These games are intended to provide practice blending and manipulating sounds in one-syllable words, and learning their spellings.
The basic games are lot simpler, and young children can play them more successfully, as the less-common spellings are now in the harder games. The colour scheme has been revised thanks to feedback from people with red-green colour-blindness (oops, sorry).
The basic “short” vowels game can be used by six-year-olds who know the alphabet and a few consonant digraphs. Two players or teams each build five words using the five vowel cards, then change each other’s words into new words. Here’s how to play it:
The “long” or “split” vowels game can be used by kids who have been taught about split vowel digraphs (sometimes called “bossy E” or “magic E”), and again involves building words and then changing your opponent’s words. There’s no “E” vowel in this game because there are very few words with the spelling “e…e” as in “these”. Here’s how to play it:
The third set of cards is an extension pack for the other two games, and contains a variety of vowel spellings as well as some less common consonant spellings not in the earlier games.
As kids learn additional spellings (extra vowels like ee, oo, ea, ar, ur and ou, and also consonant spellings like ph and kn), and their vocabularies expand, these spellings can be added to the game from this third set. Here’s an example game:
Finally, a longer, more strategic, scoring game involving the creation of words both horizontally and vertically can be played. I hope it will appeal to adults who love word games like Scrabble, Word Yahtzee and Bananagrams, and help get lots of kids off screens and talking to other people more often.
These games provide opportunities to learn about how sounds typically combine in English e.g. we often put “ve”, “se” and “ge” after “ur” as in “curve”, “nurse” and “purge” and other two-letter vowel spellings, but we typically use “ve”, “ss” and “dge” after “short” or one-letter vowels, as in “give”, “mess” and “bridge”.
Each set of cards is supplied as a downloadable pdf which you print in colour on paper or light cardboard, laminate if you will be using the game a lot, and cut up (or ask kids to hone their scissor skills on it). Put an elastic band around each of the decks, and you have small, cheap, portable edutainment. Save the file to your computer so you can replace any lost or damaged pieces, or make more copies.
Many thanks to Renee Vlahos, Tessa Weadman and Caitlin Stephenson for help trialling these games and making the videos, and for the brilliant suggestion of Benny-Hill-style video theme music, which I think adds a certain je ne sais quoi, n’est ce pas? (Yes, I am up to the French bit in the brilliant History of English Podcast). Thanks also to Sarah Asome and the Sharing Best Practice crew at Bentleigh West PS for giving me a deadline to get these games actually finished (yeek, it’s tomorrow!).