I find helping kids memorize math facts, sight words (we call them tricky words), or even the basic phonics sounds in English is a long boring journey. I have lots of games to help them practice and I invent stories to give a context but at the end of the day it often becomes a drill and kill flashcard run either at home or school. I couldn’t really accept this so I went on the hunt for more whole class time filler games.
I’m ok with ‘Around the World’ but I hate that some kids never feel successful with it. I started playing ‘Doggie, Doggie’ to help kids learn sounds and sight words and my wildest dreams came true … they memorized! I used my sound or tricky words cards and asked the class to sit in a circle. One kid would be the doggie (use name sticks to make sure you evenly spread this privilege out) and would pretend to be a sleeping dog in the middle of the circle. While they were hiding their eyes, I would show the rest of the class the word/sound/math fact and then place on the child’s back. I would then point to a student to take the card of their friend’s back. My classes like to have everyone make little noises on the carpet to make it harder for the doggie. When the card is safely hidden behind the new child’s back the whole class chants. “Doggie, doggie where’s your bone? Somebody stole it from your home.” This is the doggie’s cue to look up and guess who has taken their card. We give them 3 guesses and then show them the card. Whether they guess who took it correctly or they are told, they get to take as long as they need to tell everyone else what is on the card. If they want help from the class they can ask for it.
Kids love this. My colleague, Mrs. Zahra, took this idea and also played it with “Heads Up, Seven Up”. Her variation was that instead of pushing down thumbs, students would give out letter cards. When everyone was able to look up the students had to first say what sound their letter was and then guess who had given them the card. The kids love this as well.
Both of these games are perfect fillers for odd chunks of time that come up in the school day. I use them as an incentive at the end of the day or sessions. Both games get kids excited about memorizing which in turn makes me excited that we’ve found an effective way to kick some of the boring bits out of school.
At home, we play a lot of War or Top It with math facts. The best part of this is that the games are easily differentiated for the differing abilities of my son and daughter. He plays with multiplication; she plays with addition. He has the adult wait 5 seconds before calling out the answer of the two cards that have been laid down; my daughter has the adult wait 10 seconds. It works wonders and the kids forget that they are learning – a win.