Our grade 2 son is a tremendous fan of Plants vs. Zombies, a tower defense game in which the player plants various plants which help stave off undead hordes. Together we came up with this lesson plan based on it. You can mix and match steps depending on which courses you’re integrating in. With the steps listed below we’re including Art, English, Math, Science, ADST. Of course this same approach can be taken with any other game with a few modifications.

For us the central portion of the project is the production of a “Zombie Almanac”, a 3 ring binder in which each page contains a picture of a type of zombie, its name and a description.


  1. The “Plants vs. Zombies” game
  2. A 3 ring binder (or similar binder / folder where adding pages is easy)
  3. Some drawing paper
  4. Some lined paper
  5. Some graph paper
  6. Art supplies
  7. Pencil & Eraser

As an adult, get the full list of the names of the zombies and plants (you can find this here)

For the student:

1) Prepare the drawing paper: we use the top 2/3 for a picture, then about 3cm height for the name of the plant or zombie, and the remainder for a description.

2) Load Plants vs. Zombies, and create a new character for the project.

3) Load the first level, and pause once you can see the zombies

4) Draw / Paint “Zombie” and “Peashooter”, the first two characters in the game.

5) Write the name of the character beneath the picture

6) Use the lined paper to prepare a tally of zombies that appear on the level

7) While you play the level, have your helper / grownup mark each zombie as it appears on the tally sheet. We break it down to a tally for which zombie appears when in which column, so it looks almost like guitar tablature.

8) Write a description for each of the characters that appeared on the level on their sheet, and add to binder.

9) Add the tally page to the binder

10) Go to the next level, and for each new zombie and character, repeat from step 4.

11) When all zombies & plants have been drawn, design a fun cover for the almanac, and show it / share it to friends. Maybe have an art gala, with all the art from it on the walls and snacks.

12) At some point, watch this video of Jeremy Vanhoozer, game designer & creator of Plants vs. Zombies. We’ll refer to it below.

Curricular Connections (Grade 2):


  • Discuss what technologies are involved in making a game like Plants Vs. Zombies. Identify the elements (music, sprites, gameplay, etc.)


  • Visual Arts:
    • Discuss use in the game’s art and the student’s drawings of line, shape, texture, colour, form.
    • Discuss use of pattern, repetition, rhythm, contrast.  (We’re taking out books on some of these elements of art to consider while drawing the zombies & plants)
  • Developing a notation to track what happens on a level. This can be as simple as a tally of zombies, or as complex as recording various elements of gameplay (plant & zombie placement, deaths, etc)


  • Writing practice & sentence structure in descriptions
  • Discuss the story line of the game. What elements are present?
  • Almost every character in Plants Vs. Zombies has a name that is some sort of a pun. Examine the puns, talk about puns, come up with a few new plant and zombie characters with pun names and related abilities.
  • Come up with a vocabulary list from the game.
  • Write a story based on Plants Vs. Zombies


  • Tally the number and types of zombies that appear on each level, and graph them.
  • Write down the fraction of each type of zombie for each level, and graph them.
  • In the Alamanc, add the cost for each plant. Discuss the best layouts of plants for a given level, given a starting budget.
    • Optionally, copy and cut out versions of the plants, with their cost listed. The student can create different plant layouts.
  • Sort and classify the plants / zombies using attributes chosen by the student. (e.g. plants that shoot, plants that grab.)

Physical Health:

We make up plant vs. zombies games where one of us plays the Plants and the other the Zombies. At some point if there’s interest I’ll list some of our rules, but they are fairly fluid and evolve from game to game.  Specific motions or actions can be added if they relate to something the student is working on (somersaults, kicks, stretching, etc.)


We could add more, but this gives a sense of how to turn a simple video game into an educational opportunity.

I’d love to hear about any ways you’ve used a passion for a game for educational purposes.