Often when students are struggling to master a particular concept, multiple opportunities to practise the concept are required. However, here is the problem. Firstly, how do we keep students engaged so they will continue to practise? Secondly, how do we produce these additional activities in a cost and time effective manner?
The answer is to adapt commercial games that you probably already have in your home or alternatively check out garage sales. Discount stores can also be a source of cheap games.
There are plenty of board games (Snakes and Ladders, Sorry, Trouble, Twister), with more variations being produced every year that enable repetition to be embedded in a game format. Play the game as per usual, but before players can move, they need to correctly read a word, write a grapheme, spell a word, etc.
Games such as hopscotch, Twister and bean bag toss provides an opportunity for physical activity while still maintaining a learning focus. Place the concepts to be learned in each hopscotch square or on each Twister circle or into each hoop in which the bean bags will be tossed. Students have to read the word or grapheme as a part of playing the game.
Sometimes just adding in a competitive element makes all the difference to a student’s mindset. Use games like Pop-up-Pirate, Crocodile Dentist or Fleas on a Dog. Every time students have success they get to put a sword in the pirate, take out a tooth or remove a flea.
Guess Who can be repurposed to practise grapheme recognition once quite a few have been introduced. Place a removable sticker on each picture with a grapheme written on the sticker. You could ask questions like, “Is it an /ee/ sound?” If the answer is ‘no’, then all the /ee/ graphemes would be flipped down. If the answer was ‘yes’, then only the /ee/ graphemes would be left standing.
Place a removable sticker (dry erase tape would also work) on each Jenga block and then write the concept to be practised on the sticker. For example, you could write on the graphemes the student has been learning or vocabulary containing the graphemes the student has been learning or words in the student’s spelling list (colour-coded of course). Not only does the student have to remove the Jenga block without toppling the tower, but also needs to be able to correctly say the grapheme and accompanying key picture, read the word or write the word on a piece of paper. Don’t let students spell the word out loud. Rather have them write on a whiteboard while they are saying the sounds in the word because we want to be encouraging them to make that sound-symbol correlation as often as possible.