A humorous and educational look at speech pathology.

Posts tagged ‘out of the box games’

Board Games and Speech Therapy: Word on the Street

This week, I have a (relatively) brief post reviewing another Out of the Box game, Word On The Street.

Word on the Street (regular version)

Word on the Street

Variants/Expansions: There is a Junior version of the game, which includes simpler categories and tiles for the entire alphabet (rather than only 17 letters).

General Overview: Word on the Street is a word-based party game designed for 2-8 players of ages 12+ (8+ for the Junior version of the game). Players are presented with a category, name an item in that category, and move the letters used to spell that item toward them in a “tug of war” fashion. Once a letter is moved off one side of the board, that player (or team, if there are more than two players) claims the letter and it cannot be moved again. Once a player or team claims eight letters, that player or team wins.

Skill Support:

  • Category Identification – Players need to name items in categories to determine what words they’re spelling.
  • Spelling – Word on the Street requires students to spell the words out in order to know what letters to move.
  • Phonemic Awareness – As the students work to spell the words, they need to demonstrate or practice phonemic awareness skills.

Strengths:

  • Playable “Out of the Box”: This is a game that can be explained and demonstrated with less than five minutes of setup. Modeling game play is easy.
  • Variable Challenge Level: Younger students who have a hard time with spelling and/or vocabulary will only be able to create smaller words, but if everyone in the group is at that level, the game’s challenge level, by its nature, adjusts to meet the students’ ability level.
  • Multisensory: By physically move the pieces and saying the letter’s name out loud while doing so, a student who has difficulty with spelling or single-modality learning can participate in the activity using visual, kinesthetic, and auditory methods, helping to reinforce concepts.
  • Variable Participation: Because this is a game that uses teams, it’s possible to pair two younger or weaker students together against an older or stronger student (or the therapist), allowing the teams to collaborate to give everyone a chance to remain engaged.

Challenges:

  • Literacy is required: All the cards have words, and none of the cards (even in the younger versions of the game) have pictures. In addition, spelling the answers is a part of the game, so if spelling is hard for your students, modifications will need to be made.
  • Narrow scope: This game is rooted in naming and spelling items in categories. Unlike many Out of the Box games, there isn’t much variability in skills using the components in the box.
  • Team game: Because this is a team game, it isn’t as useful for individual therapy unless you participate at the child’s level, which can sometimes make note-taking difficult.

Accommodations/Modifications:

  • Therapist participation: The biggest area in which a therapist may need to participate or interfere with the game is to help with spelling. This can be done as a treatment activity by itself to work with phonemic awareness, or done entirely by the therapist to reduce frustration.
  • Heavy example use: Using one or two examples of an item that fits into a particular category can really help to jog a student’s memory if he or she is having difficulty.

Alternate Uses:

  • The board and letters can be used to add kinesthetic engagement for other tasks with single-word answers.
  • The category cards can be combined with a number of other activities to create an entirely different game that reinforces a wide variety of skills.

This game is narrow, but the inherent multisensory and multimodal use of the game’s components make it ideal for the skills it addresses. It’s more popular with my younger students than any other game that requires literacy, and the strategy of trying to think of words that use particular letters keeps older, more capable students engaged.

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

-John

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Board Games and Speech Therapy: Snake Oil

Hmm. It looks like I haven’t posted in a while. I blame this. Since I’m spending so much time focusing on hobby gaming rather than speech therapy while blogging, today I’m going to dip a little deeper into my “hobby gaming” games – Snake Oil, the latest release from Out of the Box Games.

Variants/Expansions: None.

General Overview: Snake Oil is a word-based party game (and the 2012 Mensa Select Winner) for four to nine players of ages 13 and up (although 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 a customer card, which describes a person looking to purchase a product. These customers are usually generic descriptors like “Cheerleader” or “Bodybuilder”. The other players, the “inventors”, pick two cards out of their hand of six to create a product they are selling to that customer; each card contains a one-word noun like “rumor” or “mirror”, which would be combined to make the product “Rumor Mirror” or “Mirror Rumor”. After making their pitch, the customer chooses the best product and pitch, and that product’s inventor gets a point. The inventors then draw two cards to replace the cards they played, and the player to the customer’s left acts as the new customer for the next round. Once every player has been the customer once, the game ends and the player with the most points wins.

Skill Support:

  • Theory of Mind – This game is, hands down, the best Theory of Mind therapy game I have ever seen. Both the Customer and Inventors need to place themselves in the shoes of another person and consider what that person would want or need instead of what they themselves would want and need.
  • Literacy – This game features a significant amount of reading at the word level.
  • Verbal Reasoning – Since the game includes both the cards played and the pitch, players are encouraged to use verbal reasoning skills in addition to simply determining what cards to play.

Strengths:

  • The game is simple: This game requires very little explanation, and modeling play is easy.
  • The game is fast: The game, in its basic form, has as many turns as there are players. This allows each Inventor to spend a little more time than usual to create and say their pitch, removing the pressure of a fast answer from a student with processing delays or fluency deficits.
  • Wide player range: This game can be used with as few as two or as many as six players with ease, and it can be applied to a variety of ages with some modifications.
  • THEORY OF MIND! Again, this is the only game I’ve seen to fully integrate Theory of Mind to this degree. This game is awesome for high-language autistic students who still have difficulty with pragmatics.

Challenges:

  • Too brief: A game that lasts only 4-9 rounds may not fill a full session without modification.
  • Absent of visual reference: Visual references are not built into this game.
  • Unfortunate card interactions: Do you really want to hear a middle school or high school student (especially a boy) try to pitch a “Love Window” to a cheerleader? Me neither.
  • Literacy-dependent: Cards with words are hard for kids who can’t read.

