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Six Games for Reading

By: Bank Street College of Education
Playing games is a great way to provide additional practice with early reading skills. Here are six games parents or tutors can use to help young readers practice word recognition, spelling patterns, and letter-sound knowledge.

Here are six games parents or tutors can use to help young readers practice word recognition, spelling patterns, and letter-sound knowledge. When planning to play one of these games, choose words to use from books the child is reading or has read recently. The games should also be chosen or designed to promote the child's sense of competence and success.

1. Concentration

To make

Select five to ten words from a book (or books) the child is reading. Print each word clearly and boldly on separate 3x5 inch index cards, making pairs of each word. (The child may be able to help you by copying the words you write.)

To play

Example of memory game using 'ghost'

Shuffle the cards and place them face down in neat rows. Take turns turning up two cards at a time and reading the words aloud. If the two cards match, the player keeps them and takes a second turn. If they do not match, the cards are replaced face down and the next player takes a turn. Play until all the cards are matched. The player with the most pairs wins. If the child has trouble recognizing a word, say the word — do not ask the child to "sound out" the word. The purpose of this game is to build automatic recognition of whole words.

You can control the difficulty of the game by the choice and number of words used: for very beginning readers, choose meaningful words that are visually distinctive: "ghost", "dark", "sister", and keep the number of words low. For a more challenging game, include some words that are less distinctive: "when", "what", "this", "that", but be careful not to overwhelm the child.

Variation 1

Instead of matching pairs, you can use rhyming pairs: look, book; dark, park.

Example of rhyming 'park' and 'dark'

Variation 2

This game can also be used to build letter recognition and letter/sound association. Paste or draw simple pictures on one set of cards; and on the other set, print initial consonants to go with the pictures. For example, paste the picture of a dog on one card, and write the letter "D" on a matching card.

Example of matching the word 'dog' to a picture of a dog

Note: This game can be adapted to use with older children, or more advanced readers: variations can include vocabulary practice such as using homonyms, (words that sound alike but are spelled differently and have different meanings: cent/scent; dear/deer, etc.) or contractions, (can't; cannot, etc.).

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2. Go fish

This game is good for early fluent to fluent readers.

To make

Select ten to 20 words from a book (or books) the child is reading. Print the words clearly and boldly on separate 3x5 inch index cards, making pairs of each word. (Children may help by copying the words you write.) Two to four players can play this game.

To play

Shuffle and deal three to five cards to each player. Place the rest of the deck face down. Players take turns asking each other for a card to match one held in his or her hand. If the opponent has a matching card, it is given over, and the first player takes another turn. If the opponent does not have a match, he or she says "Go Fish" and the player draws from the remaining deck of cards, and the next player takes a turn. Each time a player has a match, he or she reads the words, and puts down the pair, face up. Continue the game until the cards are all used up.

Instead of matching words, rhyming words can be used. In this case, players ask for "a word that sounds like 'night'..." At the end, the child can earn extra points by dictating or writing additional words that rhyme with the base words, or creating "silly" sentences using the rhymes.

Example of playing 'Go fish' with words

Note: This game can be adapted to use with older children, or more advanced readers: variations can include vocabulary practice such as using homonyms (words that sound alike but are spelled differently and have different meanings: cent/scent; dear/deer, etc.), or contractions (can't; cannot, etc.).

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3. Old maid

To make

Select three words per player from a book (or books) being read. Print them clearly and boldly on separate 3x5 inch index cards, making pairs of words. Choose one more word without a match that will be the winning card.

To play

Shuffle and deal three to six cards to each player. Players take turns drawing a card from a player to their left. If a player draws a card that matches one in his or her hand, he/she reads the two matching words in order to keep the pair. Play continues until all the cards are matched, except for the one odd card. The player who holds that card at the end wins the game.

Note: This game can be adapted to use with older children, or more advanced readers: variations can include vocabulary practice such as using homonyms (words that sound alike but are spelled differently and have different meanings: cent/scent; dear/deer, etc.), or contractions (can't; cannot, etc.).

