Modify That Game

Over the past 27 years, I have purchased many games out of therapy catalogs. Few of these specially designed and somewhat expensive games have lived up to my expectations. Out of sheer desperation for creative therapy ideas that were relevant, would give the students a lot of opportunities to practice the target skill with in a short therapy session and were inexpensive, I began to pull games off our own shelves at home. I was able to take many of my games and modify them to fit my student’s needs.

If I could get away with addressing all my students needs through games I would do it.  I know I could address students needs almost solely through carefully chosen and modified games but the administration would tend to frown on that.  It’s hard to take data when you are trying to use naturalistic skills.

I am always on the look out for games that will target specific areas of need within the speech and language realm.  I tend to look at games in very different ways.  So while a salesman or info on a box describes games to me,  how they are intended to strengthen certain skills, my mind is thinking, “how can I modify this game.”

When I use the word “modify” I am thinking about how I can use the game materials to lower the level of the game, target a specific skill, shorten the game, give the student more opportunities to respond or just make it easier to manage when working with active kids.  For example, when we play a game like Blurt, I manage the dice, I pick the card and question.  That way we do not waste time fishing the dice off the floor and using questions that the students have no chance to answer.  We will also take turns answering the questions because in a speech therapy group there is always one kid with significant weakness and will never get the answer correct if played the typical way.   I recently purchased the game “Anomia”. How could I not since  Anomiais a word I had to know to pass my national exam.  I loved the categories but I knew the game rules (played at home with my family) would never work in my half hour sessions with my learning disabled students.  A student and I experimented with the game.  We ended up playing a version that focused on word retrieval and vocabulary which ended up a little like concentration.  I expect that with a little more thought along with trial and error I will come up with something more exciting and challenging.

When I play games with my students I am often able to see if they are beginning to carryover skills and strategies to spontaneous language.  Again it is hard to measure but I find that my students manner of performance during games to be helpful in progress narratives.

With older students I often involve them in the modification process, asking them how we can make the game better and easier to play in a short period of time.  When modified correctly games have a lot of therapeutic value not to mention it’s important to learn how to play, have fun and negotiate with peers.


Games Can Be Fantastic Therapy Tools

Posted by on Dec 31, 2012 in Administrators Page, Modify That Game, Parent Information, slider, SLP Chat, Your Middle Schooler: A Unique Age | 0 comments

Games Can Be Fantastic Therapy Tools

I have always said that I can turn or modify any game into an educational experience.  Me at my advanced years was thinking only about board games.  Over the years I’ve been able to teach almost every single language skill through conventional games.  Unfortunately, those days are numbered because it’s hard to collect data when your having fun.

I was extremely pleased when I came across this article on  Angry Birds Educational Tool.  This article truly validates what I already know.  I am so glad the younger generation of SLP’s are able to see the value of games in learning.  I love angry birds but never even thought to bring it into my therapy as a tool but I have used it as a reward.  Why I never thought of this I don’t know.  This article presents an excellent perspective and shows just how creative speech language pathologists can be.

Reality is kids just don’t know how to play anymore.  Our students are usually at an even bigger disadvantage for knowing how to initiate play with others, feel successful and how to accept wins/losses gracefully.  Anytime we play a game with our students we are providing a learning experience that they will not get from their peers or even their parents.

I actually have a whole section on my blog called Modify that Game, which I will admit is dated with it’s information.  Still the point is there, games can have educational value.

My last article on gaming was back in June. 

Gaming In Education

I was following up on an article a friend sent me.  Basically I said that video games are good but you would still need a skilled teacher to fill in the gaps.   I’m not a video gamer so I reserved making any harsh judgements.

However, I was writing about the importance of play long before that.  The Importance of Play

I am still amazed at the number of children I encounter that truly don’t know how to play and I’m not just talking about our language disabled kids.  Kids are so managed these days that they are loosing their negotiation skills, critical thinking skills, imaginations, flexibility with interpersonal skills and play skills.

