A humorous and educational look at speech pathology.

Archive for March, 2012

Board Games and Speech Therapy: Get Bit!

For this post’s game, I’m delving even further into the area of hobby gaming to discuss a game that is less directly applicable to speech therapy, but still a valuable resource: Get Bit from Mayday Games, designed by Dave Chalker.

Variants/Expansions: Get Bit! has two expansions. One adds a pink robot so that one additional player can play, and the Sharkspansion adds rules for an additional player to play as the shark (which is a really useful role for the speech therapist to play). It looks like there’s an upcoming French release, Croc!, that has painted faces and clothes on the robots and updated artwork.

General Overview: Get Bit! is a bluffing card game for 4-8 players in which “you don’t have to faster than the shark, you just have to be faster than your friends”. Each turn, the players play a card numbered one through seven face-down in front of them, reveal the cards at the same time, and re-order their robots based on the numbers played. The players with the lower numbers move to the front of the line, but any players who reveal the same number as any other players don’t get to move at all, ending up behind all the players who played a unique number. After re-ordering, the shark eats a limb off the player in the back of the line; if this leaves you with no limbs, you’re out of the game. Play continues until only two robots are left; at this point, the player with the most limbs left wins.

If you’re using the Sharkspansion, play is much the same except that the Shark player also plays a card indicating which limb is eaten. If the robot in the back row doesn’t have that limb, the shark “misses” and no limb is lost. If the shark misses six times, the shark loses and the player with the most limbs left at that point wins.

Skill Support:

  • Following Directions – This game is all about following the same directions multiple times. The designer describes it as a “thought optional” game – if you can follow the game’s 1-step and 2-step directions, you can play it.
  • Sequencing – The game’s specific rules regarding ordering of robots makes a good repetitive sequencing task for younger students.


  • Fun Theme: A speech game with a shark attacking the students? Awesome! Nature’s perfectly evolved killer is also perfectly evolved to engage young children.
  • Manipulatives: Being able to move the robots around in the play space and removing limbs from the robots themselves (don’t worry; they’re very hard to break) keeps the children engaged through the whole game.


  • Limited Expressive Application: This is a party game that doesn’t engage expressive skills very well, so it will need modification to be usable with many students.
  • Player Elimination: I think this is the first “player elimination” game I’ve reviewed. If you’ve got a student who isn’t very good at the game (or, worse, fixated on the number seven), he or she runs the risk of watching the other students if you play directly by the rules. This tends to limit engagement and single out a student who may already be singled out too often by classmates.
  • Punishment: As a game that punishes an unsuccessful player with limb loss rather than rewarding a successful player, this game can be demotivating in the wrong group.


  • Therapist Participation: The Sharkspansion is an excellent way to get the therapist involved. Not only does it give the children a face to their adversary, but you can also anticipate which student might end up in the back and deliberately guess a limb they don’t have in order to facilitate a “group win” and reduce player elimination.
  • Robot Regeneration: Instead of having the shark remove a limb from the player at the back, have all the robots start with no limbs and let players regrow them or put them back on as a reward for escaping the shark. This modification adds positive reinforcement to the game – instead of being punished for being in the back of the line, they’re receiving a benefit from being closer to the front of the line.

Alternate Uses:

  • The robots can be used as a manipulative scoring system in any activity. You can have students add pieces to the robots as they successfully complete tasks or even have students remove limbs for incorrect answers as the shark attacks them like in the game rules as written.
  • The robots, faceless and nameless, can be used as “actors” in a social story. They’re nonthreatening, poseable, and students can get attached to “their” robot as they use it as a proxy for themselves or a character in a story.
  • The robots can be used to add visual and kinesthetic references to a story. As various characters are introduced to a read or created story, a particular robot can be assigned to that character, and the students move and repose the robots to imitate the actions of that story’s characters.

