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4 More Games Inspired by The 6 Principles
by Rita F. Naughton

Now that the school year has begun and students and teachers alike are falling into a comfortable routine, it is a good time to reinforce game-based learning through board games inspired by The 6 Principles for Exemplary Teaching of English Learners®.

This article is a continuance of “5 Games Inspired by the 6 Principles.” It presents four more skill-focused board games that provide the advantageous outcomes of well-designed board games, which

serve to organize information in a conceptual framework and to make it concrete. They provide analogies and metaphors to link new information. When played in teams, members learn together; no one ever feels singled out for not knowing an answer. (Treher, 2011, p. 4).

Not only do these four new board games target the aforementioned learning experiences, they also were designed and administered to fully address TESOL’s 6 Principles: “a core set of principles that should undergird any program of English language instruction” that are “universal and establish the foundation for exemplary teaching of English learners” (TESOL, 2018, p. 2).

TESOL’s 6 Principles

Principle 1. Know your learners

Principle 2. Create conditions for language learning

Principle 3. Design high-quality lessons for language development

Principle 4. Adapt lesson delivery as needed

Principle 5. Monitor and assess student language development

Principle 6. Engage and collaborate within a community of practice

The following four “wheel” games facilitate exposure and practice in grammar, culture, vocabulary, and question skills. Each one of them is inspired by The 6 Principles and promotes game-based education, which “provides learners with an experience, as well as a chance to reflect on that experience and draw knowledge, build new attitudes, skills or ways of thinking based on it” (Boghian et al., 2019, p. 55).

1. Grammar Wheel

This game is an information gap activity in which the students need to provide the missing grammatical element to a set of sentences.


  1. Prepare five numbered sets of cards placed in five different piles in the shape of a circle. In each pile, there will be a command card indicting the task to complete:

    1. Add the missing verb in the sentence (Example: The rain _____ continue until this evening. Do you _____ an umbrella?)

    2. Add the missing noun in the sentence (Example: I have been to Japan five ________.)

    3. Correct the verb error in the sentence (Example: Maria must takes her vitamins every day.)

    4. Correct the noun in the sentence (Example: Don’t forget to do all your homeworks.)

    5. Transform the statement into a question (Example: Josh is working in the office today.)

  1. Students work in groups of two to four. Each team will receive a grammar wheel “number” spinner and the five sets of cards. Provide paper and pencil for cards that require writing down the answer for clarification.

  2. Each team decides which player goes first. The first player spins the wheel and waits for the arrow to land on a number. The number the arrow lands on indicates the card group.

  3. The student player selects the top card from that pile, reads the card, and provides the missing information. The team checks the answer and you verify.

  4. If the answer is correct, the student keeps the card. If the answer is incorrect, the card goes on a separate “finished” pile. The game continues until all the cards are read.

  5. The team with the most cards is the winner.

How Does Grammar Wheel Address The 6 Principles?

  • Principle 1: This game allows for the gathering of linguistic, educational, and personal information to better know your learners.
  • Principle 2: It creates a welcoming environment for language learning and acclimates the learners in a new learning environment. This game is an ideal icebreaker.

  • Principle 3: This grammar bingo game communicates learning objectives and integrates language learning and content to further language development.

  • Principle 4: This game is versatile; it can be adapted to fit many grammatical structures and learners’ proficiency levels.

  • Principle 5: This game facilitates the monitoring and assessing of the language progress. The teacher can note errors and provide appropriate feedback.

2. Culture Wheel Game

This game targets cultural awareness and sensitivity while at the same time presenting the opportunity to practice listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The wheel is accessed online ( and is dependent upon each player having a cultural item to share and explain.


  1. This online game involves forming groups of three to six students. The categories on the wheel are as follows, but feel free to add more categories if you think they will help you get to know your students:

Description (5 min.)
History (5 min.)
Personal meaning (5 min.)
Cultural Significance (5 min.)

  1. Spin the online wheel (see Figure 1), which is projected on a monitor/screen for all students to see; then have a student read the category it lands on.

Figure 1. Online wheel spinner. (From

  1. One at a time, in their small groups, students relate the category on the wheel to their cultural item, explaining their item clearly and descriptively to their group members. Each turn should take about a minute, but give students up to 5 minutes if they need more time.

  2. The game continues until all the group members have had a chance to share their cultural items.

  3. A possible follow-up activity is to have the students write a descriptive essay about the sharing of the cultural item.

How Does the Culture Wheel Game Address The 6 Principles?

  • Principle 1: This game allows the teacher to learn about students’ cultures and cultural practices.

