Vocab Development, and Why I Don't Keep Score

Wowza!  I'm exhausted.  Since we had so many snow days recently, we have make up days... on Saturdays!  (I know - it sounds really strange, but I'm a teacher in a year round school.  For more info on this odd schedule, check out this post.)  Since I wasn't sure what kind of attendance we would have at our first Saturday make up day, I needed to plan an engaging lesson that worked on a core concept.  I chose Vocabulary Development, since this is crucial to future scholastic success for my ELLs and struggling readers alike.

I've always been vocal about the use of games for word work.  They promote critical thinking skills, an understanding of group dynamics, and vocabulary development.  Games can also promote competition, but I try to downplay that aspect.  I. Don't. Keep. Score.  When my goal is vocabulary development, fluency, comprehension, or an understanding of how words work, I think that the competitive aspect undermines my intentions.  I see that look of defeat when a struggling reader has a wrong answer on the first question, and realizes that they are behind right from the beginning of the game.  My philosophy: keep it challenging, engaging, focused, and fun.

Here's a little gem of a game I found for two bucks at my local thrift store.
Pic from Teaching My Friends!  She has a great post about how she has used Blurt!
 I've blogged about my love of word games before.  Click here to visit that post.
The way the game is intended to be played is loud.  Teams are supposed to "blurt" out their answers to the clues in order to win that round and move their piece around the board.  Y'all know me, I'm a gal who likes to keep things orderly, so I make some modifications.  Here's how I play this in small groups using dry-erase boards.

First, assign each student a color for their game board piece (if you choose to use the game board at all), and have them write their color in the corner on their dry-erase board so they don't forget.  Then, call out the clue.  Here's an example of the cards:
{source - from Amazon.com}
Next, I pick a card, and pick the most appropriate clue for the kiddos I'm working with.  I read the clue twice out loud.  Students write their guess (one word) on their board.  When I call, "Show your boards," that means stop writing and turn your board.  (Not look around at everyone else's board so you can change your answer.  This expectation takes a bit of time to teach.)

If they spelling the word correctly, they move 5 spaces.  If they have the correct word but it is misspelled, they move 4 spaces.  If they do not have the word, they stay where they are.

Play, but only for 5-10 minutes (always leave them wanting more!) and stop before anyone makes it all the way around the board. My students beg me to pull this game out, mainly because I'm sneaky and I leave the big, bright box on the shelf where they are sure to notice it!

 Don't keep score.  Just watch their enthusiasm for words grow.  In case you are wondering, I was not asked to review this game - I just love it and wanted to share.  :)  I've often thought of making up my own clues, but I figured out that the time and effort I could spend printing, cutting, and laminating the clues would be better spent elsewhere... especially when there are so many treasures to be found at garage sales, my parents' attic, and thrift stores.
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