Charles Jannuzi, University of Fukui, Japan
You can refer to this graphic, 'Basic Vowel Spelling Patterns of Written English' for words and spelling patterns to use in the activities explained below.
Activity One: Pronunciation and Phonics Crambo (an adaptation of a
traditional spelling game)
1. Preparation: Go through student word lists (e.g., the lexical part of the syllabus of a course book) and select words that fit major and minor spelling patterns. Also, choose key sight words (which are also a major part of a beginner's vocabulary). Think of other rhyming words that students may not know, but that fit the patterns that the course vocabulary illustrate.
2. Pre-teaching: Explain/show what an English rhyme is, as Japanese students may have difficulty with the concept. Young learners especially may be quite open to language play, but their linguistic sense of it will be geared to the characteristics of Japanese, not English. Rhyme is one of these characteristics on which English and Japanese (but also Romance languages like Spanish and Italian) differ greatly. Show them how words can rhyme and have the same spelling pattern: e.g., time, lime, dime, etc. Also show them how words can rhyme but have totally different spellings: e.g., time, rhyme, climb. You can also show them how common sight words complicate matters still further: two, you, who.
3. Divide the class into teams. I have used this activity a lot for classes that could be divided into two teams, but more teams than that are possible. Two players from each team can come to the board. One will write for their team, while the other can relay information from the rest of the team members. This activity can be run having students rely solely on memory, or they can be encouraged to use textbooks, glossaries and dictionaries for the words they will need. Begin play by announcing a key word and writing it top, center on the board. Repeat the word several times. The first team to write a correct rhyme wins a point. Continue play with different team members rotating for each round. Emphasize that this is a team effort, so the members who are at their seats should give assistance to the two at the board.
4. Variations: Practice words that have the same vowel sound but do not rhyme. Or words that begin or end with the same target sound, such as problem sounds like /r/ or /l/ (in this case you will want only to say the key word several times and not write anything on the board).
Activity Two: Spelling Concentration (an EFL adaptation of Concentration)
1. Construct a set of word cards from large pieces of cardboard (I have used A4 and B4 sizes). On one side of each card print a key word. The words on the cards should be organized so that there are matching pairs of rhyming words or words that share the same internal vowel sounds (e.g., same sound-same spelling, same sound-different spelling, selected sight words). For example, in one set of cards I matched in non-rhymes, five pairs of short vowels (bad-cat, bed-pet, sit-tip, not-top, cut-cup), five pairs of 'long' vowels (ate-day, feet-heat, kite-sight, note-boat, room-tune), and three pairs with other vowels (out-town, loop-soon, boy-oil) for a total of 26 cards (see Figure 1 for a list of vowel spelling patterns). After you have written all the key words on the cards, shuffle the deck thoroughly, then number the cards at random on their reverse sides, from 1 to 26. Tape or magnetically fix the word cards to the blackboard with the numbered sides showing.
2. This game works best if played between two teams, but team sizes should be kept down to groups that are small enough for all to participate. If you team teach, you might want to split up a large class and run two different games. There is not a lot of pre-teaching required for this game if the previous activity has already been done (teaching what words rhyme, how they might share an internal vowel, how they might begin or end with the same sound, etc.). You might want to run a demonstration round to show how the Concentration game will go.
3. One of the two teams must begin play; this can be decided at random since going first does not increase the odds of winning. The side that starts picks any two cards by calling out their numbers (this also gives beginners a chance to say the numerals in English out loud in real communication). The teacher (or appointed M.C.) turns the cards over so that they display their key words. The teacher says the words out loud several times so that the whole class can hear. If the two words on the cards match according to the teaching point of the game (e.g., rhymes, internal vowel sounds, initial sounds, final sounds, etc.), the two cards are taken down and given to the side that chose them. If cards are won, play continues with the same side getting the chance to call out two more numbers. The turn changes if two cards are turned over but the words do not match. Keep playing until all the cards have been matched and given to a side.
4. Hint on making this game work: point out to the teams that they need to split up memorization duties among their members; however, do not let them keep any written notes.
Activity Three: Phonics Snap (an EFL adaptation of the card game, Snap!)
1. Prepare a list of words from student vocabulary. Select these words on the basis of the spelling patterns they illustrate (for example, the most basic patterns of the five short vowels and the five long vowels). Think of words that both rhyme and illustrate the same spelling patterns and add them to the list (they may be from previously studied vocabulary, or they can be new words that should be de-codable if phonics skills are used). Using the words you have collected, construct a set of 72 cards, one word on each card. The object of this game depends on randomly matching rhyming words, so be sure to include a large number of only a few rhymes (for example, a deck that is limited to the major patterns for the five long vowels). In short, this game does not work if there aren't enough examples of each rhyme. Because of the complexity of English spelling, it is possible to construct games to emphasize many different points. Some possibilities might include: rhymes with the same spelling, rhymes with different spellings, or rhymes with various spellings along with an occasional sight word, which should always come from known vocabulary (for example, eye might be matched with pie, my and buy).
2. This game is best played in pairs. Decks for an entire class could be used while the teacher checks how students are doing. Also, the teacher could play this game with a student who needs extra practice with English spelling and pronunciation. Team teaching would allow for this game to be used with a larger class. The two teachers could demonstrate it better, and they could cover more of the classroom when helping students learn to play it.
3. Have students form pairs. Distribute one deck of cards to each pair. After shuffling and dealing the cards (face down), one player begins play by placing their top card face up on the desk and pronouncing the word (e.g. light). The other player then lays a card on top of the previous one and pronounces it (e.g. late). Play continues in turn until a rhyming card has been laid on top of the previous one (e.g., seen then bean). At that instant, the first player to recognize the rhyme and say 'Snap!' wins all the cards that have been laid. Players should not cheat by looking at their cards before they lay them, a point that should be stressed when the game is demonstrated and monitored. Players keep doing this until one player has won all the cards.
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