Recently an SLP contacted me to tell me that she was not allowed to use games in therapy any more.  I thought how sad that we’ve gotten to the point where fun had to be squashed in order to make sure kids pass a test or that enough data gets collected.  I figured that was the reason or that their administration was nuts.

Enjoy the articles highlighted above, put a little bit of fun into your therapy setting, worry about data collection around progress report time.  Modified games can play a huge role in therapy not to mention increase motivation.  Funny that it’s more accepted if the games are presented on the computer or iPad that out of a dusty old box.  However, games are much easier to modify out of the dusty old box.  Personally I can see the value in both conventional games and some computer games/apps.  Just like conventional games and therapy games, there are a lot of junky computer games and apps that are not worth even trying out.

Gaming in Education

Posted by on Jun 29, 2012 in Modify That Game, Parent Information, pictures, slider, SLP Chat | 0 comments

Knowing that I am interested in modifying games to fit a child’s needs, A friend sent me this link.

Game-Based Learning to Teach and Assess 21st Century Skills

 While I agree with most of what Andrew Miller has to say I think there are some key points that need to be questioned.  First a skilled teacher is needed to determine the proper balance between gaming and other methods of teaching to maximize learning, otherwise splinter skills are inevitable .  Second, as far as I know students are not going to be playing games in college for grades or in the work place for evaluations.  They need to understand this and realize that the rules and methods will change in those settings.  Students will be set up for failure if they believe playing angry birds or halo will translate into a career (however in this day and age not entirely impossible for a few).  Third, I don’t believe for a second that Andrew Miller is implying that all will be right in education with a lot of or even a little game playing.  He is suggesting that game playing can reinforce or help to develop some needed underlying skills.
What I am not happy with as a speech therapist is that most video games are very solitary and there is little social interaction.  There is also no way to modify video games to a child’s specific needs or to aid in development of a skills.  I know many have levels you have to achieve but you can’t break apart specific skills if needed.
As a parent and as a SLP I know that often children become obsessed with video games.  Most are exposed to them from an early age (these days through their parents).   Also as a parent I’m not sure I like the idea of commercial video games used in schools.  However, more than once I’v seen teacher plop a kid in front of a computer either as a reward or to keep them busy, observing that the computer game they’re playing has little or no educational value
I know I can take just about any game and modify it so it has some educational value.  I’ve been doing it for years.  Why not video games.   So before making harsh judgement against certain video games and educational value, perhaps I should play a few.

20 Questions for Kids-Modify that Game

Posted by on Apr 12, 2012 in Modify That Game | 0 comments

20 Questions for Kids is another one of my top games in therapy. The cards that come with this game are a speech and language therapist’s dream come true. Put out by University Games, should really be called 20 clues. I will use it for a whole session or for quick 5 minute filler.

The Original Rules:
To be honest I never really followed the rules and it has been a long time since I have read the original rules. Each card gives 20 clues about a person (real or fictional), place or thing. The children take turns listening to the clues and try to guess the target word. To keep track of which clues are read, chips cover individual spots numbered one to twenty. The game board is a path in the shape of a question mark. Lots of my students have found this interesting.

Modified Way to Play:
Skills Targeted: Drawing Inferences/Conclusions, Auditory Comprehension, Memory, Pragmatic skills