This game is one that I was really excited to add to my collection. It’s always fun to bring in a “goofy” game, especially one that both your students and you find fun. I’ve used it as a game on its own as well as a scoring system or reinforcement tool for other games I’ve already discussed. It also fits in a pretty small box, which makes it easier to take along than leave behind.

Has anyone else had experience using this game in therapy? How useful has it been? What other uses and modifications have you used?



Board Games and Speech Therapy: Dixit

The previous posts in this series have focused on games that were originally produced in English-speaking countries and that are likely to be found on a department store shelf. Today, I’m taking a departure from that, and focusing on a French (I think) import by Asmodee: Dixit.

Box for the original Dixit.

Action shot of Dixit: Odyssey, the third expansion

Variants/Expansions: Dixit has a pile of expansions to add more cards, but the most notable is Dixit: Odyssey, which includes rules for twelve players if you combine more than one set and comes with improved rules and a better scoring track; it’s my recommended edition if the game if you’re only going to buy one, especially since its box can hold more cards than the original game’s box.

There is an iOS app called iDixit. You may notice that I didn’t link to it. That’s because it’s not very applicable to therapy (or very well programmed). I do not recommend it.

General Overview: Dixit is a picture-describing party game 3-6 players (or, with the Odyssey expansion plus one other version of the game, 3-12 players). Players take turns acting as the “Storyteller”, who selects one of the six cards in his or her hand and gives a word or sentence to describe the picture in vague terms. The other players then select a card in their own hands to give to the Storyteller. The Storyteller shuffles these cards with his or her card and lays them out randomly, and the other players have to secretly guess which card they think belonged to the Storyteller. Each player who guessed correctly gains a point, and each player whose card is guessed gains a point – except if either no players or all players guess the correct card, all players except the Storyteller gain three points. So the challenge for the Storyteller is to pick a card and word/sentence that some other players (but not all other players) will guess.

Skill Support:

  • Picture Description – This is the base skill of the game and essential to the game role of Storyteller.
  • Abstract Reasoning – Thinking of a sentence for a picture that some players, but not all players, will be able to guess requires some out of the box thinking, making this an excellent game for students with Asperger’s Syndrome or more complex language goals.
  • Concrete Reasoning – Trying to determine which picture goes with the Storyteller’s sentence requires attention to the details of the pictures.
  • Figurative Language – When dealing with pictures with abstract concepts and trying to be evasive with phrasing, the use of figurative language can be a great skill when thinking of sentences as the Storyteller.
  • Comparison – This skill comes into play when trying to determine which of the six cards in your hand you are selecting to fit the Storyteller’s sentence. Abstaining isn’t an option, so a student is always best off trying to determine which card best fits the word or sentence.


  • Replayable: Even in comparison to the other party games reviewed here, Dixit has exceptional replayability because each student is interacting with all the other student’s cards based on a student-generated prompt.
  • The game encourages abstract thinking: Where many games dealing with pictures or storytelling have, at best, a fairy tale or fantasy theme to get students away from the concrete, some of the cards in Dixit look like they were drawn by the previously unknown lovechild of Timothy Leary and Rory O’Connor of Rory’s Story Cubes (yes, that top right picture in the action shot is of an arm reaching out of the ocean to grab a rocket made out of a lighthouse, why?). These pictures can get outright bizarre, and trying to think of any sentence, much less one that only some of the other players will guess, requires some degree of abstraction.
  • Complexity Without Overwhelming: The pictures in Dixit have a lot of complexity that will encourage complex sentences or multiple-sentence utterances, but the light-hearted nature of most of the pictures ensure that it’s not overwhelming for most students.
  • Literacy free: The base game is 84 pictures. With no words except the rules and on the back of the cards. Yay for literacy-free speech games!
  • Kid-Accessible, But Not a Baby Game: Many of the games and activities we deal with in speech therapy start to sour with students around the 6th grade. Dixit, as a game designed to be accessible to kids but enjoyable by adults, doesn’t have this risk. The rules are designed for 8-year-olds to understand, but the game remains engaging for older students as well.


