Milo’s read and grab word game

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In the last couple of days I’ve been using a great little card-stealing game with groups of Grade 1 and 2 students, who have consistently squealed with delight as they stole each other’s cards, called it “the funnest”, and wanted to keep playing it long after I was ready to do something else.

So I think it’s time for a blog post about this nifty little game.

Maureen Pollard from Little Learners Love Literacy made it up and publishes it, and gave the simplest version of it to me when we went out for a drink a few weeks ago (thanks Maureen!) to share ideas about how to get schools to take up synthetic phonics, and commiserate with each other about how difficult it is.

I got my groups to play it a couple of weeks ago, thought it was great, lent it to one of their teachers, and then the following week found the kids were asking, “Can we play the stealing game?”, and being unimpressed that I didn’t have it.

How to play

The cards in this game are in sets of five, and the aim of the game is to collect as many sets as possible.

Sets are marked by an animal and a colour, for example in the game I have been using, the words “rot”, “lot”, “fox”, “not” and “box” all have a purple corner with an octopus on them, and the words “sad”, “had”, “pad”, “bad” and “dad” all have an orange corner and a crocodile on them.

You can use as few or many of the sets as you like, depending on how many children are playing and how much time you have. My groups in the last two days have been between three and five children, so we’ve used between five and seven sets of cards for each game.

Once you have selected your card sets, you can shuffle them if you have enormous hands, but for me the cards are too big, so I put them in the middle of the table face down and get the kids to mix them up. At first I was then laying them out neatly on the table in rows, but this is not a game like memory where the initial location of the cards matters, so now I save time and just leave them in a messy pile in the middle of the table.

Learners then draw one card at a time, and read the word on it. If someone else has a card or cards with the same animal and colour as the one they have drawn, they get to steal that/those cards. Of course they have to read each card correctly in order to keep it, and this requires adult supervision, otherwise kids just say “orange alligator” and go ahead and steal, without reading.

The stealing in the game can be quite hilarious, as one learner frequently has all their cards stolen and gets quite down-in-the-mouth, only to end up drawing the fifth card in each set and stealing most of them back, and winning the game.

I was particularly pleased today that some of the noisiest boys, who started out bragging about how many cards they had stolen, were then gazumped by a couple of the quietest girls. Even in Speech Therapy you can learn stuff like Pride Comes Before A Fall.


As well as the most basic, yellow version of this game that I have been using, there is:

  • Another, green set with the most basic spellings (three-sound words, short vowels and single-letter consonants),
  • A pale pink version with words containing consonant blends/clusters,
  • A version with consonant digraphs like ck, sh, ch, th and ng,
  • Three versions in bright pink, aqua and orange focussing on vowel spellings like ar, or, ur, ir, er, air, oi, oy, ou, ow, aw, oo, ai, ay, oa, ee, ea and igh.

Each set costs $29.95 or the whole set of seven games is $195. Click here for more details.

If I were a primary school literacy coordinator the full set would be near the top of my wish-list for sure, but these are also games that can be played at home. Any game that can get struggling readers to willingly read heaps of words without noticing that they are doing anything other than having fun is a winner as far as I’m concerned.




One thought on “Milo’s read and grab word game

  1. Bronwyn

    My son has enjoyed the first three sets of Little Learners Love Literacy readers.  He might like playing the game at his level in the school holidays.


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