Now that we have learned a bit about why games support our academic needs, let’s talk about the best ways to turn games into valuable language therapy materials.
Yes, games come in boxes and line our shelves but we need to reach back into the memories of our childhood and reintroduce ourselves to the games we played in and around our neighborhood. We also need to open our minds forward and think of all the possibilities that apps and websites could afford us. If it matches the narrative structure of a book, it is “fair game.”
This essay is to a follow-up to last week’s post: Justifying Language Therapy Games with Literacy
Types of Games:
We all have our favorites. Think of yours. No, truly think of yours. Monopoly is a cumulative story where you are a realty investor and you travel around accumulating wealth. So is Sorry! Winners accumulate. Trivial Pursuit is both a cumulative and question and answer game.
Scavenger Hunt – Searches
Tag, 7-Steps Around the House, Marco Polo, Oh Captain My Captain, Capture the Flag. If there was a reason I was getting grounded in the summer when I was young, chances are I didn’t come home when I was in the middle of a scavenger hunt -search game. Leaving the game would have been against the law, basically, or so I told my mom. There are books like Going on a Bear Hunt or Are You My Mother? which can be reenacted with 10 stick-figure drawings and a trip around your school yard.
Imitation and Follow Directions Games
I was teaching my students Go-Go-Stop when a passerby asked, “Are you from up north?” When I said I was, she said: “It’s called Red-Light Green-Light down here.” My student immediately knew what to do. Statues and Simon Says are both imitation games. You can get your students out of their chairs with books like Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? or From Head to Toe and move your way through the plot.
Patty-Cake Type Games
I don’t know if this is an actual genre of games, perhaps I made it up. But that is kind of the point of clapping/rhythm games, you make them up. Beat on the table, clap, work with partners, or make up a pattern by taping on your body. Middle schoolers often know hand-clap series that go with jump-ropeish (second made up word!) songs that boggle the mind. There is something about creating the beats that also generates loud responses as students really get into it and compete with the noise. This, folks, is also brain-based learning and engagement. Check out the book: Anna Banana: 101 Jump Rope Rhymes.
Bingo is in a class of its own and is the black pepper of games. You can throw it into anything you are cooking up. Reading Bear on a Bike? Transportation Bingo. Brown Bear? Animal Bingo. Hungry Caterpillar? Food Bingo. If you do not know where to start or are short on time, start with Bingo.
Games are Stories – Stories are Games
When making language therapy materials out of games we need to blur the lines between games and stories. They are the same! Narratives are powerful at linking together tons of details. Think about all the kids participating in extremely complex online universes. There would be no way to remember all the places, characters, powers, etc. without the story and its narrative glue. Now, we are going to reverse engineer the process.
We are going to turn the paradigm on its head and use the game to teach the narrative.
Your job is to:
- Choose a book you love
- Identify what narrative structure it has
- Map the story onto a game that has the same structure (see prior post)
How to Make Language Therapy Materials out of Games
The bright people that make games don’t think like speech-language pathologists. This means we have to make games from scratch. Here are some powerful time- and effort-saving tips:
- Use manila folders for physical games. They are easy to carry and to store. They can be laminated. The kids can make their own.
- Make it once for your favorite book and create a box/folder/binder of everything related to that book. We have a library of binders in our office. Each binder has the blank templates from the previous section, the books in a pouch, everything related to the book and a game or two. We have a checkout system where we have a list of all of our literacy-kits and everyone has a clothespin with their name on it to mark what kit they have out.
- Have your students make their own games! Now that’s learning.
- Have your older students make your games at the end of each book. They LOVE it and you have incredible keepsakes.