Growing up in a family with six siblings, there was no end of board games to play. I remember playing Candy Land and learning colors. Checkers and chess taught me strategy. Monopoly presented a world of real estate, property taxes, and banking. The Game of Life taught me about life insurance and the cost of living. There was Scrabble, backgammon, and tons of card games. Negotiating the rules, playing fair, and of course, arguing, were all important elements of the learning process. There were also important life lessons in all these games: playing a game is an exercise in cooperation, taking risks can be thrilling and advantageous, and when supportive, competition can push you to be better.
Fast-forward twenty years, and I found myself making board games for my ESL classes. When I was building the textbook, Phonics & Spelling, Book 2, interactive games and puzzles were important and I included many, as well as a game on the back cover! On one page, I constructed a simple CVC game board that I decorated with shark clip art and titled Swimming with Sharks! Like every page in the book, I tested the game in class many times. Of all that I created, none of the board games excited my kids like the threat of being eaten by a shark.
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Swimming with Sharks! is very simple. Players take turns rolling dice, moving their counters around the board, and saying the word they land on out loud. The goal is to be the first to reach the “Safe” ship. If they land on “net,” they can cross over to the next space. Landing on “red,” means returning to the previous “red,” or “Start.” If players land on the “shark’s nose” toward the end of the board, they have to go all the way back to “Start.”
So popular was this board game, my brother, Michael, urged me to create a blank board so that different vocabulary could be inserted in place of the CVC words.
Michael explained in his blog post how he used the blank version of the board for dialogue drills, such as What’s your name? How old are you? Where do you live? Do you like…? Do you have…? What’s this? and What’s that?
“To practice simple dialogues, I use a separate Swimming with Sharks! game board that has blank spaces instead of words. When students land on a blank space, they must ask another player a question. If the student cannot think of a question to ask, they must go back the same number rolled on the dice. Likewise, if the student who is asked cannot answer the question, they must move their counter back that many places on the board. The same rules apply for landing on “net,” the color “red,” and “shark’s nose” as the original game in Phonics & Spelling, Book 2.”
The blank version of Swimming with Sharks! can be used with any set of vocabulary, Q&A, or dialogues you want your students to practice. I always have several laminated boards in my desk ready at a moment’s notice. You can download the blank game board here. It’s on us! Enjoy!
Board games to get your kids talking!
If you like to play board games in class, take a look at this Blank Game Board Bundle from Donald’s English Classroom. These blank boards offer teachers the flexibility of creating their own games. For preschool through adult language learners, board games give students repetitive practice in a format that makes learning fun!
As always, best of luck in your classes!
Kinney Brothers Publishing