  • Requires Non-Concrete Output: This game, by the rules, simply doesn’t work with students that only work with concrete ideas. The cards have some similar themes, but those themes are not going to be similar enough for a student who just describes the picture itself to be successful.
  • Pull-Ahead Scoring: A student who gets lucky in one round by guessing the Storyteller’s card and having a few other kids guess his answer is going to get a pretty significant lead, which may discourage the other students.
  • Analysis Paralysis: This concept’s probably going to come up in other posts, so I’m going to explain it in depth here. Analysis paralysis is a gaming term for having so many seemingly equal choices that you’re unable to decide on a play. Dixit has a number of opportunities for this: when the Storyteller selects a card, when the Storyteller says a word or sentence about the card, when the players pick their cards, and when the players guess which card belongs to the Storyteller. That’s a pretty significant number of opportunities compared to most games – by comparison, Apples to Apples has two: when the players pick the red apple card to fit the green apple card and when the judge picks the wining answer.


  • Words Only: Especially with groups that have a hard time with abstract language or understanding the bluffing concept, I tend to limit younger Storytellers to single-word prompts, ideally an adjective. This provides an improved opportunity for the other players to select cards that still fit that word.
  • Modified Scoring: Scoring the game becomes less of a runaway if you only get points when someone picks your answer. It gives the Storyteller a decent-sized jump on their turn, but since everyone gets a turn to be the Storyteller, it balances out.
  • Therapist as Storyteller: This is becoming a common modification for me, and it’s a little weaker in this context, but having the therapist serve as the Storyteller takes away some of the analysis paralysis and helps the therapist keep an eye on which student actually submitted which card (did I mention that one of my groups has a problem with lying? If I didn’t, I have this third grade group that thinks lying is the funniest thing ever…).

Alternate Uses:

  • These cards work really well with the story description and scene description models for the Expanding Expression Tool. This is really useful for older students who are beyond the expressive vocabulary level but still have a hard time with expressive language skills.
  • Sentence prompts. If you and your fluency kids are bored while practicing their “smooth speech”, pull out a box of Dixit cards. Tons of prompts, and having the student tell a story based on the card or describe everything in the picture can generate spontaneous paragraphs where the student is thinking of what to say instead of focusing on their speech (really good for informal assessment and/or advanced practice).
  • The scoring track is really nice-looking, and the kids love playing with the rabbit-shaped Meeples. I’ve pulled out this game just to use the scoring track with a different activity.

The second I saw this game at Origins, I knew it belonged in my speech bag. My wife knew I was excited about it because I actually called her from the convention to tell her about it (she’s also an SLP, and I’m usually really bad about calling her from conventions). I consider it to be an indispensable therapy tool because it’s my best way to elicit abstract language and paragraphs from students, and it’s one of two games my middle school kids actually enjoy.

Has anyone else had experience using this game in therapy? How useful has it been? What other uses and modifications have you used?


Obfuscated Objective for 3/23/2012

Today, I actually have an obfuscated objective! For those of you who have been following the board game posts but haven’t looked at the rest of the blog, I initially set out to create a blog to present objectives in the form of “what you actually write on an IEP” and “what you wanted to write on an IEP”. Due to limited inspiration, I haven’t updated with an objective in a while, but today changes that.

Today’s Obfuscated Objective is a speech objective.

What you write: “Student will create believable fictional stories that are based on real-life events.”

What you wanted to write: “When the student lies to me, he will at least tell a believable lie.”


Like this post? Have a comment? Have an objective you want me to obfuscate? Leave a comment!

Board Games and Speech Therapy: Backseat Drawing

The last two posts, addressing Apples to Apples and Rory’s Story Cubes, have addressed games that are better geared toward expressive language. Today, I’m going to focus on a game that works well with receptive language and auditory processing, as well as sequencing and organizing language: Backseat Drawing by Out of the Box Games.