Accommodations/Modifications:

  • Extended time: Modifying the game’s duration to fit your needs isn’t difficult.
  • Visual references: You can add visual references to this game and reduce literacy dependence by replacing the word cards with a set of picture cards (like the ones from this game). It reduces the invention options somewhat, but it’s functional for low-literacy or high-visual students.

Alternate Uses:

  • This game can be used without a group as well as with a group. In an individual session, the student can be placed in either the role of Inventor or Customer. A student Inventor could be asked to explain what elements of a product they might pitch to a particular Customer (including differences in pitching the same product to different Customers). A student Customer might be required to generate questions about a product for an Inventor.
  • The product combinations themselves can be used as a problem-solving task. What challenges would exist in making a “Rumor Mirror”? What would a “Leash Broom” even look like? Students could ask and/or answer questions about products.
  • Using the products in this game as prompts in Telestrations may or may not be useful in therapy, but it’s definitely something I want to try at our next board game night.

The second I heard about this game, I thought about its use for pragmatic language. As I looked more into the game, its uses for expressive language also became clear. It may be that the true value in this game is its use in integrating students with pragmatic language difficulties into sessions, targeting their deficits in a “fun” context where they can be part of a more mainstreamed group – something that’s regularly difficult for students with pragmatic deficits.

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

-John

Board Games and Speech Therapy: The Chain Game

This weekend, my wife and I will be attending the Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio, and as I look for new games to play and blog about at the convention (if you know of one I should check out, let me know) I’m leaving readers with a review of a game that I found at the convention a few years ago: The Chain Game by Out of the Box Games. Also, this game, as well as some other games that are cycling out of print, are super-cheap at the Out of the Box website right now – go here and use the discount code DEALS.

The Chain Game by Out of the Box Publishing

Variants/Expansions: None.

General Overview: The Chain Game is a phrase-naming party game for 3-10 players. The first player starts by reading a two-word phrase or compound word, like “chalkboard” or “traffic light”. The next player must name a two-word phrase or compound word using one of the words in the previous phrase/word. For example, “chalkboard” can become “boardwalk”, “sidewalk chalk”, or “game board” (among others). A word combination may only be used once. When a player can’t think of something for more than five seconds, one of the other players honks the horn included in the game, and that player loses one of the plastic chain links they received at the start of the game. When a player runs out of links, the game is over and whoever has the most links left wins.

Skill Support:

  • Literacy – This game features a significant amount of reading at the word level.
  • Vocabulary Naming – The core mechanic of this game is thinking of vocabulary terms.
  • Figurative Language – This game rewards players who are able to think out of the box (pun intended) and use idiomatic expressions. A player who can think of and use terms like “toss-up”  or “about face” are more likely to do well than players who can’t.

Strengths:

  • The game is simple: Like other Out of the Box games, this game is easily played out of the box with less than five minutes of setup and rules explanation. Modeling game play is easy.
  • The game is quick: At a manufacturer-recommended time of 20 minutes, this game can easily fit into a 30-minute group treatment session.
  • The game works with vocabulary at an abstract level: There aren’t many games and activities that can quickly deal with vocabulary at an abstract level. That by itself makes this game worthwhile.

Challenges:

  • Literacy is required, and at a relatively high level: All the cards have words, and the vocabulary is too complex for younger students. I wouldn’t use this game earlier than 5th grade.
  • Narrow scope: The Chain Game doesn’t address many of Gardner’s multiple intelligences. It engages linguistic intelligence well, but that’s about it. 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 or find it effective.
  • Negative scoring/Player elimination: Negative scoring, demonstrated by the removal of links, and player elimination can be demotivating for many students. The first time I used this game in therapy (during my clinical fellowship year), my 5th graders more or less universally rejected the game for no reason other than the negative scoring.
  • Perseveration – I’ve had many games where the students just repeated two-word phrases starting with “red” for three times around the group before I told them they had to pick something else.

Accommodations/Modifications:

  • Keep it concrete: By taking out many of the word combinations that are abstract – whether figurative or referring to a movie or book title – you can lower the entry age of the game a bit, but significant modeling is still going to be needed with younger students.
  • Kinesthetic engagement: For students who aren’t visual learners, providing some form of kinesthetic reinforcement can get these students more interested in the game. This is going to require creativity on the part of the therapist, though, because substituting picture cards is going to be difficult (unless you have a really extensive set of cards that includes a wide variety of adjectives). My best suggestion on this end would be something like those flipbooks where you make crazy aliens or animals by mixing up parts, but that’s almost to the level of creating another activity.
  • Collaborative input: This game really works well as a group activity if you take each group, read off a card, and give the groups five minutes to think of as many phrases as possible. Each group gets one point for each answer no other group thought of (similar to Boggle), and mixing the groups up throughout the session means that each student has an equal opportunity to excel (and provides a great opportunity to work on pragmatic and social skills).
  • Positive scoring: By adding links for each correct answer instead of subtracting links for not thinking of an answer, this game can maintain positive reinforcement strategies and remove player elimination while still being a competitive game.

Alternate Uses: I haven’t really used this game outside its specific context. For anything else I’d want to use the game’s prompts for (storytelling, etc), I’ve had much better luck using materials from other games. The links could make good kinesthetic scoring tools in other games, but I’ve not had success with alternate uses otherwise.

This game is a good game for middle school students – it handles language on a more complex level, and there aren’t many games that do that without modifications. However, if you’re working with students that are younger than 6th grade or so, you may find this game to be a bit too much for them (although I’d welcome suggestions as to how to do so).

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

-John

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.

Strengths:

  • 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.

Challenges:

  • “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).

Accommodations/Modifications:

  • 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?

-John

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.

Strengths:

  • 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.

Challenges:

  • 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.

Accommodations/Modifications:

  • 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?

-John