The Impact of Playing Word Games on Young Iranian EFL Learners’ Vocabulary Learning and Retention

Document Type: Research Paper


Department of English, Tabriz Branch, Islamic Azad University, Tabriz, Iran


Acquiring adequate vocabulary in a foreign language is very important but often difficult. Considering the importance of learner’s vocabulary learning and retention, the present study aimed at examining the impact of playing word games on young Iranian EFL learners’ vocabulary learning and retention at Irandoostan language Institute in Tabriz. To that end, 50 female learners at the age range of 8-12 were selected and assigned into an experimental (n=25) and a control (n=25) group. The design of the study was quasi-experimental with pretest, immediate posttest and delayed posttest. The content of the tests were based on the students’ course books and consisted of 20 items. The researcher utilized the word games in order to teach the selected vocabulary items during the course which lasted for a month and a half. The games were played each session for about 15 minutes. The experimental group was engaged in playing word games as a treatment and the control group received usual instruction. After the treatment, the participants in both groups took the post-test and after two weeks the learners were asked to take the test once more. This time their scores were assigned as the retention post-test scores. The mean scores of two groups were compared three times through the independent samples t-test. The results of the data analysis revealed that playing word games were effective in helping learners to improve their vocabulary learning and retention.


Alemi, M. (2010). Educational games as a vehicle to teaching vocabulary. MJAL, 2(6), 425-438.

Aslanabadi, H. (2013). The effect of games on improvement of  Iranian vocabulary EFL  knowledge in kindergartens. (Unpublished master’s thesis). Islamic Azad University, Tabriz.

Ballantyne, K. G., Sanderman,  A. R., & Levy, J. (2012). Educating English language learners: Building teacher capacity. Washington, DC: NCELA. Retrieved from

Boyle, O. F., & Peregoy, S. F. (1990). Literacy scaffolds: Strategies for first- and second language readers and writers. The Reading Teacher, 44(3), 144-200.

Byrne, D. (1995). Teaching  oral  English. Harlow: Longman Group UK Limited.

Carroll, S. E. (1964). The “micro-structure” of a learning problem: Prosodic prominence, attention, segmentation and word learning in a second language. Paper  presented at the Canadian Linguistic Association, Toronto.

Celce-Murica, M. (1979). Teaching English as a second or foreign language (2nd   Ed.). Boston: Massachusetts.

Decarrico, J. S. (2001). Vocabulary learning and teaching. In  M. Celce- Murcia (Ed.), Teaching English as a second or foreign language (pp. 285-299) .Boston, MA: Heinle & Heinle.

Dolati, I., & Mikaili, P. (2011). Opinion related to the main reasons on Iranian students difficulties in spoken English proficiency. Australian Journal of Basic and Applied Science. Retrieved from

Gersten, R.,& Baker, S.(2000). What we know about effective instructional practices for English- language learners. Exceptional Children, 66(4), 454-470.

Harmer, J. (1991). The  practice of  English language teaching. London: Longman.

Hulstijn, J. (2001). Intentional and incidental second language learning: A reappraisal of elaboration, rehearsal and automaticity. In P. Robinson (Ed.), Cognition and second language  acquisition instruction (pp. 258- 286).Cambridge: Cambridge  University Press.

Huss-Keeler, R. L. (1998). Teacher perception of ethic and linguistic minority parental involvement and its relationships to children’s language and literacy learning: A case study. Teaching and Teacher Education, 13(2), 171-182.

Laufer, B. (1998). The development of passive and active vocabulary: Same or different? Applied  Linguistics, 19(2), 255-271.

Lee, S. K. (1995). Creative games for the language class. Forum, 33(1), 35-42.

Linse, C. T. (2006). Practical English language teaching: Young learners. New York: Mc Graw-Hill.

Mackey, A. (1981). An ESL reading and vocabulary textbook.  Boston: Englewood Cliffs, Prentice –Hall.

Miller, L. J. (1992). Using  games  in ESL class. TESOL, 29(3), 324-365.

Mobaslat , M. M. (2012). The  effect  of  using  educational games on the students’ achievement in English  language  for  the  primary  stage.Retrived from E R I C  Database.  (ED 529467)

Nation, I. S. P. (2001). Learning vocabulary in another language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Nicholson, D., & Williams, G. (1975). Word games for the teaching of reading. London. Pitman  Education  Library.

Rahimi,  A., & Sahragard, R. (2008). Vocabulary can be fun. California Linguistic Notes, 33(2), 1-33.

Richards. J. C. (1976). The role of vocabulary teaching. TESOL Quarterly, 10(1), 77-89.

Rivers, W. M. (1981). Communicating  naturally in a second language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rohani,  M. (2013). The effect of  games on vocabulary. International Research Journal of Applied and Basic Sciences, 4(11), 3540-3543.

Sorayaie A. A. (2012). The effect of games on EfL learners’ vocabulary learning strategies. Intenational Journal of  Basic and Applied Science, 1(2), 1-12.

Stoller, F. L., & Grabe, W. (1993). Implicationsfor L2 vocabulary acquisition and instruction from L1 vocabulary research. In  T. Huckin , M. Haynes & J. Coady (Eds.), Second language reading and vocabulary learning (pp. 24-45). Norwood,        NJ: Ablex.

Taheri, M. (2014). The  effect  of  using  language  games on vocabulary retention  of  Iranian elementary EFL learners. Journal  of  Language Teaching and  Research, 5(3), 544-549.

Taylor, L. (1990). Teaching and  learning vocabulary. New York: PrenticeHall.

Tuan, L. T. (2012). Vocabulary recollection through games. Theory and Practice in Language  Studies, 2(2), 257-264.

Tunchalearnpanih , P. (2012). Using games on P.6 Students’ vocabulary learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wong- Fillmore, L., & Snow, C. (2000). What teachers need to know about language. (ERIC Digest). Washington, DC: ERIC clearinghouse on language and linguistics. Retrived from ERIC database. (ED250135)