Why You Should Use Games in Your Reading Instruction

We’ve learned that by turning simple reading tasks into games it will provide students with the repetition they need to see success. We try to turn EVERYTHING into games and you’d be surprised because even those of you with older students will see that they enjoy this “gamification” of instruction as well.

So if you know us by now, you know that we are HUGE proponents of making instruction fun and engaging. Because keeping students engaged is the BEST way to get massive results in your instruction. Students do not retain information they don’t care about and most do not retain information that they haven’t been exposed to several times. In order to expose a student to the same concept several times you MUST find a way to keep it fresh or they will absolutely tune out.

We’ve learned that by turning simple reading tasks into games it will provide students with the repetition they need to see success. We try to turn EVERYTHING into games and you’d be surprised because even those of you with older students will see that they enjoy this “gamification” of instruction as well.

How we use games in our reading instruction

1 - We teach the concept explicitly

We always start by explicitly teaching a concept before we would introduce a game on the concept. We tell our students they need to be focusing and paying attention to the instruction because this way they will know how to play the game. This provides immediate attention and focus.

2 - We have our students practice the concept using worksheet style activities

We find it important for our students to begin to see and apply reading lessons and spelling rules in a more traditional format because this is something they can refer back to in the future. While we love games and project based learning, it can be difficult to have a concrete visual to explain the concept if we don’t have a traditional workbook style lesson. However, we want to be careful in not fully relying on worksheets because this can be boring and when done alone won’t necessarily get you lasting results for student growth.

3 - We use games to review previously instructed concepts

Games are great for students to be able to pair off and play together, but in order to do this - they must understand the instructional concepts. This is why we don’t start with games. Games are the perfect opportunity to continue to review and review and review previously instructed concepts without it feeling repetitive with, let’s be honest, boring worksheets.

A few of our favorite reading games -

1 - War

You simply split a deck of word cards with point values assigned equally between all players. Each player is required to read their word (you can also have them define their word, use their word in a sentence, give an antonym of the word to create even more instructional goodness out of this one) and then after everyone has read their word (and completed their activity) the person with the highest point value wins all the cards. If the players with the highest point value have a tie, a War will ensue in which each player places three cards face down and then flips the next card. The player with the highest point value on that card is the winner of all the cards.

One of our all-time favorites is using this long time favorite card game to reinforce concepts. You simply split a deck of word cards with point values assigned equally between all players. Each player is required to read their word (you can also have them define their word, use their word in a sentence, give an antonym of the word to create even more instructional goodness out of this one) and then after everyone has read their word (and completed their activity) the person with the highest point value wins all the cards. If the players with the highest point value have a tie, a War will ensue in which each player places three cards face down and then flips the next card. The player with the highest point value on that card is the winner of all the cards.

You can make this game by using a traditional card deck and sticking sticky notes with words on the cards or you can grab our Six Syllable Types Word War Bundle by >>>clicking here<<<.

2. Syllable Type Sorts

Our Syllable Type Sort has been a favorite among our interventionists and students for a LONG time, and is also a favorite in our Teachers Pay Teachers store!

As you play the game, have students pick a “team” (this will be one of the syllable types). You can double up on syllable types if you have less than 6 players. Take turns flipping a word card from the deck and sorting it into the appropriate category. The person who has the most cards at the end wins the game.

The syllable type sort is a great game to reinforce and review the different syllable type rules with your students!

This game is great because it can be very versatile. Since it has words from every syllable type, you can adapt the game to meet students where they are (based on what has been explicitly taught). For example, if you have a student who has learned closed syllables, VCE, and Bossy R syllables, you can have them sort those cards and anything else (vowel teams, open syllables, stable final syllables) goes in an “other” pile.

If you are playing the game with only one student, you can also see how fast they can sort the cards in the deck, or see how many cards they can sort in a predetermined amount of time.

You can find this game in our TPT store by >>clicking here!<<

3. Word Lists

Using a word list by itself can be boring. When you turn a word list into a game it instantly becomes one of our students’ favorite review activities!

Yes, you read that correctly! Word lists have long been known as “boring” when it comes to review activities, but we love making games out of them. All you need to make this into a game is a word list and a die. Have one person roll the die and move across the page that number of words. If they can read the word correctly, they get to highlight it (if you don’t have two different colored highlighters, have the first person circle and the second person underline their words so you know which person read which words). The next person will roll the die and move that many words down the page. Again, if they can read the word correctly, they get to mark it. The first person to get to the end of the list wins.

You can also differentiate this by having your students do more than just read the words. Just like in war, students can also be tasked with defining the words, using them in a sentence, adding an appropriate affix, etc.

While these three games are some of our favorites, check out our Teachers Pay Teachers store to find a favorite of your own! >> Click here << to head over to TPT!