Using Kahoot! in a language classroom

How I found out about Kahoot! 

“I did not sign up for this! I am an English teacher, not a wildlife wrangler! And I am never playing competitive games in my classroom again!”, I was thinking to myself as I watched my 20-student class erupt into shouts, scattering answer cards around the classroom and stabbing the air with uncapped (oh horror!)  markers for emphasis.

 

It all started well enough. In order to review some of the material we covered in the last few weeks, I devised a PowerPoint-based quiz. Students were working in groups and had to answer a variety of questions, i.e. finding a spelling mistake in a sentence, choosing a word that matches the definition on the screen etc. The teams had to write their answers on large answer cards and lift them in the air. The first team who displayed a correct answer (including correct spelling) gets a point. And here lies the problem. Hard as I tried, I was never sure if I made the right call as to who was the first. The students didn’t help the matters, claiming that it was definitely their team who answered first, even as their teammates were still writing an answer down.

It was during one of these ‘WE WERE FIRST TEACHER’ shouting matches when a student asked me why I wasn’t using Kahoot! He had me at ‘you answer with your mobile phone and the game sees who was first’. I questioned the student about which of my colleagues used this amazing game and set to researching.

What is Kahoot! and how does it work?

As I found out, Kahoot! is a free online platform for creating and running learning games. It can be used to create multiple-choice questions with embedded pictures and videos. . Teachers can either create their own Kahoots or search for publicly available games. There are tons of Kahoots out there based on specific textbooks such as New English File or specific grammar points. You can also check out trending Kahoots as well as most popular ones, although bear in mind that not all of them will be related to language learning – Kahoot! is popular in all learning environments and subjects including regular school subjects like chemistry or math.

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How you can use Kahoot! in your language classroom

Revising a particular topic, book unit or a whole textbook. 

You can revise grammar, vocabulary, functional language, trivia or even phonology using Kahoot!

It’s true that the multiple-choice format somewhat limits your options, but you can get creative and use it to your advantage.

Here are some things you can do using the MCQ format:

  • You can make true/false or yes/no questions.
  • You can ask which sentence is grammatically correct/incorrect.
  • You can have the students choose odd word/sentence out
  • Ask questions about synonyms, opposites and examples (or not examples – e.g. which sentence below is NOT an example of passive voice)
  • Include more than one correct answer to make the task harder

I used this Kahoot  (you`ll need to register on https://getkahoot.com/ in order to view this and other public Kahoots as a teacher) in a first lesson with a new B1 group as a fun way to break the ice and to revise some topics they might have covered in their previous courses. After every question we stopped and discussed the answers. For example, one of the questions was: Which of these countries are not in Europe?  The answer choices were Spain, Argentina, France, Switzerland. After learning the correct answer and laughing about how some students didn’t see NOT and chose the wrong answer, we talked about which language(s) were spoken in each country, and how Swiss is a nationality but not a language and how it is often confused with Swedish, which is both a nationality and a language.

Here are some more examples from various other Kahoots:

 

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Assessment 

Similar to the above, you can create vocabulary, grammar, functional language, reading and even listening quizzes! Here, an important consideration is the impact of technical issues on the validity and reliability of the quizzes or tests -a momentary lapse in connection might mean that a student looses connection to the game and thus looses points. Consequently, Kahoot! might be better used for informal or semi-formal assessment rather than for a  high stakes end-of-the-course test.

As you will see below, Kahoot! will let you download a copy of the game score in Excel format where you will see a total score for each participant which includes a number of correct/incorrect answers as well as a breakdown for each question, which is great for both assessment purposes as well as for  for analyzing areas of strength and weakness for each student.

Oh, and look out for cheating! Some of my students enjoyed shouting out the colors of the wrong answers in an attempt to mislead or confuse their peers. And it’s much easier to spy which color square your peer chooses than to see what answer they choose on a printed worksheet.

Use Kahoot! as an alternative to textbook-based reading/listening activities. 

  • Get students to read a portion of a text/listen to a part of a listening text, then ask a question in Kahoot!. Repeat until the students get to the end of the text. Ask more questions, perhaps requiring the students to re-read the text.
  • Don’t stop at showing the correct answer to make sure you are teaching your students reading/listening skills rather than just testing them. Get the students to support the correct answer with a passage from the text. Ask the students why incorrect answers are incorrect.
  • If the majority of the class didn’t get the right answer, go over the text again. Demonstrate your reasoning  – think aloud as you go over the answers, discarding incorrect ones and choosing the right one(s).
  • You can create your own questions or use the ones in the textbook (but you might have to adapt them to the MCQ format)

Trivia Quizzes

This can be a fun way to test your students on non-language related matters. For example, you can use a Kahoot! quiz to familiarize the students with their textbooks and other materials.

  • Distribute/make sure students have the books.
  • Make a quiz about the textbook features you think students should be aware of – e.g. How many units are there? Where can they find word lists for each units?. 
  • Set a longer time limit for each questions to give the students enough time to find the answers

Alternatively, trivia can be related to your institution – you could have the students read a brochure or a website of your school/university and then do a quiz on the school’s facilities, rules etc. I usually include the question below in every quiz I create as a running joke about the fact that my Turkish students insist on calling me Teacher (or My Teacher) and I have to work quite hard to get them to call me by my first name)

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To give you an example of a trivia quiz, in my university we have a big concert/talent show at the end of the year. The concert usually culminates in a big quiz with real prizes. In the past, we used a Who Wants to be a Millionaire format, but last year we decided to use Kahoot!, which became extremely popular among our students in a preparatory program in a private university.

The Kahoot! which I prepared and presented contained a variety of questions: some were language-related, some were about the teachers and the university and some were about their textbooks. Here are some examples:

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The question above is a  tricky one! The photo is black and white so it must be old, right? Also it kind of looks like a boy? The majority of students said that it was my much older, and obviously male, colleague Richard. No!!!! It is meeeeee! I am the GIRL in the photo! As to why it is black and white – I am from Russia, ok? I was born in the Soviet Union, in fact, and color film was a luxury reserved for special occasions. So were good clothes. This photo was taken around 1988 but it looks like it was taken at the turn of the century so I see how students would be confused.

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The question below was super tricky because the names of the colors don’t correspond to the color of the block it is written on – there was a loud collective groan when the correct answer was displayed!14

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The quiz was a huge success although one or two students experienced Internet connection-related difficulties. I definitely enjoyed not having to figure out who was the first person to answer since there were several hundred students participating in the game. Here’s an action shot of me presenting the game:

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Use Kahoot! to teach new material 

Also known as Blind Kahoot, teaching with Kahoot! involves asking a ‘blind’ question, i.e. the question the students don’t know the answer to, followed by an explanation, an opportunity to answer the same question, and a reinforcing question allowing students to apply the knowledge/concept. Here is a template for creating a Blind Kahoot and a talk by Stephanie Castle,  the teacher who coined the concept. 

Get students to compete against themselves 

The recently introduces Ghost Mode allows students to compete against their ‘ghost’ selves. Once you finish a game of Kahoot!, you can choose to relaunch the same game in the Ghost Mode (there will be a small ghost icon next the the Play Again option) which means that your students will be joined by their ghosts who will be repeating the exact performance of the last game – that is, the ghost will ‘choose’ the same answers with the same speed. The students will need to beat their previous score to get ahead! More information on Ghost Mode here.

Creating and running a Kahoot!

Step 1. Create a quiz

Go to https://getkahoot.com/and register. You are now ready to create your first quiz. The options available to you are:

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Once you create a quiz, you will have an option to edit the quiz, i.e. by re-ordering the questions, and to preview it, that is to see what it looks like from the point of view of students. You can jazz up your questions by adding pictures, videos and charts.

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Step 2. Get your students to join a game

To run a game of Kahoot!, you will need a large screena projector or a smartboard and the participants will need some sort of device with an Internet connection, e.g. computers or smartphones. Students can play individually, in pairs or in teams. The latter is particularly good if there is a limited number of devices. In my current teaching context the majority of the students have a smart phone and the university has a decent wireless internet connection and the classrooms are equipped with ActiveBoards, so I have been able to run Kahoot! games in my classroom. A couple of times, when I knew the majority of a lesson will be conducted using Kahoot! I took my students to the computer lab.

In order to join the game, no apps are necessary. Students simply type kahoot.it into their browsers, and enter a pin code to join the game. They then enter nicknames or team names. You have an option to kick students with profane nicknames out of the game. Sometimes I use Kahoot! as a graded quiz, which means I need to know students’ real names rather than nicknames, but students get rather attached to their nicknames so as a compromise I told them they could use a nickname as long as their real name was in there somewhere. As a result, we had BestKingofEnglishMehmet and MostBeautifulRoseCeylan competing with CoolBoyBurak.

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Step 3. Start the game 

Once everyone joins the game, you can run it. First, only the question is displayed on the screen. In the next screen students will see the question, video or picture clues if you included any, and answer options. However, they will not see this on their devices. Their device screens will show only the differently-colored shapes representing the answer choices. As a representative of Kahoot! explains in this masterclass, the idea for the game is to get participants to ‘raise their eyes’ from the devices so that they can engage with the whole class – they can discuss the answers with each other and with the teacher. In the picture below (in the Preview Quiz mode) on the left is the screen view (visible to anyone) and to the right is the device view (what the players see)

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Participants have a limited amount of time to answer each question – from 5 seconds to 2 minutes. If you want students to debate the answer or to look things up, you can set a longer time limit, or make it as short as 10 seconds for a quick-fire series of questions.

Step 4. Looking at the answers

Once everyone answers a question, or the time runs out – whichever happens first – the correct answer is displayed along with the statistics on how many people chose a particular answer. You can pause here to discuss why the correct answer was correct or why students chose what they chose. This is a great opportunity for seeing how many students are having problems with a particular topic. Below is a sad example of me being the only participant and getting the answer wrong at that.

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In the next screen you will see who is currently leading – up to 5 names are displayed and points are awarded for speed and for accuracy. Once the game is over, you can download the score sheet in Exel format and see the breakdown for each participant – how many answers they got right and wrong and what answer they gave for each question.

Conclusion 

Kahoot! is a great platform for learning games which can be used to introduce, test and revise a variety of material, including language learning lessons. However, using Kahoot! requires some equipment, namely a large screen, a projector, or a smartboard, smartphones or computers for students and a reliable Internet connection.

Read more about Kahoot!

Here are some useful guides from Kahoot!. This one gives a brief explanation of how it all works in case you are still not sure what it’s all about and this one gives some tips on creating your own Kahoots!. The Kahoot! Academy journal has lots cool ideas and tips.

Have you used Kahoot! in your classroom? What was your experience? Do you have any tips? Leave a comment below!

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2 thoughts on “Using Kahoot! in a language classroom

  1. Pingback: How to Present at an ELT Conference | Yuliya Speroff

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