Come on, Learning Games aren't just for Kids!

The classroom I work in is located in a new campus that was newly constructed and opened for adult learners in August 2019, so when I was hired as an instructor for Adult Basic Education and ELA, there were still some forgotten boxes from the old campus that were cluttering a back corner of my classroom. Several months back I was cleaning out those old boxes in the back of my classroom and I discovered two packs of colorful foam Writing Prompt cubes that were still in their original packages. At first glance, I seen the words "Ages 6+" written on the cardboard label of the packaging and I wondered, "Why do we have a learning game that appears to be for children in an adult education building?"

Knowing that whoever was the instructor before me who left these here must have had a perfectly good logical reason to leave these behind so I sat down and began investigating the cubes to learn what their intentions may have been. I began reading the phrases on the cubes that read something like, "If I met a famous person, I would..." or "The holiday I like best is..." 

It occurred to me that these foam cubes with these partial starter phrases could be used in the ELA classroom with my adult students as a great tool for starter conversations. Eventually, I began developing a broader idea. I decided to use these Writing Prompt cubes as a good lesson with my students so that they can, not only work on their reading skills, but also their speaking and writing skills as well. 

I developed a game with these cubes using hand held dry erase boards, dry erase markers, expo, paper towels, and sanitizing wipes (in keeping with the tradition of sanitizing.)  So that my ELA learners can work as a class group, I place my student's work tables together to create one big table that everyone can seat themselves around while still maintaining proper social distance from one another. I allow each student to choose a color from one of the foam cubes then I pass them to each player. 

Each student has to toss the cube they chose as if it were a dice and then whichever side of the cube that lands facing upwards, the student then has to read the phrase aloud to everyone before the cube is passed around to the other students in the group. Once everyone has had a turn to read the partial phrase either to themselves or aloud to everyone else, then everyone is to use their dry erase markers to write the partial phrase onto their dry erase boards. Each student must use their own personal thoughts, feelings, and experiences to complete the phrase in their own words on the dry erase boards they are using. Once everyone has finished with the reading and the writing task, then starting with the person who rolled the dice and chose the partial phrase, each student must take turns reading aloud to everyone the completed sentence they wrote on their dry erase board. 

Important after thought, I have never let my adult ELA students see the age level that is printed on the packaging of these Writing Prompt cubes so that they don't loose any confidence in their own abilities because all of my students are adults and about one third of my students already possess either a high school diploma or a higher ed. degree from their home countries. My students have enjoyed playing this game so much that they have actually requested that we play it even on days I had not planned to use it. 

What I have learned from this, what was supposed to be intended as a learning game for kids six years old and over, can actually become a fun and rewarding tool to use for my adult ELA students. Not only are my students building on their reading skills with this learning game, but they are also building on their writing and speaking skills while they are all learning to communicate in English and learn more about one another. 



Hello Rose, Thank you for telling us about your discovery! You are using these foam cubes to give learners the opportunity to use English in ways that are both fun and authentic to their experience. One thing I'm convinced of is that we teachers should find many ways for learners to use English in ways that are personally meaningful. This learner-centered approach is what leads to language acquisition.

Thanks for starting this discussion, Rose! I'd love to hear about other "games" that teachers are using in their classrooms. Games are definitely not only for kids!

Take care, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition