Games are not just for playing and having fun. You can use them in a functional way to promote and facilitate language and communication skills too! You can use ANY game to do this and today we are going to dive right in so you feel comfortable doing so!
Let’s back up…
Why do we want to build language and communication skills?
Language and communication is so important for academic success. Children need to be able to work with peers during group activities, ask and answer questions in class, interact with peers on the playground, and they also need to grow their background vocabulary so they can make connections and be successful with higher level thinking. We need to help promote these skills at school and at home as much as possible!
Why should we use games to build language and communication skills?
Games are fun! They allow for natural opportunities for children to think strategically and interact with others. Children are motivated by competition. They love to win. Why not use it?! I will share with you some ways you can think outside of the box and how you can work on various language skills while playing a game…any game!
Using Games to Work on Answering Questions
If your child/student is struggling to answer WH- questions, games can be a fun way to work on this! Even if the game does not require them to answer questions, you can do some question and answer drilling before you play such as while you are setting up the game. You can review the directions and ask them questions to make sure they are attending and comprehending them. You can answer questions to describe items on a game board.
Using Games to Work on Sentence Structure
If your child/student is struggling with using complete or grammatically correct sentences, encourage them to use sentences while playing a game. “I rolled a three.” “I picked the red card.” “I do not have the cat.” Let them describe or state in a complete sentence while they take their turn. Model it for them too. Don’t just make them do it alone! You can give visuals if needed too! Don’t be afraid of grabbing a sticky note or piece of paper to do so!
Using Games to Build Vocabulary
Don’t just assume they know what all the words in the game means! Review the vocabulary of the game beforehand, while playing, and after. Let them use words in sentences. Let them describe it. Do they know what category it belongs in? Let them recognize when they do not know what the words are and encourage them to ask for help. Give them clues and see if they can figure out what the words mean for themselves. These strategies and suggestions can work with those working on basic vocabulary or older students working with more complex vocabulary words.
Using Games to Build Social Language Skills
Games are a perfect way to work on turn taking. This helps carryover and practice for conversational turn taking. You can use visual cues if your child/student struggles to know when it is their turn in a game. Encourage them to verbally express “my turn” and “your turn.” Let them hear, see, and experience the back and forth of turn taking. Games make this easy since it is natural and part of the game.
As you can see, there are many ways to build language and communication skills while playing games. Games are fun, motivating, and a natural way to elicit conversation and verbal expression. Children of all ages and abilities can benefit from playing games, seeing the models of others, and practice using their language skills. Go grab a game and have some fun!
Hallie Sherman, M.S. CCC-SLP is a licensed speech-language pathologist from New York and the author of the blog, Speech Time Fun. She loves finding and creating creative, quick, and fun ways to keep speech students motivated and shares them on her blog, Instagram, and Facebook page.