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The Top Six Repurposed Games and Ideas For Literacy Practice



The Top 6 Types of Repurposed Games: From Precision to Super Silliness

No one knows quite how to breathe new life into something old quite like a teacher. Since Orton-Gillingham students require extensive practice to reach mastery of the concepts being taught, one of the best ways to practice is to incorporate lots of games into your lessons. While card games are easy to make and effective for practice, today I want to introduce you to some other options that you may not have thought of. Repurposing games you have lying around the house or that you find at yard sales or thrift stores can add some variety and humor to your Orton-Gillingham lessons or small group literacy intervention lessons.

These are some of my favorite games to repurpose. You DO NOT have to break the bank and buy them brand new. Here are a few ways to find them.

  • “Borrow” (ahem) steal them from your own kids. It’s not really stealing if they aren’t using them anymore. Much like the Halloween candy we “inspect,” don’t let them see you do it.
  • Yard Sales: A gold mine of used goods or white elephant galore, you NEVER know when you might scarf up a game to use for a lesson.
  • Online: You can score games online for a real steal if you time it right. I actually find them cheaper than the ones I see in the big box toy stores.
  • Dollar Stores: Every teacher’s not so dirty secret. You can score a knock off of Jenga pretty easily in a dollar store, and it works just fine. Trust me. Sets of checkers where you stick on circle dots written with words for kids to read or syllabicate. Lots of good games can be found here. You just have to put on your bargain hunter hat.
  • Dollar Spot. WHY is the Target Dollar Spot right when you walk into the store? I come in for one thing, Target and bam… hundreds later! Anyway, the dollar spot can be an easy place to find game pieces or sets of small games like dry erase dice, (which was a total score for me by the way, Target) and so much more. So go there, too.

Games You Can Repurpose

1. Jenga  By writing words on the Jenga blocks, the game of balance and manual dexterity also becomes a chance to practice reading words of a certain syllable type or spelling pattern. You can use a fine point permanent marker, but if you would like to re-use the game for a variety of concepts, you may want to consider a less permanent option. Using dry erase tape on the side of the blocks and writing on them with wet-erase markers makes a temporary option that isn’t too easily erased accidentally. If you are really lucky, you might even happen to find a giant Jenga game to build a life size tower. To read more about how I just Jenga blocks, GO HERE



2. Interactive Games  Operation, Pop the Pig, Crocodile Dentist, Pop up Pirate, Connect 4 and Don’t Break the Ice are all fun for all ages games that are fairly quick to play and lend themselves to taking a turn for each task completed. Whether it is reading or spelling a word, or even completing a lesson component, taking a turn to feed the pig or put their finger in the crocodile’s mouth will add a little spice to your lessons. You can play for points from completed tasks until the crocodile chomps or the ice breaks and play as many rounds as time allows.   


3. Board Games  With the use of word cards, almost any board game (Checkers, Sorry, Candyland, Chutes and Ladders) can be turned into a learning game. For every roll of the dice or flick of the spinner, the student reads a word card or completes a spelling task. To incorporate a little movement break, I like to designate certain spots on the game board for doing a silly dance.

4. Gross Motor Games  Hopscotch, Lawn Darts, Twister, Nerf guns, bean bag toss, “Trashket”ball and hockey goals are all some fun ways to get kids moving while practicing phonemic awareness tasks or reading at the same time. Students can use the activity to discriminate between two sounds or a spelling rule. For example, if a word uses ch at the end, throw the beanbag in one hula hoop, if it uses tch at the end throw the beanbag in the other hula hoop. Generate words that rhyme or that use a specific phoneme in order to try to get a soft ball into a trashcan “basketball” hoop. Appeal to a student’s competitive nature by making multisyllabic words worth more points.
5. Vegas Style  You can bring a little luck and chance into the games too. Put letters on the back of simple poker chips and have students draw one each. The child with the letter closest to the beginning of the alphabet wins the chips for that round. This is a great way to reinforce letters and sounds and alphabetical order. 
Another fun casino style game is so simple you can play it anytime. All you need is a list of words to reinforce a specific spelling rule and dice. I ask students to pick a number. The more time we have to play or the more practice I want them to have, the larger the number range I ask for. The student will roll the dice and we keep a running tally of their total. For each roll of the dice, they spell a word that uses a particular spelling generalization. They try to get as close as they can to their target number without going over. As they approach their number, they need to decide whether to stop or roll again.
6. Even Sillier Games  If you think Crocodile Dentist is a silly game, get ready for extreme silliness. What’s in Ned’s Head is a plush head with holes in the ears and nostrils. You reach into the head and try to find a specific gross plastic object by feel alone. To add a learning component, add word cards to his head and have a student find one word card and one object for each turn. 

Headbandz is a guessing game. Each player wears a plastic headband with a card that everyone but them can see. They ask yes or no questions to try to determine what the object on their card is. Using phoneme cards instead, you can ask questions like whether a card is a vowel or consonant, voiced or unvoiced, a lip sound or tongue sound, whether it has more than one letter and even whether the grapheme has more than one possible sound. This is really great practice for students not only in asking the questions they need to ask in order to successfully guess their own card, but also in correctly answering your questions.


With a little creativity, almost ANY game can be repurposed into a learning game. Adding variety and fun helps to keep students engaged and happy even when they are working really hard. Showing your silly side also goes a long way to building a connection and trust with your students.


If you need more games, my Multisensory Phonics Games Bundle in my TpT store might be just what you and your students need. There are over 75 original games and counting.

These games are all kid tested and teacher approved. Feel free to let me know if you have any questions. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog today!


If you need holiday gift ideas that could potentially be repurposed, be sure to check out

The Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide: Learning Games Your Kids Will Love!

Ultimate holiday guide learning games

decoding strategies
DECODING STRATEGIES: End the guessing game!


orton-gillingham bundle



Enjoy the sale!

My store: www.shopliteracynest.com



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  1. I would find old scrabble tiles and sort them so that they have to make cvc words all over the board. Then add on the silent e and see what you get, real and nonsense words accepted as long as they can read the vowel correctly!

  2. A classic Memory game can be very versatile and great for reinforcing discrimination skills. Students can find matches that have the same beginning/medial/final sound, or find matches that rhyme, or have the same rime, etc.

  3. Hi Emily,
    Love the new games but when I looked on Amazon there were three or four that looked like Kerplunk! One was Giant Kerplunk and it was $40. Which one were you talking about?
    Thank you, Joan Schoppe

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