By Steve Quann

: : Tech skills:  click, drag and drop

Webster’s dictionary defines alchemy as “a power or process of transforming something common into something special.” I would like to suggest transforming a game called Little Alchemy into an educational tool. Click on the screenshot below for a YouTube walkthrough of the game.

This is a game where users combine two “elements” (a bit of a misnomer here since these are not from the periodic table). For example, by adding water and earth one makes mud. By adding fire to mud one makes brick and so on. There are over 400 possible combinations, but be warned: some can be quite abstract and challenging, over simplified and sometimes fantastical. It is “alchemy”, not science, so some critical thinking skills and discussion might be in order. However, I think you will easily see merits of this game for most students. Here I will focus on using various strategies with English language learners, high beginner and up.

Individual work

Each element has an image and a label. After students are briefly introduced to the app, they can begin by selecting words and trying to combine them. This can be a fun way for students to interact with words in a kinesthetic way, learning new words as they create combinations.

Activities for the whole class

With a projector, demonstrate an example or two (“If I combine water and fire I will get…. steam.”) and then begin to ask questions and solicit guesses. “If we combine fire and water, what do you think we will get?” Then ask other students to come up and ask questions to the class trying other combinations, such as “What is your guess? What will two waters make?” Answer: sea.

Pairs or small groups

Create challenging puzzlers for pairs or small groups to work out.  For example, ask them to make metal or more difficult objects such as an airplane. Have them use this guide for a list of other elements that make up each object. Note: They should be aware that in order to investigate how each element is made, they can use the website guide and keep clicking on the element names to learn how each of the separate elements can be created.


Steve Quann was a proud staff member at World Education for many years. He was the past Director of the EdTech Center and now consults as an instructional designer on e-learning and mobile learning projects.

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