  • Principle 2: This game allows for cultural learning and creating an environment of trust and rapport for language learning.

  • Principle 3: The culture wheel can be used with other terms and as an ice breaker, review, or a culminating activity for a unit.

3. Vocabulary Game Wheel

This game targets five different ways to learn vocabulary words.


  1. Form groups of two to three students. Each group receives a vocabulary wheel (see Figure 2) and a list of their vocabulary words. You can make a vocabulary wheel by using the SmartArt “cycle” graphic on Microsoft Word. Following are the vocabulary commands:

    • Name the part of speech of the word.
    • Use the word in a complete sentence.
    • Explain when and where you would use this word.
    • Ask a question using this word.
    • Describe the word using synonyms.

Figure 2. Vocabulary wheel.

  1. Students take turns spinning the vocabulary wheel.

  2. Using the vocabulary list, students will take a vocabulary word and complete the command indicated on the wheel once the arrow stops spinning. If the arrow falls in the middle of a command, the students are to follow the command on the right.

  3. Students are to record their answers. Check the answers at the end of the game. The student with the most correct and appropriate responses wins

  4. The game will continue until there are no more vocabulary words on the list.

How Does the Vocabulary Wheel Address The 6 Principles?

  • Principle 2: The vocabulary wheel gives student the opportunity to have fun exploring multiple facets of vocabulary words.

  • Principle 3: This game lends itself to writing and reading activities in which the students use the vocabulary words to further their language development.

  • Principle 5: The vocabulary wheel game allows both students and teacher to monitor and assess vocabulary knowledge.

4. Question Wheel

This wheel game is created to fit the content of a humanities course. Its purpose is to explore complex questions. The wheel used in this example (Figure 3) featured questions on war and peace:

  • Does war have any positive consequences for mankind?
  • Do you think women should be soldiers?
  • Should military service be mandatory?
  • Should all citizens be required to vote?

Figure 3. War and peace debate topics questions wheel. 


  1. Give each group of three to four students a question wheel featuring four debatable questions, as well as a sheet of paper with six columns:

    1. Question
    2. Yes
    3. No
    4. Reason 1
    5. Reason 2
    6. Reason 3
  1. Students take turns spinning the wheel. When the arrow on the wheel stops at a question, the student reads the question aloud and then finds the question on the question sheet.

  2. The students in the group then each determine whether they agree with the question (Yes) or disagree with the question (No), write the reasons on their sheet of paper, and share aloud with their group members. They each discuss their reasons, and answers can be changed depending on the discussion information.

  3. Game continues until all the questions have been answered.

How Does Question Wheel Address The 6 Principles?

  • Principle 1: Through this game, the teacher learns about their students’ personal beliefs and opinions regarding important topics.

  • Principle 2: This game gives students a chance to play a game that deals with critical thinking questions in an engaging way.

  • Principle 3: This game is an appropriate prewriting activity for a writing assignment, and students show how they can justify their opinions with support and conviction, sourcing their prior knowledge and beliefs.


These 6 Principle–inspired wheel games foster language learning and development. They follow the model of a well-designed board game, which according to Cassie (2018) can be “particularly effective at keeping reluctant learners engaged because they keep the learner close to but not over their threshold of capacity” (para. 13). Additionally, they are true to The 6 Principles in promoting exemplary teaching through knowledge, innovation, design, adaptation, monitoring, and engagement.


Boghian I., Cojocariu, V.-M., Popescu, C. V., & Mâţӑ, L. (2019). Game-based learning. Using board games in adult education. Journal of Educational Sciences & Psychology, 9(1), 51–57.

Cassie, J. (2018, February). Playing games with formative assessment.Educational Leadership, 75(5), 58–63.

TESOL International Association (TESOL). (2018). The 6 principles for exemplary teaching of English learners: Grades K–12.

Treher, E. N. (2011).Learning with board games: Tools for learning and retention. The Learning Key.

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Rita Naughton teaches as an associate professor in the Intensive English, Undergraduate Bridge and Master TESOL Program at Southern New Hampshire University. Her scholarly interests include academic research writing, metacognitive learning strategies, ESL writing workshop programs, and assessment and evaluation practices, as well as incorporating learning games for motivation and success in the English language classroom.


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Table of Contents
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Embracing Multimodal Writing Tasks in ESOL Classes
Translanguaging in Bilingual and ESL Classrooms
Up Your Game: Engage Your Learners With Minecraft
4 More Games Inspired by The 6 Principles
Advocate for Adult Literacy and Celebrate Books in September
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