Online game to practice English phrases

Grammar Bubbles

You can set this page as a homework task for a group of students; doing so will give you a record of who has completed the task. Visit the teacher's section for more information.

In the teachers section you can also get embeddable code to add this game to your blog or webpage. You can also create direct links to this page with content pre-selected.

This is a game for practicing English sentence formation. It is primarily aimed at ESL (English as a second language) students. To play, you select a set of content to play with, and then make sentences by clicking on word bubbles. As you make sentences, the bubbles disappear and slowly the board is cleared.

The idea behind this game is to have players practice forming sentences in a fun way. Rather than just click on boxes or words to make sentences, which can get a bit boring, this game tries to make it more engaging. This is done by making it similar to a bejeweled type of game. In that genre, you have a board of gems, candies or other items and you have to match them, make them disappear and in doing so, slowly clear the whole board. The idea with this game is to have similar game play, except instead of matching jewels, players form English sentences. Bubbles are used to enclose individual words so that they can be combined in different ways. They are particularly good for this purpose as they are appealing while also hollow so as to allow the words to be displayed clearly.

Simply forming sentences, which useful in some ways, can be criticized as being dry and lacking in context. It is questionable as to whether a player is really learning much or acquiring language if they are just forming sentences abstractly. I think that language acquisition really needs a context of meaning that the language can be attached to. If you take the example of the phrase, 'He is turning on the TV'. If you can get a learner to practice forming this sentence, then it can be useful to re-enforce grammar and also the collocation of 'turning on' with 'TV'. However, it is vastly more useful if the learner can practice forming the sentence while also being presented with an image that elicits the meaning or idea of a guy turning the TV on. When a player forms the sentence in the matching context, the language is associated with the meaning and the language acquisition is much more effective. With this in mind, this game shows an image and requires the player to form a correct sentence which matches the meaning shown in the picture.

Forming the sentences in the correct way, getting correct forms of verbs etc, can be quite difficult. To make it somewhat easier, this game offers feedback to guide the player. As the bubbles are clicked, the sentence formed shows at the bottom of the screen. When small mistakes, such as missing words or incorrect word order, are made, red marks appear at the bottom to indicate this and to show the player how to change the sentence formation. Bigger mistakes, such as getting the verb or first word wrong, are also highlighted. Although, it's quite difficult to give an accurate correction for such mistakes and so these mistakes as simply underlined in red.

Playing the game is, hopefully, quite straightforward. You click the bubbles to select the words, re-click to deselect a word and you even click and drag the mouse over bubbles to select more quickly. When selecting bubbles, you can only select adjacent ones - as that's how this kind of game works - and to help with this, possible bubbles are highlighted in yellow.

There a couple of modes to play in. Normal mode can be quite tricky and so an easy mode is also possible. Easy mode fades out all the bubbles except the ones you must select. Then you simply have to select the remaining bubbles in the correct order. It's also possible to get a hint by clicking on the 'hint' button. When you do this, the game draws a line specifically showing the correct answer. This displays once right at the start, so as to guide the player as to how to play the game.

The game doesn't have scoring in the way that other games do, but it does keep track of the time taken to complete a set of content. At the end, a high score table is shown and players who complete a set fastest are shown at the top.