Variants/Expansions: Backseat Drawing Jr. is a re-implementation designed for ages 7 and up. The key difference is that the prompt cards in the Junior version are low-literacy friendly, as they contain the prompt word as well as a picture.

General Overview: Backseat Drawing is a directions-based drawing party game designed for 4-10 players. Players take turns playing various roles: the “Director” gives simple drawing directions to the “Artist”, who follows those directions to the best of her ability while the other players try to guess what the picture is. The Director is only allowed to give verbal directions using shapes, numbers, locations, and patterns, but not objects, actions, or letters. For example, directions to draw a domino could be, “Draw two squares that share an edge. Put five dots in a cross pattern in one square and three dots in a diagonal line in the other square.” While this may not precisely create the “X” shape the five dots are in on a real domino, it’s enough to get the answer out of the audience.

Skill Support:

  • Auditory Comprehension – The Artist needs to demonstrate good listening skills to comprehend and follow the directions.
  • Segmenting/Sequencing – The Director needs to be able to break the image down into its component shapes, then provide step-by-step instructions to recreate that image.
  • Vocabulary – The Director needs to be able to use locative vocabulary to instruct the Artist to put the shapes in the correct position, the Artist needs to be able to understand the locative vocabulary, and the other players need to be able to name the item drawn.
  • Approximation – The pictures drawn are often imperfect; the audience needs to be able to guess based on an approximation of an object.


  • The Game Is Simple: This is a game that can be played out of the box with less than five minutes of setup and rules explanation. Modeling game play is easy.
  • Variety of Roles: By placing the students in different roles, monotony is decreased, and the students in the audience are indirectly encouraged to use meta cognitive skills to visualize how they might draw a particular set of directions. Further, the roles each use different skills, so the level of engagement is varied throughout the game.
  • Absurdity as Instruction: Miscommunication between the Director and Artist can generate images that are silly and entertaining for the students. By following each failed attempt to recreate an image with a discussion of how different directions might have been more easily understood by the Artist, the therapist can use the silly context to generate spontaneous feedback and reinforcement.
  • Engages Multiple Learning Modalities: Verbally implementing drawing instructions and then engaging the created visual product gets students involved through visual, auditory, and kinesthetic channels.
  • Low Literacy Friendly (Junior version only): The Junior version of the game features pictures on the prompt cards, giving a clear visual reference for the Director as well as helping out Directors who have difficulty reading.
  • Modification Suggestions (Junior version): The Junior version’s instruction manual lists a number of possible modifications to the rules for younger players, including being more lenient with disallowed words (the base rules call for the round to end if the Director uses any disallowed words) and approximate naming rather than needing to say the specific word on the card.


  • “Telephone”: Much like in a game of Telephone, one person can serve as a weak link in the process, creating a frustrating experience for the rest of the players.
  • Markers: In my experience, giving students markers is risky due to the possibility of tables, textbooks, iPads, and the like being marked up by fidgety students (but maybe that’s because I have a large number of fidgety students).


  • Therapist as Artist: When teaching the game, being the Artist yourself can reduce the “Telephone” challenge of the game as well as provide opportunities for instructional sabotage (such as intentionally misinterpreting vague directions from a student Director).
  • Expanded Prompts: If the prompts in the game are difficult for your students, your students don’t find them interesting, or they’ve seen them all, you can draw from other resources like Rory’s Story Cubes to provide additional prompts.
  • Electronic Whiteboard: I’ve started using the Draw Free app on my iPad to take the place of the whiteboard and markers, and apps like Glow Coloring can further bedazzle the Artist’s work. There’s less chance for a mess, the students have a chance to integrate technology, and it’s a lot easier to clean (the whiteboard doesn’t erase as well as it could). The use of a SMART board could be useful here as well, allowing all the students to see the drawing process and providing the Director with real-time feedback as to the quality of directions being given.
  • Director Feedback: Especially with students who are having a hard time with the directions, I’ve found it useful to allow the Director to review the Artist’s work and clarify the directions. This provides the Director an opportunity to be more successful with the task and reinforces the clarifying skill.
  • Colors: Adding colors to the drawing process, especially as the students are just learning, can add an extra level of directions or help the audience understand better what is being drawn. This can easily be accomplished by adding colored dry erase markers or using a technological alternative to the whiteboards as described above.

