My new favourite things are Trugs.
No, not traditional Sussex woven baskets. Teaching Reading Using Games.
Trugs are card games designed to motivate learners to practice reading words.
Organised along Synthetic Phonics lines, Trugs start with short, simple words like “dug” and “mat”, then systematically add more sounds and spellings, and work all the way up to long, difficult words like “infectious” and “substitution”.
I went mad ape bonkers at the end of last year and bought Trugs At Home Boxes 1, 2 and 3 as a silly season present for myself.
I still haven’t taken the plastic off all 15 decks of cards (kids love unwrapping new things, so when possible I let them), and have only just started to use them, but they’ve been a hit so far.
Each At Home box contains 360 cards in 5 decks, and is suitable for learners “ages 5 to 95” who are at the relevant reading level.
- Box 1 works on Consonant-Vowel-Consonant (CVC) words with “short” vowels, then CCVCs, CCVCCs, two-syllable words like “lesson” and “campus” then words containing “ar”, “er” and “or” sounds.
- Box 2 works on “long” vowels with e-controlled spellings, vowel digraphs and diphthongs, open/closed syllables like “he/hen” and “no/not”, then three-syllable words.
- Box 3 works on “c” as in “cent”, “g” as in “gel”, “le” as in “bottle”, words of four or more syllables and the Latin “ti”, “ci” and “si” spellings, as in “lotion”, “musician” and “mansion”.
So the sequence is a little different to the one I usually follow, and many spelling patterns are not specifically targeted by Trugs, but the guts of English sound-spelling patterns are here, and well-organised.
Each deck of cards is used to play three card games, and if you’d rather watch videos about how each game works than read about them, click here. Otherwise:
- Guess It (for 2 players), in which you each have a Master Card containing four lists of words – blue star words, red diamond words, purple triangle words and black circle words. The remaining 12 cards each have one of these symbols on the back, and one of the relevant list words overleaf. You place the deck of 12 word cards face down, and both guess the word on the top card (the learner/youngest goes first), then turn it over and check. Whoever is right gets to keep that card. If you’re both wrong the card is put back at the bottom of the pile. Whoever gets the most cards wins. Simple, but fun.
- Match It (for 2 to 4 players) is a bit like Uno. You are each dealt five unseen cards, with the remaining cards placed in a pile in the middle. Someone turns over the top card of this pile, then you take turns to put down cards the same colour. If you can’t, you pick up an additional card. A “wild” Trugs card can be put down at any time, and whoever puts it down determines which colour goes next. The first person to get rid of all their cards wins.
- Take It (for 2 to 4 players), which is a lot like the hilarious Milo’s Read and Grab Word Game. Five sets of four colour-and-number-coded cards are shuffled and placed in a central pile. Players take turns picking up a card. If you get a card from a set of which someone already has one or more cards, they steal it from you. You are then highly motivated to steal it and the other matching card(s) back, with added giggling. The Trugs cards are playing card size so they are easier to shuffle and deal than Milo’s cards, and don’t require as much table space. However, Milo’s game can be played with a group of more than four, though sometimes this means that the time spent waiting v/s reading can be a bit long, and because the cards are bigger they can be easily read from further away.
There are a couple of promotional videos on YouTube about Trugs, to which I’ll include links below, as they give a bit more of an idea about Trugs. The card sets used in the videos seem to be from the At School kits, bigger and more expensive than the ones I’ve bought. However, it’s the long summer school holidays in Australia so the main people looking for games for kids right now are probably parents not teachers.
There’s plenty of extra information about Trugs on the Read Successfully website.
Though much more expensive than my own cheap-and-cheerful or free games (which focus on spelling, and each require ~15 minutes of printing, laminating and cutting up) Trugs looks to me like good holiday-learning-disguised-as-fun if you have a struggling reader with a competitive streak.