New Flex-It games

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Introducing our new, affordable, download-and-print set of games for explicitly teaching and practising Set for Variability skills: Flex It. There are 15 games so far, but more to come soon:

Dr Marnie Ginsberg of Reading Simplified gives a great explanation of the importance of Set for Variability in reading here, including references, or you can listen to her on the Triple R Teaching podcast. So here’s a quick version, please see hers for more details (and yes, I’ve sent Marnie the games and she’s happy to share the term ‘Flex-it’).

Many letters/spellings can represent more than one sound, e.g. the:

  • ‘a’ in ‘atom’ and ‘apron’,
  • ‘e’ in ‘even’ and ‘ever’,
  • ‘i’ in ‘item’ and ‘index’,
  • ‘ow’ in ‘show’ and ‘shower’,
  • ‘g’ in ‘goblin’ and ‘giant’.

Kids thus often include an incorrect but plausible sound in a word when they sound it out. They say things like ‘joblin’ for ‘goblin’ and ‘eever’ for ‘ever’. Kids with strong Set for Variability skills can often then correct themselves, and get the word right. Other learners need to be explicitly taught how to do this.

Our “Flex It” games contain words with a shared spelling that represents two sounds (or three in the case of the o/solve, o/stove, o/some game). Most words on the cards contain two syllables. For example, here are some of the cards for the a/atom, a/apron game:

Here’s how to play Flex-It, this time with the o/often, o/open cards:

You can get the games now from the Spelfabet shop. Download and print each game on three A4 sheets of light cardboard, laminate, cut cards up or ask some helpful older students who’ve finished their work to show off their scissor skills. Repurpose vegetable-bunch elastic bands to hold each deck together for extra good karma.

Show learners the words on the cards and remind them that they’ve learnt that (whatever) letter/spelling can represent both (whatever) sound and (whatever other) sound. Model trying both sounds in a few less-common words in the deck e.g. ‘fragrant’ and ‘flagon’, putting any unfamiliar words in sentences, and maybe showing them a picture (hooray for instant internet pictures of flagons etc.)

Shuffle your deck and deal 5 cards to each player, put the rest face down in the middle, turn over the top card and take turns to play cards with the same colour or symbol, or a ‘change’ card, until someone wins by running out of cards. Learners must read the word on each card as they play it. If a learner mispronounces the target sound in a word, ask them to try the other sound. Just tell them the sound if it’s slipped their mind. Provide lots of specific praise when learners correct their mispronunciations.

Thanks to Elle Holloway for the idea, and setting up the template, so I could just nerd on the words.

Myself and other Spelfabet staff will have a table at the SOTLA event with Emily Hanford in Melbourne this Saturday (squee, when we’re not lining up for a selfie with Emily), if anyone there wants to try out these games.

Hope they help lots of kids to tackle reading words flexibly and successfully.

Alison Clarke


4 responses to “New Flex-It games”

  1. Ria C says:

    Love it! What a brilliant idea.

  2. Judit says:

    Awesome games! I have been using the “flex it” concept in my teaching 2nd grade with great success for years. I call it “flip it.” Thank you for sharing it and validating my teaching.

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