Example of matching pairs

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4. Monopoly

This is a great game to help teach word family patterns and spelling patterns. This should be used with children who write fairly comfortably, usually second grade or older.

To make

Create a game board with four or five squares on each side. Prepare word cards with families of words that emerge from the child's reading: night, light, tight; went, bent, sent; hat, cat, bat. (For beginning readers or younger children, make sure the patterns are not too similar: mat, sat, rat; man, can, ran; met, set, bet.) Color code each word family and each side of the game board.

Illustration of score sheet with area for each color-coded heading

Place the words face up around the board in sets. To add to the element of chance, have other game directions on the board, such as "take another turn", "go back 2 spaces", etc. Prepare score sheets for each player with color-coded headings for each word family.

To play

Role dice or use a spinner to move around the board. Wherever a player lands he reads the word, then writes it in the appropriate "word family" category on the score sheet. Extra points can be earned by dictating or writing sentences with the rhyming words.

Illustration of playing board, with one color-coded word family on each side of the board

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5. Rhyming games

Play rhyming games to teach about the patterns in words. Try the following, for example, for words in the same family as the word black:

  • Introduce a poem or rhyming story such as Miss Mary Mack:

    Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack
    all dressed in black, black, black
    with silver buttons, buttons, buttons
    up and down her back, back, back…

  • Encourage the child to point out words in books that have a similar spelling pattern as in black.
  • Help the child think of other words that have this pattern. You may have to write a few words for him or her:

    sack
    pack
    stack

    Then have the child read the whole word and underline the repeated part of the word, "ack."

  • Using magnetic letters or Scrabble pieces, form a word with the "ack" pattern. Ask the student to change the first letter of the word (for example: 's' in sack) to make a new word, such as pack. You should be sure to provide a limited number of letters (two or three at first) for the child to choose from. Magnetic letters arranged into 'ack' and two potential starting letters
  • Remember to choose a word pattern that is useful and important to the student and that relates to something that he or she has read or will read. If possible, start with a word he or she already knows in the word family. After reading a book about being sad, for example, start with the word "cry" and then follow with "fry", "try", and "wry".
  • Remember to review the word families you've chosen to work on periodically by playing some of the other games described above.
  • Be sure to give the student a chance to go back to a book, poem, or other texts where he or she can apply this new reading skill. Poems, nursery rhymes, and jump rope jingles are a great resource for early readers.

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6. Fishing for sounds

This is a game for emergent readers and writers.

To make

Find and cut out small pictures of familiar objects from magazines, old workbooks, catalogues. Try to find several pictures that start with the same letter, such as book, bed, basket, boy; snake, sun, skate, slide, etc. (The child can help; this is a good language activity too.)

Cut out 12-15 fish shapes and paste or draw one picture on each fish.

Pictures drawn on cut out fish

On individual 3x5 inch index cards or on an 8x11 inch piece of paper or cardboard, print consonant letters with a key picture for each group of pictures found. (For example, print the letter "S" with the picture of a sun to represent all the words beginning with that letter.) (If using a sheet of paper, print only two or three letters per sheet.)

The consonant that corresponds to the picture on the fish written on piece of paper

To play

Select two or three sets of fish pictures that start with the same letters and mix them up. Place face down on a table and take turns "going fishing." As each fish is turned over, the child names the picture and places it in the appropriate pile under the key letter / picture. When all the fish are caught and placed correctly, have the child "read" the pictures under each heading. If necessary, read along with him or her, saying the letter name and stressing the initial sound of the word. "Yes, here are 'S' pictures: sssun, sssnake, sssaxophone."

To add excitement, you can play as opponents, each player having one or two categories and key letter / pictures. Take turns fishing, and discard those fish that belong to the other player.

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Updated and adapted from: Sample Games. (1997). America Reads at Bank Street College of Education. Retrieved May 12, 2009, from http://www.bankstreet.edu/literacyguide/games.html.

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Comments

These are too awesome! I really think that the group of kids, remedial and autistic, will really grab the picture-word association.

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