A humorous and educational look at speech pathology.

Posts tagged ‘Gamewright’

Board Games and Speech Therapy: Who Would Win

And I’m back after a long hiatus (major interferences involved a very interesting year or so at work and a baby).

This week, I’ll be looking at a party game that was originally released by Gorilla Games and now published by Gamewright, Who Would Win?

Description: In this party game, two players are each given a fictional or historical character (Darth Vader, Albert Einstein, etc). Then, a moderator reveals a card from an event deck (figure skating, gardening, pie eating, etc). Each player has 20 seconds to explain why their character would win at that event. The moderator chooses a winner, and players switch roles.

Variants: There’s an iOS version of this game. It doesn’t appear to be made by either publisher of the card game, so you may encounter different figures and/or events, but it’s the same concept.

Skill Supports:
-Comparison: Comparing two people is a fundamental part of the game.
-Agent/Action Relationship: This game requires students to synthesize at least the “who” and “what” of a scene, likely adding in the “how” and “why” as well.
-Inference: The game requires students to take a person they know something about and apply it to a context that the person (probably) isn’t involved in. How would Michael Jordan’s basketball expertise help him in a sailing competition? Does Marie Curie’s remarkable scientific mind help her sing?

-Supports wide range of players: If the clinician acts as moderator, this game can support as few as two players or as many as eight.
-Narrative comparison: Who Would Win taps into a skill that many speech impaired students have a hard time with – comparison – and approaches it from perspectives that almost all kids are familiar with – competition and storytelling.
-Easily adapted – If you’ve got lesson plans in advance, it is not difficult to modify the event deck or the character deck to include events or characters from your students’ lessons. Class studying civil rights for Black History Month? Forcing kids to think outside the box and explain why Harriet Tubman would beat Malcolm X at a science fair could help improve understanding of both iconic figures in US History. (And now I want to see the poster presentation for Tubman’s project, “Can natural terrain features be used to fool scent-following hunting dogs?”)

-Background Knowledge Required: If you don’t know who Albert Einstein is, you won’t be able to argue why he’d be better than anyone at sheep herding.
-Limited Time: Students who process information slowly or stutter will have difficulty with the 20-second time limit.
-Favoritism in Voting: The rules of the game ask all players not involved in the debate to sit on a “jury” of voters. There’s a significant risk for students who are not popular to do poorly regardless of what they say.

-Throw Away The Timer – Untimed response is usually better in therapy anyway.
-Player-Chosen Characters – If you don’t mind getting an in-depth knowledge of Miley Cyrus or Kim Kardashian (and honestly, if you did, what were you thinking working with kids?), let students pick their own person to argue about before introducing the event. Just be careful of that kid who can make Batman work for anything.
-Adapt to Curriculum – We discussed above the possibility for a custom deck for Black History Month. The same would work for a deck of characters (or events) based on stories read in an ELA class and events/characters in a social studies class, and you could even stretch to make event decks based on things like health concepts (who’s better at CPR – Benjamin Franklin or Lassie?).

Alternate 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 Apples to Apples, with the judge holding a scenario and each player playing the character they think would win. This would keep a greater number of students consistently engaged in the session.

Overall, this game is one of the strongest games for high school students with language impairments that I’ve encountered (and they’re a hard group to shop for). It’s also especially adaptable to general education curriculum concepts, which is important as more states adopt Common Core and SLPs are encouraged to push into the classroom. It’s not the easiest game to find right now, but if you can locate a copy, I highly recommend it.



Board Games and Speech Therapy: In A Pickle

The first game for this fall is a comparison game by Gamewright, In A Pickle.

Variants/Expansions: None.

General Overview: In A Pickle is an item-comparing party game designed for 2-6 players of ages 10 and up. Players take turns playing a card on top of one of the four piles with one rule – the newly played card must belong “in” the card it’s played on. This “inness” can be concrete (a toy goes in a box), conceptual (time goes in a clock), or outright bizarre (a galaxy goes in a sandbox – if the galaxy is the galaxy on the cat’s collar in Men In Black). If a play seems not to fit, the player has the opportunity to justify their answer before it is put to a table vote. Once a pile has four cards, each player has one more chance to “trump” the last played card before the player who completed the pile gets the set. At the end of the game, the player with the most sets is the winner.

Skill Support:

  • Item Description/Relationships – On the most concrete level, you can win at this game using what goes “in” something else in a containment sense.
  • Literacy – This game features a significant amount of reading at the word level.
  • Figurative Language – To excel at this game, a player needs to be able to use imagination, idioms, and figurative language to fit things inside other things.


  • 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.
  • Player Engagement/Interaction: Where many games have players only play on their turn, the voting on other players’ turns keeps all players engaged.
  • Encourages Creativity: The use of comparative language (in this case, size comparisons) provides an easily understood framework in which students can play with language – figurative and otherwise – relatively safely.


  • Literacy is required: All the cards have words, and none of the cards have pictures. Students who have difficulty decoding have a steeper learning curve and may need assistance knowing what’s in their hands.
  • Designed for a slightly older audience: Designed for ages 10 and up means that some of the cards may be difficult for younger audiences to work with, especially ones like “straitjacket” that are misspelled as “straight jacket”. Students with street smarts and knowledge of multiple meanings may also have some interesting uses for terms – for example, “pot”.
  • Specialized knowledge: Some of the cards contain terms that are (hopefully) outside the experience of many children, including ones that no child should know (“fox hole”) and ones that have some cultural variation in experience and exposure (“pinata”, “quicksand”).
  • Narrow scope: In A Pickle engages logical-mathematical intelligence well, as well as visual-spatial intelligence well for students with good imaginations. However, without an visual point of reference or a kinesthetic element, students who have a hard time with auditory-only learning may need some reinforcement to enjoy the game.


  • Visual representations of nouns: Using the rules of In A Pickle and cards with pictures from another game (including a couple already reviewed here), students who need visual representations of objects can participate (albeit on a more concrete and less figurative level).
  • Therapist as arbiter: Sometimes, students have difficulty voting fairly. In those cases, using the therapist as a referee can be helpful or necessary.
  • Support through drawing: For students who have difficulty conceptualizing “in”, using a SMART Board, tablet, or another game with a whiteboard or other drawing surface to sketch a picture of the comparison could be useful.

Alternate Uses:

  • While the game focuses on “in”, the cards and game rules can be used for a wide variety of prepositions, expanding the game’s utility. Each student could even use a different preposition or concept during the game to keep the game varied.

In terms of game rules and setup, this game targets prepositions really well at a fundamental level. However, the cards themselves need some work in order to be effectively used with younger audiences.

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: 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?