Have you got resistant readers in your classroom? Any students that are struggling to make rapid progress? 

Then stay tuned to discover these 3 fun games for reading practice that have proven to motivate even the most resistant readers I’ve ever taught!

Why are reading games such a big deal? 

For early readers, reading practice can feel like exhausting work for a season. Yet studies show a key indicator of reading and general academic success is reading engagement. 

Act It Out

This video demonstrates 3 games for reading that are guaranteed to get your students engaged! These games - uKloo, Act It Out, and Steal It get students moving and motivated, yet still focus on real reading practice. {Purchases linked to amazon.com from our page may give back a small portion to Reading Simplified.}

Check out these highlights about the 3 games for reading!

[1:00] - Why is engagement important?
[6:15] - Game 1 -- uKloo
[13:55] - Game 2 -- Act It Out!
[18:16] - Game 3 -- Steal It!


[If you'd rather read the transcript from the above video, here ya go...]

Marnie: Got resistant readers? Then you're in the right place because I'm going to be sharing three games today that spark engagement in reading. In fact these games, hint, hint, they will even perhaps trick your students into reading. So I'm super excited to share these with you. Whether you have resistant readers you're concerned about or any reader, these games are fun and they include eyes on print time, real reading practice, which is what moves the needle to make good readers. So I'm so glad you're with us today.

Hi, I'm Dr. Marnie Ginsberg from Reading Simplified and it's my mission to streamline reading instruction and accelerate students' reading achievement. And I think that games, particularly that target real reading, are one way to expedite reading growth. So I hope you will find something of value today when you tune in to learn about these three games that spark excitement for reading. And it probably doesn't need any excuse, but I just wanted to give you some ammunition, some theoretical understanding about why it's so powerful and important to have engagement and intrinsic motivation as part of your focus as a teacher.

Why Reading Games Can Spark Excitement

Marnie: It's not just all about the academics because there's a lot more to us as humans. Right? And what motivates us as readers will be the real key to having us become successful readers. So these games should be one of the tools in your toolkit to move that along. Here's a little motivation for you for thinking about why games can be helpful and what we need to think about with and in terms of engagement, intrinsic motivation for our students.

This comes from John Guthrie who is an influential reading researcher. He writes in 2004 that for nine year olds on the US national assessment of educational progress in 1998, the correlation between the indicator of engaged reading and reading comprehension achievement was higher than any demographic characteristics such as gender, income, or ethnicity. In other words, the connection or the relationship between engagement and reading and reading achievement was more tightly associated than even income or other socioeconomic factors, even though those are usually very powerful factors that determine engagement and achievement.

Marnie: So he goes on to say, even more surprising and significant, was the finding that nine year olds whose family background was characterized by low income and low education, but who were highly engaged readers, substantially outscored students who came from backgrounds with higher education and higher income, but who themselves were less engaged readers. They saw this as a nationally representative sample. In the US this finding suggests the stunning conclusion that engaged reading can overcome traditional barriers to reading achievement, including gender, parental education and income. That is super exciting.

Mother's level of education is such a common predictor of how students do as income and if you're a classroom teacher well you can't do a lot to change income or mother's education, right? But you can do a lot to change engagement. Now, engagement is a lot more than just playing games, but this is just the tip of the iceberg - part of what it might mean for your students to be engaged.

Games Can Help Establish Foundational Reading Skills

Marnie: It's one gimmick really to keep them reading even when they are resistant. I'm going to put a couple of these activities in context of some classic activities here at Reading Simplified. And if you are a Simplifier and been around for a while, you know that we typically would start out in word work instruction to building the beginnings of reading with either Build It or Switch It. And then we'd also, after choosing one of those, compliment it with, Read It. Those pairs, Switch It and Read It, or Build It and Read It. They are the pairs that set the groundwork for good decoding on which we build the foundation for word identification on which fluency is built and then comprehension. The Read It activity particularly leads students to be able to develop the most important foundational decoding strategy, which we call Blend As You Read.