Alternate Uses: Like with the other games I’ve discussed thus far, the cards in Backseat Drawing can be used as prompts for the Expanding Expression Tool, story generation (can you tell yet that I use a narrative approach to school therapy?), and many other tasks requiring many noun prompts.

Overall, Backseat Drawing is unique among board game tools in speech therapy in that in engages students on multiple levels by integrating multiple roles in the game as well as being multisensory in nature. Students of all ages will likely enjoy determining where a Director’s instructions went wrong, and the drawing aspect of the game can let students who have artistic talents but struggle verbally have an opportunity to shine in speech class. This game’s a recent addition to my therapy bag  (or, as my sister refers to it, the “creepy old man bag”), but it’s a keeper in my book.

Has anyone else had experience using this game in therapy? How useful has it been? What other uses and modifications have you used? Are there any board games you’d like to see discussed in this space in the future?


Board Games and Speech Therapy: Rory’s Story Cubes

For the first post in this series, I discussed the popular party game Apples to Apples and its applications as a tool in speech therapy. Today, I’m going to discuss a less well-known game, but still one that can be easily found at your local Barnes and Noble: Rory’s Story Cubes, published in the United States by Gamewright. I’m especially excited to discuss this game because I just got my hands on the first expansion, which opens up even more therapy applications.


Variants/Expansions: The game currently has two stand-alone expansions, Actions (which depicts a number of action verbs) and Voyages (I have no idea what the theme here is). There are also a number of mini-expansions with only three dice: Enchanted (fairy tale theme), Clues (mystery theme), and Prehistoria (dinosaurs).

Also, there’s an iOS app that supports the initial set of nine cubes (I have no idea if this is going to be expanded).

General Overview: Rory’s Story Cubes is a dice game (really, more of a dice tool) designed for any number of players of ages 8+. The base game consists of nine six-sided dice. Each of the fifty-four faces contains a different picture or icon. Unlike the other games discussed in this series, Rory’s Story Cubes is designed not as a typical game with codified rules, but instead as an inspiration for gaming with some suggested uses. To quote the box, “There are infinite ways to play with Rory’s Story Cubes. You can play solitaire or with others. Here are a few suggested ways to unleash your creativity.” The box then goes on to describe three games: a storytelling game reminiscent of The Storybook Game, but without the memorization; a themed storytelling game, and a storytelling game with turn-taking modifications. While this isn’t terribly relevant to speech therapy, those who like to take work materials home to use with their own children might like that the box also serves as a small dice tray for use when playing in the car or on the go.

Skill Support:

  • Problem Solving – Interestingly, this skill is called out on the game’s packaging. Trying to fit nine seemingly unrelated objects or actions into the same theme or story is a problem-solving skill that’s appropriate for children and encourages creativity.
  • Listening Skills – When used as a group game, the relatively small size of the pictures means that it’s hard for a student who wasn’t listening to just look at what his or her neighbor did and guess in order to continue the story or add ideas.
  • Item Identification – Most of the icons in the game are easily identified, and if they’re not, that provides an excellent opportunity to make a series of educated guesses.
  • Expressive Language – With dice that depict nouns and dice that depict verbs, you have the two most basic components of a sentence – an excellent scaffold for all forms of expressive language development.


