What do you get when you combine the world’s hottest mobile game with ESL?
Let your students build confidence and communication as they learn, create and hunt Pokémon.
Pokémon ESL activities not only promote active learning in the classroom, they also give your students a chance to use English in a practical way outside the classroom with friends and family.
What Is Pokémon GO?
Pokémon GO is an augmented reality (AR) game that brings Pokémon characters into the real world via smartphones. Those playing the mobile app game pretend to be trainers, trying to capture the Pokémon surrounding them.
This AR game is based on the 1990s Pokémon animated series, and it’s trending nearly as much today as it was two decades ago. Pokémon GO is fun, interactive and fantastic for language learners of all ages and English levels. That’s right, Pokémon ESL is a great addition to your lesson plans!
Why Pokémon ESL Is Perfect for Your Students
As educators, we’re always on the lookout for resources and lessons that will challenge and motivate our students. What better way to motivate your students to learn than by using one of the most popular games in the world? Pokémon ESL is a combination of Pokémon GO and ESL activities with an emphasis on group collaboration.
Each of the following Pokémon ESL lessons will have a variety of skills such as communication, vocabulary building, creative thinking, reading, writing, etc.
Pokémon ESL can be geared to any student. The AR game itself has players from all walks of life and is intended for all ages. It’s played in nearly every country around the world and is interactive and engaging. Even if a few of your students have never played Pokémon GO, they’ll be hooked by the end of these Pokémon ESL lessons.
6 Pokémon GO-inspired ESL Group Activities
1. Pokémon GO Avatar
One of the best features of Pokémon GO is crafting your very own avatar for gameplay. You can use this creative aspect of the game and turn it into a teachable moment. This activity touches on several very important ESL skills: communication, collaboration and vocabulary building.
- Put your students in groups. It would be beneficial to have a student that has played Pokémon GO in each group, or you can do this activity in a whole group if your class is small enough.
- Show your students what a Pokémon GO avatar looks like. This can be your very own avatar, if you’re a fan of the game, or you can find one on the internet to use as well.
- Discuss the different features of the avatar, such as facial features, hair, eyes and most importantly, the clothes needed for a successful Pokémon GO hunt.
- Let the creativity flow by letting the students design their very own avatars and giving the groups time to draw and name the different features of their individual avatars. This is an important component of vocabulary building for this activity.
- Once all the Pokémon ESL avatars have been carefully crafted, it’s time for show and tell. Each student will give a short presentation in front of the class about why they chose certain features to add to their avatars.
There are a variety of ways you can approach this activity. A few extras you can add to the activity include a video on how to create a Pokémon GO avatar for the game. You can also develop an avatar worksheet using the different team names associated with the AR game.
2. Who’s Your Favorite Pokémon?
Everyone who watched the Pokémon animated series or played Pokémon GO has a favorite character. If a few of your students haven’t seen the series or played the mobile game before, it’s ok, there’s still plenty of fun to be had!
In this Pokémon ESL activity, students will choose their favorite character and write down their features, their special powers and why that Pokémon is their absolute favorite.
- Craft a Pokémon ESL worksheet choosing a handful of characters. Here’s a great worksheet example. You can also use this article to list each character’s super powers, giving your students more info, and more English, to read.
- Once you have an interactive worksheet developed for your students, it’s time to head to class, where you’ll divide your students into groups to promote communication in English.
- Give your students a good amount of class time to discuss characters, their likes and dislikes and allow time for them to fill in the worksheet.
- Once all the groups have completed their individual worksheets, it’s time to have some guessing fun! Have a student from Group A give a hint related to their favorite Pokémon to Student B in another group. Student B will then try to guess the character using the examples on their worksheet.
- Continue this until all students have had a chance to give hints and guess.
This Pokémon ESL activity promotes a wealth of English language skills. They’ll practice communication, creative thinking, reading, writing, vocabulary building and collaboration in a group setting.
3. Pokémon GO Safe Play
One of the biggest problems associated with Pokémon GO play is the danger that players, or “trainers,” have been exposed to. You certainly want to keep your students safe in and out of the classroom, and this Pokémon ESL activity aims to do just that. Other than learning how to play safe, your students will learn a variety of ESL skills, such as communication, collaboration, reading and writing.
- To make this Pokémon ESL activity a hit with your class, you’ll need to craft a worksheet outlining safe practices when playing Pokémon GO. Here’s a great example of a worksheet from the New York Police Department. It’s best to keep it colorful and fun to keep your students engaged when reading about “rules.”
- Once you’ve developed a very informative worksheet, it’s time to share it with your eager Pokémon ESL students.
- Before the activity begins, put your students into small groups. This will promote communication and discussion in English.
- Go over the guidelines for safe Pokémon GO play together as a class. This is a fantastic time to identify new vocabulary words, have students read aloud and field questions your students may have.
- Once you’ve covered the basics, unleash your students to have lively discussions about the guidelines. Each group will choose five of the most important rules and write down why they think they’re paramount to safety.
- Once each group is ready, have them share their most important safe practices with the class.
