Game to learn

kahoot! reviewed

Frank Thompson, who teaches ESL at a busy language centre in Thailand has found one (free) online resource particularly effective for generating engagement in learning. Here’s what he has to say about kahoot!

Free on-line resource

‘kahoot!’ ( is a free game-based learning platform that provides teachers with a variety of challenging yet fun activities for use in the classroom, while generating data that can be useful in terms of student assessment. kahoot! has a wide range of uses, and I have found it really useful in teaching ESL learners.

When a quiz (or ‘jumble’) is launched, the system generates a unique PIN number. Using any suitable device (with a browser and Internet connection), players visit the website and input the PIN. Players enter a nickname before being taken into the ‘lobby’. Once all the players’ names appear in the lobby, the host (teacher) can begin the quiz.

Questions are displayed with multiple-choice answers on the host’s screen. Each answer corresponds to a color and shape. The game is designed so players must look up from their devices often, clicking or tapping on the rectangle that represents the correct answer.

Overall experience

The overall experience is first-rate. If teaching the same course to different groups, teachers are able to use the “Kahoots” prepared for their first class again and again, assuming they achieve the desired learning goals. The website’s functionality makes it simple to modify or update a quiz, while activities can be tailored to handle any age/ability level.

Practical applications

The data generated by ‘Kahoot!’ are useful for assessment, reviews, and pre-testing. With the teacher’s agreement, students are able to use smartphones in our rather lengthy (3-6 hours) lessons and ‘Kahoot!’ is effective in engaging students with the target language, particularly towards the end of the class.

‘Kahoot!’ allows teachers create/develop targeted quizzes, surveys and other useful activities. If creating or editing a Kahoot, it makes sense to use images with each question. is a useful source for images, as they are all ‘copyright free’. Otherwise, you may wish to utilize a free gif website, such as, which will upgrade the quiz experience by including ‘moving images’. Video clips are another option.

Ideas for busy teachers

If you are a busy teacher, editing an existing quiz is probably the best option – just search the database, using the most relevant terms. So, if teaching the present perfect simple and continuous, and you wish to develop an existing quiz, type in ‘present perfect simple versus present perfect continuous’, for example. This will generate literally scores of existing quizzes. When you find one of interest, you can copy it, which will save it to a section of the site called ‘My Kahoots’. Check it carefully, ensuring you go through all the answers. When you are ready to make changes, access the quiz in ‘edit’ mode and change images and/or add new questions. When completely satisfied, save the item to ‘My Kahoots’ or ‘Favourites’ or both.

Timely interventions

It is easy to adjust the time allowed for each question to match the students’ ability levels. Providing spoken commentary during a quiz can help the game to run smoothly and ensures that the whole class can participate. At the end of a quiz, a ‘podium’ reveals which students will be awarded ‘medals’ (bronze/silver/gold). You can save the data at this point.


‘Jumbles’ require players to reorder sentences. This is very useful for ESL/EFL teachers, who can assess whether or not their students have got to grips with a grammar point, such as a tense, for example.

Jumbles can be used in relation to a topic such as ‘adverbs of frequency’, in which you would want the student to put the adverb in the correct position:


(On screen): wakes up / Eric / on school days / always / at 6 o’ clock

Students would use the ‘drag and drop’ method to reorder the sentence components thus:

‘Eric always wakes up at 6 o’ clock on school days.’ 

Advantages & disadvantages

The pros far outweigh the cons. ESL learners can benefit by engaging in English activities using a platform with which they are comfortable. Using ‘Kahoot!’ provides:

  • Improved engagement
  • Instant feedback
  • Data to ‘drive instruction’
  • Full or near to full participation
  • An opportunity to clarify key language points and check concept understanding

And, at present, it is free to use.

The disadvantages are ‘Kahoot!’ requires:

  • All students to have their phones with them in order to participate fully. Sharing a phone is less effective.
  • A good WiFi connection
  • A projector

Teachers also need to be aware that its ease of use and functionality can lead a teacher to becoming too reliant upon it and lessons lacking variety of approach.

  • Always closely check the content before using; occasionally a photo might be deemed offensive in some cultures
  • New features are appearing regularly in ‘Kahoot!’
  • Use the ‘editing’ function so you don’t have to ‘reinvent the wheel’
  • Share the benefits with colleagues and collaborate to create materials together
  • Avoid becoming too reliant upon any single app, software or activity

Having used ‘Kahoot!’ and having listened to students’ views, I would strongly suggest you consider signing-up to try it. It’s free and has much to offer if you are a teacher or instructor.

Frank Stephen Thompson International Language Center (ILC), Rajabhat Rajanagarindra University, Chachoengsao, Thailand.



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