I know what you’re thinking. It’s hard to find time to squeeze in all of the mandated curriculum, so adding games to the mix is next to impossible. We all know that making learning fun and engaging is something our students need, but it isn’t always easy to accomplish. There are many different games that support learning and are backed by research. The four listed below are must-haves for a fun and functional approach to support vocabulary development. Plus, they won’t break the bank.
The versatility Boggle provides makes it a perfect game for any classroom. To play, students have three minutes to construct words using adjacent letters in the 4×4 grid. The tray of 16 cubic dice is shaken and adjusted before each game, which leads to endless combinations and limitless fun. The mere practice of searching for and building words supports lexicon enrichment. According to research scientist and literacy expert Michael Graves, one of the four criteria necessary for a comprehensive vocabulary program is to foster word consciousness using word play activities that motivate and enhance learning.
Before you starting adding up the number of Boggle sets you will need to accommodate the growing number of students in your classroom, know that you can achieve success with just one set! There are two options that make whole-class play possible using only one purchase of the Boggle game: 1) Utilize your document camera to project the unique dice layout. 2) Copy the grid on the board for students to view. Depending on the unique needs and abilities of your students, game play can be done individually or cooperatively.
Bananagrams is perfect for the classroom because it doesn’t require a pencil, paper, or a game board . The only thing necessary for game play is the Bananagram letter tiles. In order to play, students draw a set number of tiles to use in creating their individual intersecting word grids. The first player to use all of their letter tiles wins. Because the game involves independent word creation and development, yet still includes a healthy dose of competition, Bananagrams is an appropriate and acceptable game for diverse classrooms.
The original game is available in 16 languages and is ideal for ages seven and older. My First Bananagrams uses lower case letters and digraphs, perfect for developing readers. And, to make a great thing even better, Bananagrams offers free game kits to eligible schools in the US and UK.
Scrabble is one of those games that never disappoints. The rules are fairly easy to understand and the game moves fast enough to keep boredom at bay. There are a ton of different ways to implement Scrabble in the classroom. You can host a classroom Scrabble tournament, get crafty with DIY letters tiles, or lighten the mood with some quiet old-fashioned game time. There are also versions of the word game you can purchase that might lend themselves to your particular classroom environment. Scrabble Slam, for example, is cost efficient, easy to implement, and perfect for down time or a rainy day. In a game of Scrabble Slam, players race to get rid of their cards by changing the existing four letter word. Played in groups of two-four players, Scrabble Slam works well in most classroom settings.
Vocabulary is the best single indicator of intellectual ability and an accurate predictor of success at school. -Dr. Warwick B. Elley
Scattergories is a game that will have your students begging for more. It’s just plain fun. The original version of the game is a bit too cumbersome for classroom use, but the card game can be played anywhere and anytime. Students begin play by flipping over a category card and a letter card. The first player to think of a word that starts with the selected letter and meets the category criteria wins that round. The player that wins the most rounds wins the game. The card version can also be adapted for whole-class play. Divide the class into teams, display seven to ten different category cards and only one letter card. Teams compete (within a set time limit) to find words for each category that begin with the selected letter. Points are awarded to teams that have original words. If two teams have the same word, that word cannot count toward team points.
Taking the time for students to play games doesn’t have to make you feel like you are giving up your valuable instructional time. Research shows that multiple exposures to a word are required before accurate application is possible. Implementing words games in your classroom is a student-centered way to support vocabulary growth and make learning fun.