Sometimes it is difficult to know when to modify a game/activity. While I have included specific modifications within each post, below are some general tips that can apply to most games and activities.
1. When you first open a game, don’t get stuck on the instructions. Look at the materials available and think about what you could do for your student with the materials alone. It’s amazing how some activities can become more motivating for a student simply because you’ve changed the materials. For example, you can use the tiles from Scrabble to play a spelling game. Or you could simply use the tiles to do phonics activities, such as spelling A-M-E and having the student find consonants to put as the first letter to create different words.
2. Now that you’ve taken a good look at the materials, you should read the directions in their entirety. Many games now include options for modifying the rules to make the game easier or more challenging.
3. One of the easiest and best modifications you can make is to shorten the duration of an activity. Most of the games and activities you will see here take 10-15 minutes. For longer activities, I will set a timer and let the student know that the game will last for 10 minutes (or less, depending on the student.) Also, though it may feel unnatural, (especially if your student is engaging with you when he/she rarely does,) I try to end the activity when the student’s interest is at its peak. This will make the student more likely to request or be interested in the activity in the future.
4. If the game is too difficult for the student, you can do some of the steps for your student. For example, there is a game called Smath that I really like to play with some of my students. It is a Scrabble-esque game, but instead of words you are required to make number sentences. For many of my students, I will include all of the math symbols, then create the number sentence for them on the gameboard, with one number missing. So I might put 10 – __ = 3. Then the student has to look at their choices for numbers and fill in the blank space. It’s important to remember that just because you are completing some of the steps, it does not make the game less valuable. In fact, practicing the aforementioned skill is important. And for one of my students, a ten year old who is still struggling with basic operations, it is even more valuable because we can practice this skill while playing a game that is more age-appropriate and enjoyable for her.
5. Another easy modification is to simply remove some parts of the game. For example, with the Eeboo Build A Robot Game I frequently remove the spinner and have the student pick parts for their robot from an array. This way, I can focus on the skills of naming parts of a picture and using adjectives to describe a picture, while making the game easier for students who might struggle with following multiple steps, completing the motor skill of using the spinner correctly, or correlating a number on the spinner to a number on another piece of the game.
6. Stack the deck. When introducing card games of any type, I frequently set up the deck with only cards I know the learner can understand and play with. For example, with Speedeebee, I will go through all the cards and remove any that I know my learner cannot respond to based on his/her current skill level. If I’m playing with more than one child who have different skill levels, I’ll create individual stacks of cards and change the rules so that players take turns responding. Over time, as the learner experiences more success with the game, I introduce more challenging cards.