagers to seniors over 90 years old. Students, job seekers, employees and retirees. Travelers, immigrants, artists, doctors … [Continue reading]

Conversation prompts about moving overseas

Moving Overseas Conversation Prompts

Having moved overseas myself, now twice, I get asked a lot of questions, mostly about why I decided to move and how I organized the move. Some people ask me what I miss about my homeland, and they always enjoy hearing what I love about their city … [Continue reading]

Memorable moments

Memorable holiday

This is a great exercise to get students talking. They walk around the room, switching partners regularly and spend a good amount of time talking about one or two of the questions with each person. These questions practice superlative adjectives - … [Continue reading]

Switching from Evernote to OneNote


I take a lot of notes all the time, as I find I remember things much better when I write them down. There are notes on language learning, teaching, the books I read, webinars and courses I attend, recipes, gardening and crochet advice, and much … [Continue reading]