4. Pokémon Word Scramble
This Pokémon ESL activity will call upon your students’ memory and ability to think quickly in English. Word scrambles for ESL are certainly nothing new, but when you pair them with the hottest mobile game in the world, you have a perfect storm of language learning.
- Craft a compelling worksheet detailing each Pokémon character and their features. Here’s a good example you can use to develop your classroom worksheet. You’ll want to have pictures of each character on the left and features on the right, like any traditional word scramble worksheet. It should look something like this.
- Before passing out the Pokémon ESL worksheet, you and your class will talk about each character on the worksheet. You can ask your students if they recognize any of the characters or if they know any of the features.
- Once the presentation is finished, and questions answered, it’s time to share your colorful and informative worksheet with the class. Put your students into groups and hand out the worksheet.
- Let your students discuss the different Pokémon in their groups, and have them match the features with the characters.
- After each group is finished filling in the word scramble worksheet, it’s time to put their memories to the test. Go down the worksheet and have a member from each group give their answer. You’ll award one point for each right answer and reveal the victor at the end of class.
This Pokémon ESL activity promotes a number of fantastic ESL skills your students can use in and out of the classroom. Communication, group collaboration, memory recall, writing, reading and vocabulary building will all take place during this activity.
5. New Pokémon Classroom Characters
Do you have an idea for a new Pokémon? Anyone who has played Pokémon GO, or those fans of the animated series, has probably thought of a character or two. Now you and your class can bring new characters to life with this Pokémon ESL activity.
- Have a class discussion about a few of their favorite Pokémon characters. This activity goes great with the “Who’s Your Favorite Pokémon?” lesson listed above.
- You can ask your students, “Who’s your favorite Pokémon? What are your favorite features? Which super powers do you like the most? Will your Pokémon fly, run fast, be invisible?”
- Once you have a lively discussion about the myriad of characters, it’s time to show off a Pokémon you created to your students! You can use this online Pokémon creator to get things moving. This will serve as an example to what they’ll do in their groups. Make your character colorful, list its features and, of course, its super powers.
- Separate your students into groups and have them begin discussing their creative Pokémon ESL ideas with other students. This compilation of character parts would be useful for your students.
- After each student has creatively crafted their very own Pokémon, it’s time to present them to the class. Allow students to ask a few questions about the characters too, reinforcing the ESL skills encompassing this activity.
Keeping things creative in class is an essential part of ESL. By combining this activity with creativity, you can leverage ESL skills such as communication, discussion, collaboration, writing, vocabulary and critical thinking (in English!).
6. Pokémon Exploration Journal
This Pokémon ESL activity is for students that play Pokémon GO regularly. It combines ESL learning done in the classroom with real-world practice. This activity encourages students to record their Pokémon hunts in a journal to later share with the class.
Like a junior anthropologist on an expedition, your students will build confidence, communication skills and perform English reading and writing tasks in and out of the classroom.
- Set some parameters for your students’ Pokémon ESL journal. You can include the characters captured, interesting things they saw while on their hunt, locations, times, dates and personal thoughts.
- Set a week deadline for your students to fill their journal. It’s best practice to include parents in this activity as well. Encourage them to join their ESL learners, making it a family experience. You can also get in on the fun and make your own journal to share with your students.
- When the week deadline comes, let your students share their Pokémon ESL journal in groups. They’ll share the characters they caught, their thoughts and experiences they had while on the hunt.
- Ensure you allow time for group members to ask questions. This will make for some lively conversation, promoting communication and confidence to ask and answer questions in English.
It’s a very good idea to do the “Pokémon GO Safe Play” activity with your class prior to this one. You can also go over the guidelines of staying safe while hunting Pokémon with your class, an important aspect whether you use any of these Pokémon ESL activities or not.
Pairing what’s trending with your ESL lesson plans is a sure-fire way to motivate your ESL students to learn more. It’s also a perfect way to take a much-needed break from traditional textbook learning. Let Pokémon ESL be a part of your syllabus and give your students the confidence to use English in and out of the classroom. What Pokémon ESL activities have you used?
Stephen Seifert is a writer, editor, professor of English and adventurer. With nearly a decade of teaching experience to students worldwide, he enjoys the many aspects of culture and traditions different from his own. Stephen continues his search for writing inspiration, boldly enjoying life to the fullest.
And One More Thing…
If you’re looking for fun resources to engage your ESL students, then you’ll love FluentU! FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, cartoons, documentaries and more—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons for you and your students.
It’s got a huge collection of authentic English videos that people in the English-speaking world actually watch on the regular. There are tons of great choices there when you’re looking for songs for in-class activities. You’ll find music videos, musical numbers from cinema and theater, kids’ singalongs, commercial jingles and much, much more.
On FluentU, all the videos are sorted by skill level and are carefully annotated for students. Words come with example sentences and definitions. Students will be able to add them to their own vocabulary lists, and even see how the words are used in other videos.
For example, if a student taps on the word “brought,” they’ll see this:
Plus, these great videos are all accompanied by interactive features and active learning tools for students, like multimedia flashcards and fun games like “fill in the blank.”
It’s perfect for in-class activities, group projects and solo homework assignments. Not to mention, it’s guaranteed to get your students excited about English!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to teach English with real-world videos.