Top gamification strategies to boost language learning engagement

Gamification strategies for engaging language learners

Gamification strategies for engaging language learners


  • Activities
  • Tips & Strategies
  • Methodology

One of the questions that I get from some of my peer teachers is “How do you maintain motivation in class?”. My first thought was “How do I do that?”. Let me share my ideas with you.

Maintaining student motivation and interest in class can often be a challenge. 

By integrating activities that students enjoy outside of academic contexts, we as educators can create a more engaging and stimulating learning environment. 

Personally I enjoy creating something interactive for my students in order to boost their confidence and establish strong rapport with them.

This is where gamification comes into play. It is a strategy employed in educational settings to boost motivation and enhance problem-solving abilities as well as critical thinking.

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Understanding gamification

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, gamification is "the practice of making activities more like games in order to make them more interesting or enjoyable." This approach can be seamlessly incorporated into English language classes, as well as apps and online games.

Core elements of gamification

But how do we set it up correctly? What goals are we trying to achieve? 

Games typically share several key features. Here are some examples, along with ideas on how to incorporate them into classroom activities:

  • Goals. Establish clear missions or objectives that students must achieve. Make sure you use clear ICQs. 
  • Badges for achievements. Reward students with badges or medals when they reach specific milestones, motivating them to earn more. Praising is always a great idea, but don't overdo it.
  • Progress bars and leaderboards. Display students' progress and rankings, showing how much they need to achieve their goals. For that, you can use visual tools, like Google Presentations, Padlet, Miro, etc.
  • Rules. Set guidelines and limits that challenge students to be creative and develop strategies to succeed.

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  • Story, plot, setting, characters, and role-play. Integrate narratives with characters and settings to create immersive learning experiences.
  • Choices. Allow students to make decisions that lead to different challenges, fostering critical thinking.
  • Competition, cooperation, and challenges. Encourage students to either compete against each other or collaborate to achieve common goals. Such tools as Kahoot and Bamboozle will help you to create either a competitive or collaborative environment.

Sounds great! How do I do that?

Have the features listed above sparked any ideas for your classroom? If not, I have some suggestions you can implement, whether you're teaching in person or online.

Point Systems and leaderboards

Implementing point systems and leaderboards taps into students' competitive nature. By awarding points for completing tasks, participating in activities, and achieving learning milestones, students are motivated to strive for higher scores. 

Leaderboards add an extra layer of excitement by allowing students to see their progress relative to their peers, fostering a sense of accomplishment and friendly competition.

Example: During the week gather all the new words that you were going through. At the end of the week, hold a vocabulary quiz or a creative writing challenge where students can showcase their knowledge and earn additional points.

Use a platform like Google Classroom or a learning management system to track points. Students can submit their sentences or stories online, and you can update the virtual leaderboard accordingly.

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Interactive quizzes and challenges

Using interactive quizzes and challenges can make learning more engaging and fun. These can be tailored to different proficiency levels and can include a variety of question formats, such as multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, and true/false. 

Timed quizzes and challenges encourage quick thinking and reinforce knowledge through repetition, helping students retain new vocabulary and grammar rules. Sounds like controlled practice? You are right, except for it is also fun.

Example: During a grammar lesson, use Kahoot! to administer a quiz. Students use their devices to answer questions, and the platform instantly displays the results and updates the leaderboard. This makes the learning process dynamic and interactive.

Story-based learning

Incorporating storytelling into lessons can transform mundane exercises into captivating narratives. By framing language learning tasks within a story, students become more invested in the outcome and are eager to progress to the next part of the narrative. 

Not only does this approach make learning more enjoyable but also aids in contextualizing vocabulary and grammar within real-world scenarios.

Example: Classic “Whodunit” would do the work. Assign roles to the students and set up the task. Let the crime solving begin. 

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To the list

Role-playing and simulations

My personal favorite is role-playing. These exercises  and simulations provide immersive experiences where students can practice language skills in realistic contexts. 

By assuming different roles and interacting with their peers in simulated environments, students can develop their conversational abilities and gain confidence in using the language spontaneously. Perfect for the Freer practice stage.

Example: As I also teach Business English I can recommend a role-playing simulation of a corporate board meeting to understand the complexities of business decision-making. By taking on roles such as executives, managers, and stakeholders, and discussing issues like company strategy and financial planning, students can gain a deeper understanding of the challenges faced in the corporate world. 

Team-based activities

Incorporating team-based activities fosters collaboration and communication among students. Group tasks and competitive games encourage peer interaction and collective problem-solving, which can enhance language skills through social learning. 

Team-based activities also promote a sense of community and support, making the learning process more enjoyable and less intimidating, therefore, you, as a teacher, are establishing strong bonds between students in your classroom.

Example: Divide students into teams and assign them a collaborative project, with recognition or a prize for the group that exhibits the most effective teamwork and cooperation.

By integrating these gamification strategies into language instruction, you can create a more engaging and effective learning environment. 

Not only do these techniques make the process of acquiring a new language enjoyable but also encourage continuous practice and improvement, ultimately leading to better learning outcomes.

Have you ever used gamification strategies for your students?

Article authors & editors
  • Solomiia Korchynska

    Solomiia Korchynska


    CELTA-certified teacher of General English



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