  • The game is easy to implement: You can take this game out of the box and roll the dice without reading anything. Dice with pictures lend themselves easily to a variety of speech activities.
  • No reading required: Rory’s Story Cubes fit into the most magical group of therapy tools – ones that can be used at a complex language level with individuals who have zero literacy. This makes them useful not only with children, but with adults whose traumatic brain injury or stroke damaged their reading ability.
  • Engages a variety of learning styles: As narrative-based manipulatives with pictures, Rory’s Story Cubes naturally tend to engage visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners. From the perspective of Gardner’s multiple intelligences, this tool can easily be used to engage spatial, linguistic, bodily-kinesthetic, interpersonal (students can really argue about what a particular icon stands for), and naturalistic intelligences.
  • Easy to carry, hard to destroy: Each version of Rory’s Story Cubes, in the box, takes up a little more space than a deck of cards – easy to fit into a pocket or purse. Even better, if you have students who can’t seem to help fidgeting with, bending, or even compulsively tearing cards – like my entire third grade caseload – using dice offers prompts in a format that is significantly more difficult to destroy (and believe me, my third graders have tried).
  • Ten bucks: I don’t usually talk about cost because as mass-market games, most of the products discussed in this series are going to be significantly cheaper than Kaufman cards or even many of the popular therapy apps. That said, Rory’s Story Cubes are on the cost-effective side even in the set of speech-applicable board games. At $10 in the US, this is one of the least expensive therapy materials in my bag (I think only the Pictureka Card Game and the Storybook Game are cheaper, and this is more durable and comes out more often).


  • Limited explanation: This game relies on the creativity of the therapist and the students, both in developing a game and in interpreting the images. Hopefully, if you’re a speech therapist, creativity is something you excel at, but if you’re looking for a worksheet-style tool that can be implemented with minimal clinical input, you should look somewhere else.
  • Idiosyncratic icons: For the most part, the icons are easily understood, although I would have preferred more diversity (does the base set of 54 images really need a lock, a key, and a keyhole?). That said, there were a couple icons that I had to look up. I’m about to save some of you who are new users to the game some time: the “L” in a square is used to indicate a learning driver in the UK (I just use it as an “L” or as a wild card for anything starting with “L”), and the arrows pointing in all directions is a reference to the wargame Warhammer 40K and is supposed to mean “scatter” (I use it as a compass or to mean “all over”). And does anybody use an abacus anymore?
  • ADDITION: Actions hard to determine: I just played through Actions with some of my students. There’s much more in terms of the meaning of the icons being difficult to discern.
  • Distraction: This might just be me, but it seems like my students have a *really* hard time keeping dice on the table. If you use this tool, using a dice tray or a shoebox to roll the dice in might be handy to prevent die-dropping as avoidance, humor, or accident.

Accommodations/Modifications: How do you modify or accommodate a game without rules? By using it as a modification for other activities. My last post discussed using Rory’s Story Cubes as a means of kinesthetic engagement in Apples to Apples. This same strategy can be used in any activity that uses nouns (or, with the Actions expansion, verbs) as prompts. As always, clinician-guided activity is a must for many groups, and some assistance may be needed to interpret icons (especially in the Actions expansion). EDIT: I don’t know why I didn’t think of this, but these work really well in combination with Writer’s Dice to build more complex sentences and stories.

Alternate Uses: 

  • Like many other games with nouns or verbs as prompts, I’ve used Rory’s Story Cubes when working with the Expanding Expression Tool, as additional prompts are always useful.
  • The Actions set can be very useful for divergent naming.

Overall, this is one of my favorite tools for speech therapy. It’s compact, durable, and has a wide range of applications. I haven’t done research into the designer, but it almost feels like this was a game designed by a speech therapist or special education teacher. It’s useful with clients of all ages, and with the expansions included, the number of combinations is limitless, providing usefulness in the long term with the same client or group. If you have space in your speech bag, Rory’s Story Cubes is an easy addition, and if you don’t have space in your speech bag, you need to rearrange your bag to create a hole the size of a deck of cards for this to fit in.

Has anyone else had experience using this game in therapy? How useful has it been? What other uses and modifications have you used?


Board Games and Speech Therapy: Apples to Apples

For the first game in the series, I’m going to review a game that’s relatively popular and familiar: Apples to Apples, originally published by Out of the Box Games, now published by Mattel.

Apples to Apples Junior

Variants/Expansions: Many, many variants. The most relevant variants for the interests of a speech therapist include Apples to Apples Junior (designed for upper elementary to middle school students), Apple To Apples Kids 7 Plus (designed for lower elementary students), Apples to Apples Sour Edition (focuses on negative correlation rather than positive correlation and adds a kinesthetic component), and Apples to Apples Dice Game (allows the student to generate own nouns within certain parameters rather than giving the students the words).

General Overview: Apples to Apples is a item-comparing party game designed for 4-10 players of ages 12+ (although variants for younger ages do exist). Players take turns acting as the “judge”, who reads an adjective off a “green apple card” to the other players. The other players then give the judge one of their five “red apple cards”, each containing a noun, which the player thinks best fits the adjective – or what the judge is most likely to pick as the best-fitting answer. The judge then determines the best-fitting answer, awards that player the green apple card, and the player to his or her left serves as the judge for the next round.

Skill Support:

  • Category Naming/Identification/Comparison – The game, at its core, requires players to place items in categories and determine which items fit best in a given category.
  • Item Description – By placing items into categories like “heavy”, “dirty”, or “wonderful”, the player’s schema of adjectives that apply to particular nouns is expanded.
  • Literacy – This game features a significant amount of reading at the word level.
  • Word Definition/Synonyms – The green apple cards feature three synonyms for the prompt word, supporting understanding of synonyms as well as helping generate definitions for the prompt word. Likewise, the red apple cards contain some flavor text addressing the term’s definition, role in history, or a small bit of humor about the word.


  • The game is simple: This is a game that can be played out of the box with less than five minutes of setup and rules explanation. Modeling game play is easy.
  • The SLP can participate at the students’ level: Where many games have a knowledge gap – where it’s clear that a clinician who plays the game with his or her students is “dumbing down answers” to let the students compete and be successful – Apples to Apples doesn’t provide a clear advantage to more intelligent players, and some clinicians may even be at a disadvantage, as students in the same class may be able to better anticipate their peers’ preferred answers.
  • The content is entertaining: Given the variety of answers that can emerge in the game and students’ justifications of answers, the game lends itself to generating mental imagery, which can keep the interest of many students.


  • Literacy is required: All the cards have words, and none of the cards (even in the younger versions of the game) have pictures. If your students have problems with decoding, they’re going to have problems with the game as printed.
  • Some of the cards require knowledge that is not common knowledge for some of the populations we serve: Even in the Kids 7+ version of the game (my preferred version in schools), the red apple cards contain terms that are outside the experience of many children. The ones that seem to come up frequently in my school, an urban K-8 school with a significant low-income population, are Hanukkah (knowledge of Judaism as a whole in poor urban schools is lacking and not an educational priority), Raggedy Ann (I haven’t seen or heard from Raggedy Ann or Andy in a decade, and not one of my students has ever heard of her), historical figures, and abstract nouns (ideas rather than people, places, or things).
  • Narrow scope: Apples to Apples, as published, doesn’t address many of Gardner’s multiple intelligences. It engages linguistic intelligence well, and addresses logical-mathematical and interpersonal to a small extent. Students who learn best through other methods – and not many speech and language students learn best using linguistic intelligence – may need some reinforcement to enjoy the game.