  • I take control of the chips just to save time.
  • When working with a group I am usually the only one read the clues. unless I am playing or have the kids working in teams.
  • The language used in the clues is sometimes tricky; however, the cards have the answers on the bottom so I instruct the kids to cover the answer with their thumb so I (or other players) do not see the answer when I help with reading.
  • I will go through the pile to make sure the children have a reasonable chance of guessing the item, Is it something they would know?
  • In a small group setting, I usually have the students take turns.
  • The student selects a number; I cover that number with a chip and read the corresponding clue.
  • Depending on the abilities of the student, I may rephrase/repeat the clue or even previous clues.
  • Now the student can make a guess.
  • At this point I may talk about whether the child made a good logical guess or ask them to tell me how they came up with that answer, maybe even reread the clues to tell them why that answer would not work.
  • The following student must wait for the next clue before they can respond.
    If the student guesses the answer after only 4 clues, they can move 16 spaces, after 10 clues 10 spaces…..
  • If I only have one student with me, we will take turns reading the clue cards to each other. This is still fun and targets individual needs.
  • Sometimes I will use the cards without the game board, reading from top to bottom, as a quick activity.

This is a game where we tend to have a lot of fun. There is a lot of opportunity to practice individual skills. Occasionally, a student will be a little disappointed that they can’t figure out an answer. However, I will take that as a teaching opportunity pointing out that some of the clues are clearly easier than others. I might point out some of the silly responses other have made (all in fun and only when appropriate). I am not big on letting kids win all the time but I will often make sure I listen to a few more clues before I guess just to show them it is not always easy. In the process of writing this, I found that there are 2 new versions of this game. I plan on purchasing both today. (Attn: Do not purchase the “new edition” if you already own the original game-the questions cards are identical 2/23/2008). The Original 20 Questions for Kids is recommended for children 7-12 years of age. The 21st Century 20 Questions is recommended for ages 8-adult. The variety within the cards makes this game extremely versatile with middle school aged language groups where the abilities of the students often vary.

Sample Descriptions: Click on Picture

Blurt-Modify that Game

Posted by on Apr 12, 2012 in Modify That Game | 0 comments

Blurt is my absolute favorite game to use in therapy. I have actually worn out 2 game boards over the years. We play it a lot at home too.The

Original Rules:Blurt is advertised as a “Game of Word Racing”. The general idea is to be the first to Blurt out the correct answer after a general description. Players take turns reading the descriptions or one person becomes reader. To start someone rolls the dice. The number on the die determines which description to read and how many spaces the first person to Blurt out the answer will move. The player who moves their piece around the board first is the winner.

Skills Targeted: Word Retrieval, Pragmatic skills, Auditory Comprehension
Modified Way to Play:

  • I take control of the dice just to save time
  • When working with a group I am usually the only one read the description unless I have the older kids working in teams.
  • Since my students often have difficulty coming up with the correct answers quickly I play several rounds of individual Blurt to get them moving around the board.
  • Then I throw in a few “True Blurt” rounds just to add a little variety and excitement to the game. This means we play Blurt using the original rules to the game. Obviously, I am very careful to make sure that none of the students will feel bad or get upset if they are not successful. If I note this happening I switch quickly back to individual Blurt.
  • I only choose descriptions that I feel the student has a reasonable chance of getting correct and may go through several cards in the process.
  • Depending on the abilities of the student, I may rephrase or repeat the description, emphasize specific words or give an additional clue.
  • If I only have one student with me, we will take turns reading the descriptions to each other. This is still fun and targets individual needs.
  • If the student has difficulty reading the descriptions, I instruct them to cover the answer with their thumb and show it to me.
  • Sometimes I will use the cards without the game board as a quick word retrieval activity.


I try to make sure the kids are laughing and having fun. Everyone gets lots of turns when we play Blurt and lots of chances to work on their specific needs. You can pace Blurt to move quickly or slow it down for students who need it. Blurt comes with two sets of question cards, a junior version targeting the 7-9 age group and an version recommended for 10-adult. This makes it extremely versatile with middle school aged language groups where the abilities of the students often vary.

Sample Descriptions:

Junior VersionA large, round fruit with a thick, orange rind, used for making pies and jack-o-lanterns.A place with runways where aircraft can land and take off.Someone who cuts and sell meat.Older VersionA long plank balanced on a support in the middle.Someone who makes things out of iron, such as horseshoes.To learn by heart.