A humorous and educational look at speech pathology.

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?



Comments on: "Board Games and Speech Therapy: Apples to Apples" (17)

  1. zealousidler said:

    This is such a great post, John!

  2. […] 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 […]

  3. I enjoyed your post on this particular game. I too use it at least once monthly. I have also created a worksheet that requires both oral and written responses from my students. Once the worksheet is completed, it remains in their speech folder. The students are also tested at the end of the game to see if who if all can recall words used. Great, great, activity. This is my third year using this game. Highly recommend it.

  4. […] last two posts, addressing Apples to Apples and Rory’s Story Cubes, have addressed games that are better geared toward expressive […]

  5. […] previous posts in this series have focused on games that were originally produced in English-speaking countries […]

  6. […] activities that can benefit from using these cards as prompts are the Expanding Expression Tool, Apples to Apples, Backseat Drawing, and pretty much any other activity that involves identifying or describing […]

  7. […] rid of the tokens and allowing students to keep correctly guessed cards as points (similar to how Apples to Apples scores) provides positive reinforcement and allows the game to proceed indefinitely (or as long as […]

  8. […] soon based on a demo in the dealer’s hall. The best way to describe it is free-answer Apples to Apples – instead of picking a card, each player writes a response on a […]

  9. […] cards (like vocabulary terms from the curriculum) or cards from games that only contain words like Apples to Apples or The Chain […]

  10. This is my favorite therapy game I have! I use it all the time and my students LOVE it! I also got Apples to Apples Dice Game, which is just as good 🙂

  11. […] Apples to Apples – I have gotten a copy of Apples to Apples Dice, and will be writing a separate post for […]

  12. […] reviewers are saying children as young as six have had success with the game). Much like in Apples to Apples, players take turns acting as the judge, or “customer”. Each round, the customer draws […]

  13. […] category cards can be combined with a number of other activities to create an entirely different game that reinforces a wide variety of […]

  14. […] Uses: -The character cards can be used to create a “person-only” game of Apples to Apples, or even as a text-only approach to Dixit. -The game in general can be played in the style of […]

  15. […] that require a narrative response: Apples to Apples (a great example of how values, beliefs, and “good reasons” influence choices), […]

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