Marnie: So once you get your students to that Blend As You Read level, some of them might find it tough, particularly those who have phonological processing weaknesses. And that's a good chunk of our children and probably almost all of your struggling students. And if you don't know about these activities, then you can find links on this page. So that you can learn more about these core activities. It doesn't take a lot to get students into decoding successfully and these activities lead you into being able to develop the Blend As You Read strategy, which is so important and you can learn on some other links about Read It as to why it's so important. But since there's effort there, it's a perfect time to intersect a few games, trick the students into drawing a card perhaps. And just because they are drawing a card, it's a little game element and then maybe they'll spend some time to read the word and practice their Blend As You Read strategy and it won't be as much work.

Games overcome resistance

Marnie: So these games are perfect for that level. That beginning level where the Blend As You Read is just hard. These will overcome that initial resistance. The games can work in a lot of contexts but that's particularly the context where they're really needed. And I think you'll find that is super helpful. So you don't have to wait until they're ready or they're interested. If they're able to do some Blend As You Read, then a game is the way to get them over that hurdle. Any type of resistance, these will probably do the trick.

Our 1st Fun Reading Game--uKloo

Marnie: So the first one I want to talk about are these uKloo games. There are two versions, one is seven and up and those just have more words on the cards, more complex words. And then there is an early reader version uKloo and that is for ages four and up. And I'll show you some examples of the cards and what makes them the different levels. So you can see here on the screen that is the older student levels seven plus is what's recommended. And I think you could probably, definitely a lot of first graders would be on an average well matched for this. And certainly students who are older. One of the clues says when your room is dark at night, turn me on to shed some light. That's just one sentence, one clue. That'd be on one card. So if you think your students could handle that or with some help handle that, then this might be the level for your student.

Marnie: Or on the other hand, if you have kids who are just beginning and like we're talking about just even getting them over the hurdle of doing a Blend As You Read and they maybe don't know many or any site-high frequency words, then this would be the early reader edition and it has fewer words on it. Look under the couch. So those are the two types of these levels. You might even want both of them so that you can mix and match and find what each kid or groups of kids need. Let me tell you a little bit more about the games. Okay.

uKloo reading game riddle example

Marnie: uKloo is so clever because the developer is combining a lot of fun things, riddles and scavenger hunts.  And all those things together, I think, yield fun. So you can see here an example, the clue says “always white, sometimes brown, builds your bones when it goes down." Do you know what that is? You probably guess it's milk. So the student would take that number one card, there's a little one circle at the bottom of the card and the student would then go look at where the milk is and they would find another card and then they would read the next clue.

Marnie: And so it's sending them all around the room, around the house, if you're doing this at home. And it's going to motivate most kids to read. And then if the student gets stuck, there's a book of hints and the hint for number one that we just went over, it would be “pour on cereal or in a glass”. So that gets the student a little closer to what the clue is. So there's a lot of support for the child, external from the teacher or the parent, so they can feel independent. They're up and moving and they are entranced most likely by the riddle, the challenge of the riddle. But if it's too hard, they have the support of the hints book and then the fun of going around the house or the classroom on the scavenger hunt. So as you probably noticed that first clue is talking about milk in many of your classrooms probably don't have milk because most of the clues are for the home environment.

Marnie: So what is a classroom teacher to do? Maybe you want to create your own version where you combine riddles and scavenger hunts where the words are very few on any card and it reduces the strain. Another possibility that I really like is to send it home with a child, children taking turns, and they get to play it at home. That might be the privilege of the week for a certain kid to have it for two or three days, instead of sending a stuffed teddy bear, maybe you can send home a reading game. Trick the kids and the parents into reading. So the parent or the teacher does have to set these clues up ahead of time, pick appropriate clues for your environment, put them around the house and then the last clue leads to a surprise. So there's even more fun.

Marnie: The surprise could be something tangible or you could just write something - make up what it is, like you are getting an extra 10 minutes of recess. So there is this cute surprise pack of blank sheets for you to create your own surprise. Or you can put a couple M&Ms there, a pencil, a sticker, whatever suits you and your student. And work your magic with being a detective about what motivates the student and put something there that would motivate that student. So uKloo is just remarkable. I highly recommend you get a hold of it and use it in your classroom or your home. And consider if some of the clues don't match your school environment, then send it home as a reward for your students. And there will be a link here on this website for you to buy it straight from Amazon that will support Reading Simplified.

