I’m always looking for ways to incorporate fun and authentic oral language practice which is key for all K’s especially for my English Language Learners (ELLs). But, while there are many ways to engage children in speaking, it is much more difficult to find activities that allow children to practice listening. What I love about barrier games, is that they incorporate both listening and speaking with the option of adding vocabulary lessons to scaffold and expand language.
Barrier games involve a barrier, like a folder standing on it’s edge or a book, placed between two people. Each person has a “board game” or storyboard (e.g., a Halloween scene like a fence, tree and moon) and the same “board game pieces” or characters (e.g., 2 pumpkin shapes, a witch shape and a ghost). One person “makes a story” by placing their pieces on their characters on their storyboard and describing the placement of the characters to their partner. The partner must listen carefully and try their best to copy their partner’s directions. The listener is also free to ask questions for clarification but cannot peek at their partner’s storyboard. Some children create unique and interesting stories while others use basic directions and prepositions to describe where their pieces are. When the storyteller has finished, they lift the barrier to see if the storyboard match.
Afterwards, we have a discussion on what made the game difficult and what was helpful. We also talked about what skills we needed to make the game work better. You could even discuss helpful vocabulary before and/or after the game.
The children thoroughly enjoyed it and I played it with both my K’s and Grade 1’s. You could adapt this game using any theme: oceans, transportation, Christmas. And the more pieces you add the more challenging the game becomes.
Speaking of Halloween, here’s a pic of my favourite costume yesterday: