Gaming Grammar: Games for Teaching Foreign Language Grammar

DC Labs is fusing games and education to help school children learn foreign language grammar.

With a shortage of research-based and evidence-based resources to support grammar teaching and learning, gamification has the potential to make language learning interesting and challenging.

In collaboration with the Department for Education’s National Centre for Excellence for Language Pedagogy (NCELP) and University of Reading, computer scientists, software engineers and games developers at DC Labs are working with schools across the UK to trial a digital game that helps children learn French, Spanish and German grammar.

The game teaches grammar through listening and reading practice called form-meaning mapping, a research-based teaching approach that makes grammar essential for understanding meaning. In the game, pupils must complete spy missions (mini-games); in order to successfully complete each mini-game, the player must learn how to understand and use new grammar features.

In 2017, the game was trialed in seven schools in the York and Tadcaster area working directly with ten teachers and 200 children. This large-scale classroom-based evaluation provided evidence of the efficacy of the use of games for teaching and learning. The data gathered from the trial also provided a more detailed understanding of the learning that occurred as a result of playing the game.

Following the trial, the prototype game is being developed into a full product by the National Centre for Excellence for Language Pedagogy. This work includes extending the game to cover more grammar features. In addition, a teacher interface has been developed to allow teachers to track the progress of pupils within their classes.

The game is now being used as a curriculum resource in the 45 secondary schools who are part of the NCELP network. In 2020, the game will be rolled out more widely to both primary and secondary schools across the UK.