  • Visual representations of nouns: With my youngest students and the ones with the most literacy issues, I keep all the red apple cards in the box and instead give the students cards from another game that contains only nouns and provides pictures of the card’s objects. Kaufman cards also work as a substitute for red apple cards.
  • Kinesthetic engagement: For students who aren’t visual learners, providing some form of kinesthetic reinforcement – such as integrating a spinner, using the “punishment” apple spinner from Sour Apples to Apples or the die from the Apples to Apples Dice Game, or providing some other manipulative to generate possible answers – can get these students more interested in the game.
  • Therapist as only judge: For students who aren’t quite at the level of making comparisons themselves, but are at the level of putting nouns into categories, the therapist can serve as the sole judge. This also works in cases where students are clearly playing favorites with whose nouns they are picking when they’re the judge. I prefer this method of play with my younger students – I read off each green apple card, they select a picture card that they think fits, and I have each student justify his or her answer.

Alternate Uses:

  • I’ve used both the red apple cards and green apple cards as prompts when working with the Expanding Expression Tool – red cards as replacement prompts to address the descriptive areas without visual reinforcement (because I can be evil like that), and green cards to detail examples of descriptive areas for activity (because many of my students just don’t understand the term “group”).
  • Similarly, the green apple cards are good prompts for divergent naming tasks. If nothing else, you now have categories that you don’t need to think of yourself.
  • While I typically have other activities that I use for story generation, if I’m trying to get students to generate a story without a visual prompt, I’ll use the red apple cards. The variety of nouns in the red apple cards also adds difficulty to a storytelling task if the students are required to have the story make sense in some way (so, Batman found a Raggedy Ann doll Under Your Bed. Next, add Albert Einstein to the story…)

Overall, this is a really strong franchise for speech therapy. It comes out of my bag at least once a week, and most of my students love it. Even my middle school students, who hate all things speech therapy, at least tolerate this game (and I challenge you to find any green card that an 8th-grade boy won’t pick Batman as the best fit for…)

Has anyone else had experience using this game in therapy? How useful has it been? What other uses and modifications have you used?


Board Games and Speech Therapy

EDIT: It looks like this page is a destination for a lot of visitors who are coming here from one of the posts in the series, so I’m going to be listing a table of contents of sorts with links to the posts that are currently up:

1. Apples to Apples

2. Rory’s Story Cubes

3. Backseat Drawing

4. Dixit

5. Get Bit!

6. The Storybook Game

7. Hedbanz

8. Uno

9. The Chain Game

10. Origins 2012 Round-Up

11. Telestrations

12. In a Pickle

13. Scattergories: The Card Game

14. Snake Oil

15. Once Upon A Time

16. Word on the Street

17. Storyteller Cards

Yesterday, Out of the Box Games asked on their Twitter feed and Facebook page about friends and followers who had invented games. I mentioned a couple I was working on, and offhandedly mentioned that I was also modifying existing games for speech therapy. This sparked interest from the company’s social media manager, and following some comments back and forth, I realized that I had the makings of a blog post – many SLPs use board games in their practices, and I consider my go-to board game bag list to be just as essential as my iPad app list when doing treatment. After a couple unsuccessful drafts, I realized that what I really had was a series of blog posts, each addressing a different game. As such, each week, you’ll see a post on this space discussing a particular board game’s utility in speech and language treatment addressing the following topics (and, for those of you in the board game community, this may lead to a BoardGameGeek GeekList as well):

Variants/Expansions: If the game has a variant version (like a “Junior” or “Kids” version) or any expansions, these are listed here.
General Overview: A discussion of the game’s theme, mechanics, and play.
Skill Support: A list of speech and language skills (or related skills) the game can be used to support.
Strengths: Areas in which the game is effective in therapy with no changes to the rules or mechanics.
Challenges: Challenges that exist to using the game, with no changes to rules or mechanics, in therapy.
Accommodations/Modifications: Ways to modify the game rules and mechanics to make the game more conducive to speech therapy.
Alternate Uses: Ways to use the game’s components as speech therapy materials outside the game’s rules and mechanics entirely.

I’ve already got a list of ten games or so that I plan on reviewing, but if you have a particular game you’d like me to talk about, let me know in the comments – I’ll look into picking it up or, if I already have it, move it up the list.

First game coming soon…