Games have several important roles to play in Orton-Gillingham lessons, so it’s only natural to find one that both you and your students will love playing. Sometimes I hear, “We don’t have time for games during my Orton-Gillingham lessons,” That makes me sad! Gamifying your lessons doesn’t have to take away from the content. Sometimes simply choosing cards from a mystery hat, or rolling dice can perk build engagement. There are other times where offering games is an incentive, especially during certain times of the year when your students may be less than enthusiastic about coming to you, like the summer break.
Your students with dyslexia must work harder and longer than their non-dyslexic peers. Games can play a role in keeping motivation and engagement levels high, when tutoring may not be the first thing on a student’s mind. A second key role that games play is allowing for extensive practice and overlearning. Overlearning is a concept integral to the success of students with dyslexia. They need to really master concepts. Games allow them to use their learning in a variety of settings and contexts to build flexibility and automaticity. Games also can provide a home link to continue the learning between lessons. Lastly, games help to foster positive relationships. Getting your students to trust you and buy in to all the work you are doing to help them make progress is crucial.
Considerations Prior to Orton-Gillingham Games
- Will this be a game where decoding, encoding or both is practice?
- Is there a way to integrate both decoding and encoding on a turn to give even more depth to practice?
- Are the steps and directions too lengthy and will detract from the lesson?
- Is the game better suited for a time when students have earned a special incentive?
Types of Games
The following lists several games I have chosen because students across a wide range of ages love playing them. I will typically incorporate them during the review portion of my lesson.
Be sure to read “Meaningful Review In the Orton-Gillingham” for more information.
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TIP: MOST of the time, my repurposed game directions will simply work like this: I dictate a word. Student taps it out, writes it, reads it out loud and THEN they get to take a turn with whatever the game direction is. This actually really good practice for S.O.S. (simultaneous oral spelling)
Card games lend themselves readily to learning games, but it is also a lot of fun to repurpose commercially available games to make them appropriate for the Orton Gillingham lesson. While these games in their original form may be targeted at younger children, with the right twist, they can be appropriate and fun for a wide range of ages. Simply incorporate an encoding or decoding task as part of each turn. Read or spell a word correctly to make a move or put encoding or decoding tasks on game pieces. Expectations can be adjusted to meet the abilities of the individual student to maintain a challenge without frustration.
I like to use games in one of several different places in the lesson. One of my favorites is to get repeated practice reading words with a new concept by playing a game after introducing and practicing the new learning, but before moving on to writing. This provides students with extra practice and reinforcement, while giving them a little bit of time to recharge cognitively before tackling writing which is often a student’s trickiest areas.
Games are also well suited to the end of the lesson as a reward for completing a set of tasks. For games that practice specific spelling rules, incorporating a quick game at the beginning of the lesson can provide much needed reinforcement of the spelling rule and also set the stage for a cooperative engaged lesson.
Repurposed Games Your Students Will LOVE
Many children’s games can be repurposed for Orton-Gillingham games and they you don’t have to set something up that requires a lot of steps. These are some of my students’ favorites.
Shark Bite Game
The original game has players roll the dice and remove a sea creature using a little fishing rod. The shark will randomly jump up and bite. There are so many ways this game could be repurposed for reading and/or writing.
- A student could go fishing to find the correct vowel to fill in a missing letter on a set of word cards made by the teacher.
- They could race the clock in a one player game to get as many fish as possible with prefixes, suffixes, and roots to try to build a multisyllabic word and define it.
- A student could pull out a fish with a missing ending and need to use their spelling rule correctly to keep the fish. Otherwise, they need to try to sneak it back before the shark bites.
Honey Bee Tree Game
This classic game works a lot like Kerplunk. Players will pull leaves out one at a time without dislodging any bees. The player with the fewest bees in their tray is the winner. Students could identify a letter or sound for each leaf pulled. Sight words or words that use a new phonogram are also appropriate reading tasks.
For older students, you might ask them to write the same number of spelling words as bees they dislodged. As a phonological awareness activity students could generate a word with the same number of syllables as the number of bees.
A word of caution: This one takes a little more time to set up. I try to set it up before I my students arrive so it’s ready when we want to play it. Plan for about 5 minutes to set it up prior to playing.
In addition to being a fun balancing game, this ice cream scooping game is also perfect for imaginative play. Students can try for a personal best adding a scoop of ice cream for each word they read or spell. How high can they go without making a mistake or breaking their ice cream tower.
As a Reading Game: Taking turns reading words and stacking scoops, the person who knocks over the ice cream must reread all the word cards. This game can be a great prompt for a writing activity or phonemic awareness activity with ice cream flavors. In a classroom setting, students could practice writing up ice cream orders in a pretend ice cream shop.
As a Reading and Spelling Game: I dictate a word. Student taps it out, writes it, reads it out loud and THEN they get to stack a scoop of ice cream on the cone. The goal is to try an build the tallest ice cream cone.
This Melissa and Doug playset is built for imaginative pretend play, but could be used in all sorts of fun ways. Students could be rewarded s’mores components for completing certain tasks and make a delicious pretend snack at the end. It could be combined with another camping themed card game or used to reinforce the concept of CVC words. Perhaps a student struggling with vowel teams might be able to visualize a chocolate o and a marshmallow a melting together to make the oa sound surrounded by b and t graham crackers.
Build automaticity by competitive stacking with octopus fingers. Instead of just stacking the cups, students could read a word written on each cup as they stack. Perhaps the fastest fingers can choose a challenge for the other player. Kids love to give each other reading and spelling challenges. Play a quick round as a reward for a job well done.
Watch this tutorial video showing how I repurposed the Stacktopus Game.
I made this video for my Word List Builder FB group, but you can definitely use the game even if you don’t use Word List Builder.
Games are about connections!
These silly games will add some giggles as well as providing much needed reinforcement of learning. Children learn very well through play. Not only does it help them master reading and spelling concepts but it helps them build social skills, oral language, and strategic thinking.
- Read more in this blog post about Game Repurposing Ideas.
- Listen to an episode of the Together In Literacy podcast all about GAMES
- Check out this HUGE Multisensory Phonics Games Bundle
- Make your own word lists, games and other templates using Word List Builder (updated version coming September-October, 2022)
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