Marnie: But even if you don't get uKloo, think about the combination of not only a scavenger hunt, searching around hunting for things, but then adding in the level of riddles. That's even more fun. So here's some other riddles from the upper level “hard boil, soft boil, scramble or fry, you can bake me in a pie.” And the other one is “tiny crystals of sweetness.” So some of these you may be able to match into your classroom. You don't have to use all of them because you, as the teacher, are in charge. So “when your room is dark at night, turn me on to shed some light” - that works in any room, right? Almost every room has a light switch. So you still may be able to adapt these to the classroom, but maybe some of them you don't.

Marnie: You don't use, you just make the decision about what fits and lay them around the classroom and set your kids off and running. And here you can see on the right, the early reader, the four year olds and up, there's three different levels: the yellow, the blue, the pink. So the yellow is the shortest and they keep using the word look. Look under the mat, look in the sink, look beside the milk. Level two is slightly harder. Find it in dad's hat, find it in a crayon box, check on the toilet. I kind of recommend against that one. Level three, find it in the helmet on your chair. Find it beside the milk and cookies on the table. So there's a repetition of some high frequency words like find, look or check and also some high-frequency prepositions, of course. And then maybe one or two words, it'll be more challenging to blend as you read, like milk or mat or sink or box or hat.

Marnie: So there is a lot of potential here with these games. Go check it out. I think you'll be really pleased. I use this because the timing was perfect. I have a super resistant reader who has a lot of cognitive challenges, so Blend As You Read is still challenging to him even though we've been doing Read It and other supportive practices. But when I whip this out, he had no resistance at all. He was quite excited and there's body movement too that's going on with this activity. Recess is getting kind of squished out in a lot of US schools, sadly, again it's not based on the research. The research says kids movement actually helps learning. So it's doubly tragic, but if you are in the classroom and you want to get more movement for kids, this is one easy way to squeeze it in.

Act It Out reading game

Our 2nd Reading Game for Engagement--Act It Out

Marnie: So let me know what you think about uKloo. Another one you can get here for free as a download. If you look for a little box where you can put in your name and email and you can get this game and we call it here at Reading Simplified, Act it Out. If you're a Reading Simplified member, you'll find this in the Guided Reading unit on our membership site. But the idea here is to take charades that requires some reading. So cut this paper out onto card stock. Kids would draw a card and then they have to read it. They'd have to read, jump up and then they have to do it. But when they read it, by the way, they shouldn't read it out loud because their challenge is like charades is to get the other child or teacher or a group of children to try to guess what the word is.

Marnie: And so you could even have teams and there could be a winner. These Act it Out pages are specifically aligned with a particular phase of reading development. We're talking about the basic code on this example, but we have a couple of harder ones in the Reading Simplified Academy. So the basic code would include short vowels, consonants and consonant digraph. Notice there aren't too many words on the card, but most of them have some non-high frequency words that have to be blended. So we're practicing that Blend As You Read strategy. But we're doing it in a fun way. You could make an even easier one, an easier version. Back it up and not just have phrases like what this is mostly, but just put a word. The kids would have to read the word swim and they'd have to pretend to swim or run and they would probably run. Hop.

Marnie: There a lot of short three sound, four sound words that you can choose that are action verbs that play well into charades. So take the idea of, Act it Out and match it to your student's needs. As we're always doing here at Reading Simplified, one way of streamlining and accelerating students' achievement is taking the small group reading instruction that we're doing or if we're working one on one, whatever that instructional level is and the focus sound of the week. Then we give them games and activities at literacy centers that match that. So in this example, it's students who are still at the short vowel level and they're reviewing all short vowels. Maybe even also the fairly regular R and A sounds like in part and arm. But you could do the same thing with students who are at the O sound doing our Sort It activity.

Marnie: If they're at the O sound, then give them a lot of words to act out that have the O sound and it's various spellings - the O in go. Go to the door for instance. And that way you can get students all maybe across the whole classroom doing Act it Out for one of their centers, but some kids are doing short vowel words, so they're drawing from those cards. Some kids are drawing from the long O cards. Maybe some are drawing from long O and long E review. So you're matching their needs, but it's only one center. You don't have to recreate the wheel every day and maybe every Tuesday is Act it Out at one of the centers. But the level of the words varies based on the student's level in your reading group.

