Social gaming, new or old, doubles as an excellent learning experience

By Monika Salita

Social Gaming

Classic word games are given a digital renaissance. What’s old is new again, essentially. For many smartphone and tablet users, digital word games have become all the rage lately. Players of younger and older generations alike are whipping out their gleaming phones to play games such as Words with Friends or Wordfeud, the new spin on Scrabble; Draw Something, the digital version of Pictionary, and Hangman, a pocket-sized favorite game of our youth. These digital reincarnations of the classic board and pen-and-paper games prove to be quite useful in education and learning. All of the games described below are available to download for free via the Apple App Store, Google Play store for Android and of course can be played with physical game pieces and pen and paper.

Words with FriendsWords with Friends

Many games, such as Words with Friends, have a chat feature which allows for players to start conversation around the game, or anything else they’d like to discuss, which can lead to new learning experiences such as word discovery (Example: Person A: “I’d love to play ‘sommelier’ off of your ‘som’!” Person B: “What the heck is ‘sommelier’?”), word discussion (“Well, a sommelier is someone who…”) and lessons on word use (Play the word ‘zeal’ and start a conversation about zeal versus zealous versus zealot). Learning is taking place on the digital game board as well as off of it.

Draw Something

Draw Something is a fun game focused on pictures that also uses word descriptions as a part of the fun. Players must be able to be creative with creating and guessing fun and interesting words, and also have the ability to draw such interesting words. This would surely be a fun game to play with a group of art students to see what kind of detailed pictures such students would think up and also draw out.


Finally, there’s the old, simple game of Hangman. With a given number of empty spaces and certain letters used to fill the empty spaces to make a word, it is time to get creative when thinking up a new word, but also when trying to read the opponent’s mind, to see what kind of creative word they may have thought up.

No smartphone or iPad? No problem. I chose to discuss these three popular games as I know all of them have roots in classic playing options. Each of these games is just as fun, if not more fun than its digital counterpart, when played with real, physical game pieces, against specific people, together in the same room, where players can feed off of one another’s energy.

Pictionary or Scrabble

Scrabble boards can easily be adapted to be made easier to play for younger or less experienced players by making boards smaller and placing the high value tile openings such as ‘double word’ or ‘triple letter’ closer together, Pictionary can be played in a classroom by making two sets of teams to play against one another and giving the teams words of varying difficulty to draw and guess, and the ease or difficulty of Hangman is easily adjusted by the creativity, length and difficulty of words presented.

In the end, what’s old is new again. I hope that you’re able to bring new life to your teaching via the new or old versions of some very fun word and word-related games.


I adored teaching English in beautiful Montpellier, France during the 2008-09 academic year. I am an avid learner and have finished two professional certificates in public relations and social media technologies.