Freebie TpT Product coming up at the end…just for readers of my blog!
As I stated in my blog post on Word Walls, I love words. I have been surrounded by words my entire life, first in books, magazines, and newspapers, and then the internet and apps. I will admit that I am a Words with Friends junkie…I have played this game for nine years now and show no signs up stopping anytime soon. (Username: Jan119 – send me a game request!) In addition to words, I love playing games, so imagine my excitement when I first realized that there were games totally devoted to WORDS!
Last year, I discovered Words with Friends Edu and jumped on it as a fun activity for my tutoring students. However, several months ago, the company discontinued the Edu version online. However, I still think that Words with Friends, Scrabble or other word building games are a great resource for students to learn and study new words. While playing WWF, I have learned many new words that I had no idea existed until either I or an opponent used them in the game. While I don’t believe in students learning strange words they will never use, I do want them to learn and be able to use some of the more common words played in the game that they will see in books, textbooks, and the internet. One of the best features of the WWF Edu website were the many lesson plans to use in conjunction with the game; fortunately, I saved all the lesson plans in my Google Drive so you can access there HERE!
In an article posted on Edutopia about building vocabulary with games, it states that “Developing students’ vocabulary doesn’t have to be a chore. Given a creative mindset and some openness to exploring, we can find opportunities to educate and stretch students’ understanding with play. Far from being wasted time, these exchanges can help motivate students to realize that playing with language can be enjoyable”.
Furthermore, the website Reading Rockets published an article on using technology tools to promote vocabulary instruction and had this to say about having fun with words: Whether directly teaching vocabulary and word learning strategies, or increasing students’ volume of reading, an important research-based principle that applies across the board is to promote a lively interest in words through student expression and participation in a learning community that enjoys playing with words, builds on individual interests as well as curriculum needs, and emphasizes self-efficacy in word learning (Beck et al., 2008; Graves & Watts- Taffe, 2008).
My Favorite Word Games for Students
Word Monkeys – I have to say this is my top choice; I have used it with both struggling readers and gifted students, both in schools and during tutoring. The concept is simple; players take turns making words with the seven cards in their hand and the top card on the draw pile. The longer and more complex the words are, the more points they receive! I remember pleading with my RtI reading group to play on Fridays, even though some were tired of the game!
Photo by Jan
Photo by Jan
Word Shark – Another fun game that has players building words with mats. The game can be easier for younger students (mats already have the rime/word family on the mat, and the player just has to provide the beginning consonant). For advanced or older students, you can use the blank word mat where players draw both vowels and consonants and build their own words.
My Word – A fast-paced game with the dealer continuously placing vowel, consonant, digraphs and suffix cards on the table while the other players watch for words they can create out of the cards. When they see one, they have to grab it and make it…the more words they can spot and build, the more points. I found I had to make some adjustments for younger students, such as pausing in my dealing so they could have a chance to look over the cards and not get overwhelmed.
Word Connect – I only recently learned about this app from a tutoring student…a fun app that displays letters and the boxes for the words; the player has to put the letters in the correct order to make the words. It sounds easy, but I was surprised at how many words you can make from just three letters; it’s all about putting the letters in the correct order. The levels are easy at first but gradually become more difficult as they pass the beginning levels.
Word Ladders – This is not really a game, but it’s so much fun that I’m including it on my list. Students start at the bottom with a word, then have to add or remove letters based on the clues as they “climb” the ladder. I would put together packets of these for both RtI and tutoring students as it’s a great warm-up for a group or tutoring session. The link takes you to the Daily Word Ladders book you can buy, but you can also find others word ladder sheets online: here and here, as well as many other websites.
Bananagrams – I only recently discovered this game, but it’s already a favorite! The banana-shaped pouch contains Scrabble-type letter tiles, and players race each other to build words! I recently played this with two sisters I tutor; 5th-grade sister did fine on her own, but I had to help the 3rd-grade sister…she didn’t understand the all words had to connect; she wanted to just build isolated words from her tiles (although that could be an option at first with younger kids). Another option is that there is a version especially for young kids, My First Bananagrams!
Okay, so playing these games is fun…but what about the LEARNING aspect?
Of course, these games can help foster phonics, spelling and vocabulary skills, as well as a love and knowledge of words. But all of that is nebulous and hard to measure…so I took it a step further. As the games were played, I had students write down the words they built or played. After the game, I had them choose 2-3 words they either did not know the meaning of, or just “kind of knew it” (have you ever asked your student if he/she knows what a word means and they answer yes, but then can’t give you the definition? That’s “kind of knowing it”). I had them record words on this sheet, find out the meaning…either with my help, other students’ help, or the internet, and then write the definition and use in a sentence. I then add these words to lists in either Vocabulary/Spelling City (for younger kids) or Quizlet (for older kids). I have the students return to these words over the weeks by using them in a variety of vocabulary and spelling activities. Even after they have “passed” their tests on the words on Vocab/Spelling City or Quizlet, I still have them use and review the words during the year….that’s what ensures retention of words.
My latest Teachers Pay Teachers product is all about Word Games, and the activities for practicing and retaining the words! There are several fun vocabulary and spelling ideas that incorporate social media and popular culture. However…YOU, the reader of this blog, can have a copy for free, by clicking on the link below!
Please use the comment section to tell me about any other word games and word study activities you use in your classroom!