Can we use Pokémon Go for English teaching?

Use Pokémon Go for English teaching

If you’ve not heard of Pokémon Go yet you’ve probably been enjoying a holiday somewhere on a private desert island or just come back from a couple of months up on the International Space Station – can you catch Pokémon up there? For those of you who haven’t had such luxury you’ll know that Pokémon Go is an exciting, new, free-to-play, location-based augmented reality mobile phone game, which is played by users walking around in the real world to locate, catch, battle and train Pokémon (virtual Pokémon animals), based upon the popular Nintendo games and subsequent television show of the 1990s.
 
Pokémon Go was released to mobile phone users in July 2016 and has since taken the world by storm having been downloaded by millions of players. It has even transformed some people’s lives by encouraging them to get outside, be active and interact with other people. So the big question is can we take advantage of Pokémon Go’s popularity and make use of it in our English teaching?
 
The fact that Pokémon Go encourages you to interact with other people already indicates that we can. It’s well known that playing games in English classes, particularly in the EFL and ESL classroom, can be a good way to help learners work together, shed their inhibitions and gain confidence in learning English, so why shouldn’t we adapt this to use Pokémon Go? English teachers have been applying the method of playing games in the classroom to facilitate learning for years and using technology for this has become increasingly common, especially as more and more students around the world are now likely to own their own mobile phone which can be incorporated into class activities. It is worth noting that the mobile phone is also a personal technology so most students will know exactly how to use one and by using it will be able to take their learning on it outside of the classroom environment to continue improving their English after class. Of course adding an element of fun only helps to foster this process and this is where a game such as Pokémon Go comes in. So how can we use Pokémon Go in our English teaching?
 
As always, we need to first consider the level and type of students in our English class, this will help determine our approach. Pokémon Go would arguably be most useful when teaching beginner/intermediate level students, be it children or adults, and would be particularly good with children provided that they have the adequate supervision. We’ve made a list of a few ideas that you might wish to consider:

1) Playing Pokémon Go is all about navigation. The game involves using an in-game map and walking around the streets to find and catch Pokémon, which is a great opportunity for students to practice asking for and giving directions. If you have a small group of students you can appoint a group leader every 5 minutes and get them to give directions to the rest of the group or get individual students to ask members of the public for directions if this is suitable.

2) Pokémon come in different shapes, sizes and colours and all have unique names. For students who are starting to learn colours and basic adjectives this is ideal. When you come across a Pokémon you can get your students to describe it to you and/or your other students, and if your group is particularly knowledgeable about Pokémon you may even be able to play a guessing game where one student describes the Pokémon’s key features and the other students have to guess which Pokémon it is. For older students this can also be utilised for homework by sending them out after class to find Pokémon and then getting them to repeat this guessing game activity in the next lesson to report back on what they caught, or by getting them to write a diary of where they went and describe what Pokémon they found there.

3) Pokémon Go may even be used as a good introduction to the differences between regular and irregular verbs. The five key verbs that you’ll see used in the game are to find, locate, catch, battle and train. These verbs can be drilled in class to help students understand their use along with the key differences between these types of verbs, and they can then be practiced whilst out looking for Pokémon. There is obviously a wealth of possibilities when it comes to teaching verbs and this is just one idea.

4) If you’re playing in an English speaking country PokeStops could also be a useful learning tool. These will be virtually located at select places near you and are where players can freely collect items used in the game. What makes them interesting is that they are often found at significant public places such as important buildings, parks or historical sites, which all provide a good base for useful English vocabulary that can be incorporated into the exercise.
 
So we’ve talked a bit about ideas for beginner and intermediate English students, what about advanced students, how could they benefit from English lessons involving Pokémon Go? You could just go out and hunt some Pokémon if you wanted to have a bit of fun, but perhaps another idea would be to get your students thinking about Pokémon Go in a business context and how the technology in the game might be used elsewhere in future. This would allow for the introduction of much more advanced vocabulary and provide the basis for a good Business English lesson. As is often the case there are a wealth of possibilities here and it is up to us as English teachers to be imaginative and come up with a good lesson that meets the needs of our students.
 
There is no doubt that technology does and will continue to play a big part in English teaching in future and we should always be open to new and innovative ways to teach English to our students. It is therefore our responsibility to make use of technology alongside existing teaching techniques and apply it to our English teaching when pertinent to help fully engage students who are increasingly used to operating in a digitalised world. Utilising technology and games such as Pokémon Go is just one way among many of doing this successfully as an English teacher, and in the words of the famous Pokémon theme song if you ‘wanna be the very best’ you’ve ‘gotta catch them all’!



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15 ways you could use Pokémon Go to teach English >