On a dismal December afternoon at the Salt Spring Literacy Society meeting space, 13 ONE TO ONE volunteers shared in the fun and laughter that comes with play. They were learning how to incorporate play into their tutoring sessions at Salt Spring Elementary, Fernwood School, and Fulford Community School.

In an earlier workshop tutors learned about the value of word games in reading development, specifically: phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, comprehension, and fluency. In the latest workshop tutors spent two hours actually playing word games and learning to use them knowledgeably and confidently in their half hour sessions with the children. It was a chance for everyone to experience for themselves the value of such games, and to develop a repertoire from which they could pull quick ideas.

The workshop included games like Tic Tac Toe and Snowman (aka Hangman) as well as card-based games like Go Fish and Concentration which use high frequency words. Tutors were encouraged to customize the game play for their particular student and/or learning situation. Most groups were surprisingly competitive when playing the games, but no one had to be physically restrained!

One tutor who had always thought of games as merely a fun distraction, left with a deeper understanding of the learning that can be found in guided play. A ONE TO ONE tutor for many years, they said that they had formerly eschewed games in favour of “more actual reading time”. During the workshop, they came to realize that the games could be as important as reading.

According to research, using games in teaching can help to increase student participation, foster social and emotional learning, and motivate students to take risks. Playing word games, allows children practice and reinforce the skills needed for reading confidently

Through play, all 13 tutors experienced firsthand, the rich learning that comes from an environment that includes fun and laughter.

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