Saturday, January 3, 2015

Store Bought Word Games for the Classroom

I know we all love to make things, but sometimes we just don't have time, right?  Well I have a bunch of store bough word games that I love using in my classroom that I though I would share.  Many of these you might already have in your house.

All of these games are great for spelling and/or vocabulary building.  I have worked a lot with ESL students and find many of them to be very helpful for building language skills.  Plus, they are FUN.  I use them at stations, as time fillers, as rewards, motivation, or as indoor recess games.  
My students LOVE this game!  I've used it with students from grades 1-4.  It is actually an adult game and only for a few players, so I modify it a bit to use with my entire class as a time filler.

Basically, the game has cards with categories and a timer.  (It has a board with pieces too, but we don't use it.)  The cards say things like "animals at the zoo" or "flavors of ice cream" and things of that nature.  I always choose the cards because there are a few that word be inappropriate (types of alcohol) or too hard (world capitals) depending on who you are playing with.  But you could just remove them from the box.  

The goal is the get the last word.  So I have my students sit in a circle and I say the topic and start the timer.  I go around and point to each student for just a second or two.  Each student has to say something that matches the given topic without repeating something already said.  If they say nothing, I move to the next kid...they need to think fast and be unique.  

The timer goes off at random times, you never know when it will beep.  When it does, the last child to say a word that matches the category and wasn't a repeat of something already said, wins the round.  Rounds go really quickly and you can play the game for as long as or as short as you'd like.  I used to use it as we waited in the classroom for busses to be called, since kids can get up and leave anytime and it doesn't matter the number of players. 

I picked up Buzz Word Jr. on clearance somewhere after Christmas one year.  It is another favorite time filler, as it can be used with any amount of students and you can play one card or twenty cards, depending on the time you have.  I split my class in to two teams and keep score that way or sometimes we don't even keep score.  Each card has a buzz word (like horse).  Then there are clues on the card.  Students need to guess the answer for each of the clues given.  All the answers include the buzz word.  For example, they wear these on their feet:  horse shoes.
Maybe you've played this game as an adult?  Well there is an Apples to Apples Jr. version as well.  I've used it with small groups of 3rd and 4th graders as a reward.  It's challenging (I was using it with struggling students) but they loved it all the same.  A card is chosen and put in the middle. Students must choose the card from their hand that is most like the chosen card.  A "judge" determines who is the winner of the round.  Students can explain why they chose the card they did and try to convince the judge why they should win.  It's interesting to see what they come up with.  

Older kids can play this game (Bananagrams) as intended (you race against one another to build words using all your letters as fast as possible) but younger kids can just use the letters to build spelling words or to make a chain of words without the pressure of a race.
I have never played Appletters or Pairs in Pears, but they are made by the same creator of Bananagrams.  Appletters seems like it would be really good for younger kids.  They just need to build a chain of words by adding to the beginning or the end.  The goals of Pairs in Pears is to use all your letters by making pairs of words.  Seems like younger kids could play this too, since making pairs of three letter words would be fairly simple.

Boggle is a classic game many teachers have already recreated for their classroom.  You shake up the letters and then form words of connected letters.   Boggle Jr. is much simpler.  You can either simply have students match the letters to the word shown on the card, or you can cover up the word and have them try to spell it themselves.
Scattegories is an adult game, but I could see older students being able to play it, especially those that like a challenge.  It comes with cards with lists of categories on them and a 26 letter die.  You roll the die and then have to think of something to match each category that starts with the given letter.  Maybe you have the letter S...and you have to write down a food that starts with S, a sport that starts with S, etc.  To make this game simpler, you could forgo the timer and allow kids to use the dictionary in order to find words.
While most elementary aged students aren't going to be able to play Scrabble as intended, they sure do love to try!  My kids simply like building words in a chain using the tiles on the board.  Since the tiles have numbers on them, the kids could also see how much each of their spelling words is "worth" and things of that nature.  Scrabble Jr. is a lot easier since the words are already spelled out.
Taboo is another game for adults, but it's fun and could certainly be played with kids as long as you controlled which cards were in play as some of them would be much too hard.  Basically, you try to get your teammates to guess a word without using any of the key words on the card.  For example, if the word was apple, you might not be able to say red, fruit, round, or tree.  So the kids have to think of other ways to describe the item.  Great for vocabulary!

Don't forget about Mad Libs!  The books are cheap (at places like Half Price Books or if you find them one clearance) and a fun way to practice grammar/parts of speech.  Students have to fill in words by using the given parts of speech.  When finished, they read the silly story they have created.  The books come in all sorts of themes.  Mad Libs Jr. has symbols instead of the parts of speech listed in the stories and then it gives lists of words to choose from.  Personally, I find the junior books somewhat confusing.  My second grades are able to use the regular Mad Libs books just fine.

I hope you found something new you can use with your students!  (Click on any of the images to find the items on Amazon.)  If you have some other favorites that I am forgetting, please leave them in the comments section.