A look at a game that puts the fun back into reading
When it’s your job to make learning fun, you need imagination, a good sense of fun and resources that allow you to use both. Select the right activity and kids will work hard without even realising it. Many kids with literacy difficulties find reading a bit of a mountain to climb and I am always on the lookout for bite size reading activities for them. With this in mind, I recently purchased Tim’s Quiz, from Little Learners Love Literacy. I already have LLLL resources which I like a lot, so I was keen to try this one.
Tim’s Quiz is a set of 168 short decodable questions for beginning readers. The questions include digraphs, CVC, CCVC, CVCC*, common sight words and longer decodable words. Can cats hop? Are kittens the best pets? Is it a good plan to go camping in the jungle? The game consists of picking question cards, reading them, discussing them and sorting them according to their answers. Children get to decode, read, build fluency, comprehension and oral language AND they have fun while reading. The game really fits my purpose of short, sharp reading activities, but it delivers much more.
Because the cards contain text only, they encourage decoding rather than random guessing. We’ve all worked with a kid who sees a picture of a rabbit, comes across the word “cat” and starts decoding r-a-bit! Guess work gets in the way of decoding and luckily, these cards encourage the latter rather than the former.
Reading for comprehension: Sick of plodding through books with riveting text like “I can sit-I can hop-The cat sat on the mat”... Try a flashcard that asks Can a wombat do the twist? Kids need to read for a purpose, not just for the sake of reading. I found that, with these cards, children were actively trying to make sense of the text, whereas with some books, they can be tempted to power through, without really understanding what they read.
The questions have no right/wrong answers and invite comments, jokes and plenty of discussion. Can you bring a pet chicken to a cricket match? I wouldn’t but Charlie** said he would. We turned the question on its head: Could you bring a cricket to a chicken match? Imagine a team of chickens playing sports and try to keep a straight face! With this game, children get to think and express their opinions in a context that doesn’t involve finding the right answer.
The game encourages critical thinking: Can a fish think? Is it selfish to chomp on all the chips in the bag? Is there such a thing as a wish shop? Kids (and adults) should be encouraged to think critically and to back up their answers with sound reasoning. It is interesting to see how kids react to some of the questions. This game really gets the conversation going and you can see the philosophers, politicians and animal rights activists in the making.
Articulation: The set contains cards focusing on the sounds sh, th and ch and I used them with children who have articulation difficulties. Can a rock think? Will an ostrich come into the kitchen for brunch? Can some wishes be granted? And of course, with the number of cards starting with “can” and “could” it was easy to target /k/ as well.
Auditory memory: the sentences vary in length and complexity and lend themselves to auditory memory work. For example, the sentence Will you shrink if you sit for too long in the tub has more words than Mariana’s working memory can hold. We used the cards to practise “chunking” i.e. breaking up sentences into chunks to facilitate recall, i.e. Will you shrink/if you sit/for too long/in the tub.
Spoonerisms and advanced phonological awareness skills: I was reading Can a dog rip up a rug and accidentally said “Can a dog rig up a rup?” Nothing pleases a child more than a tongue-tied speechie and Aidan was much amused! We started swapping sounds and words in the next card, checking if the sentence made sense or not, i.e. Can cats hop? Can hats cop?
The Mysterious Riguparup: Aidan also works on /r/, and my “rig up a rup” mistake turned out to be the perfect tongue twister. But what IS a “riguparup”? What does it look like, what can it do, what does it have for breakfast? The Mysterious Riguparup game was born, a game in which we describe a real or imaginary Riguparup so a partner can guess what it is or draw it: “My Riguparup has 4 legs, wings, scales and he can breathe fire”. Great for articulation, descriptions and comprehension.
At $ 65, Tim’s Quiz is not cheap and it does come in a rather bulky box. However, in just a few days, I used it with children ranging in age from 5 to 11 and targeted many different goals. The feedback from the kids was 100% positive and we had great conversations and many laughs as a result. The concept is so simple, you kick yourself for not having thought of it first! But it prompted me to design my own instruction cards for early readers: Hop in the sand pit, Do ten laps, Hop on the spot. I’m even thinking I should do some for my own family, like Do the dishes, Don't forget the pots...
I would love for the set to be designed as a customisable app, which could be updated, expanded and to which the user could add their own sentences. Piece of cake, really! In any case, I’ll keep checking what the team at Learning Logic keeps concocting!
*C stands for consonant, V for vowel. CVC words are words like cat, pot.
**All the children’s names have been changed.
Disclaimer: I do not work for Little Learners Love Literacy and do not stand to receive any financial reward for this article. The opinions are my own only.
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