Marnie: I've never found this not to work and I use it. I bring it out, especially when I have resistant readers or those who are just struggling more than the typical reader. It's super fun to turn these into cards and have them draw. That adds another level of suspense, especially the younger they are. Actually even the older kids still find it fun just to draw - it adds a little gamification that I encourage you to consider. So this is all one page but you could make multiple copies all on different card stock and cut them out and create a mixture of cards. So you have a set of all the same cards but different colors if you want to add even more fun with color. But of course you don't have to, but drawing does typically help with Act it Out and make sure you get your free copy if you're not a member of the Reading Simplified Academy. I'm looking for the box on this page where you can get that delivered to you via email.

Steal It reading game example

The Last Engaging Reading Game
Example--Steal It!

Marnie: And then Steal It! is another really popular game that we use here at Reading Simplified. Again, it matches well to what's being studied in small group instruction. So here is an example of the A sound that would line up with the Sort It activities. We would maybe have a group doing, doing all the A spellings for a particular week. The A in later, the A in always, the A in they, the A in great. And Steal It! works by, again, another trick of getting the kids to read even when they wouldn't want to read as many words because they win when they get more cards - they have to read the cards. So they take turns drawing a card, they read the card, they put it down in front of their area and they create a column of words based on the same spelling.

Marnie: So always would be in line with play, and play and say they would all be in a column because they all represent that same spelling. So they're building those columns and they're having to notice the inside parts of words. So then the challenge becomes the next student draws a card. Okay. And they read a card maybe, and they read the word day that their neighbor already has always and play on their side. So what we do is we steal the cards of our neighbor and we take all the A spellings, the AY spellings and put it on our side. But guess what? We don't just get to steal, we have to read them again. So we build a column and we have to read, always, play say, and then the next kid gets to steal and then they have to read, always play, say, may.

Marnie: So we just keep building the number of practice opportunities and these words include high-frequency spellings and high frequency words themselves. So it's a great way to squeeze in a lot of phonics and high frequency word practice in a tricky way because they just keep having to read. They're stealing back and forth, over and over again. The game takes awhile and the winner is the one who ends up with the most cards. So it's another trick to get them to read, practices of Blend As You Read, but also learn advanced phonics in this case. The pictures are kind of like the joker. So if you draw the rubber ball that represents one ball, so that means you get to steal one of your neighbor's cards. If you draw the dice, that's two. So you would pick two cards from your neighbors and so the number of the object represents the number of cards you get to steal.

Marnie: So I got this idea from the game, Trugs and she is brilliant for coming up with it because it's a great way to get eyes on print and we've just adapted it by including multiple spellings of a given sound. So have your kids who are learning the O sound, have them play this as a center. Everybody in the class, again could have say Wednesdays always Steal It day for one of the game centers, but some kids are doing the O sound, some kids are doing O and E as a review. Some kids are doing A for the first time, some kids are doing O, A and E as a review and they're getting their needs met for decoding per blending and high frequency words - all in the context of a game that is going to motivate them to learn to read.

Discover Our Streamlined System for Teaching ANYONE How to Read

Marnie: So what did you think? We've got it here for you. We've got uKloo, got Act it Out, a charades variation, and Steal It. I'd love to know what you think. Have you used these games and how did it go? And if you have another game to share with us that's a winner for your classroom or your home environment please share. We'd love to create a nice juicy list here in the comments below. And I forgot to mention there's also a link here on the page to get a free Steal It version. We give it away for different promotions from people who are becoming members of the Reading Simplified Academy, which is the online platform for how to teach anyone how to read. And we give you lots of resources as well as video training, somewhat like this, to teach you the system of how all of these core activities that we teach at Reading Simplified work together.

Marnie: So if you haven't heard about that, I encourage you to check out the Reading Simplified Academy. It's kind of the reading specialist license that I wish I had, the masters that I never got. It's the training system for how to teach anyone to read, a beginner, and a struggler who's 10, 15 even 55. The system will work the same with all of those ages. So again, let us know what you think about these games and I look forward to sharing more with you in the future about reading. Let's make great readers, shall we?

Reading Simplified Academy computer mock up

Now it's your turn!

What do you think of these games?

Have you tried them in your classroom? What were the results?

{Purchases linked to amazon.com from our page may give back a small portion to Reading Simplified.}