by Sherry Martin
Education and gaming go hand in hand. Although schools have largely abandoned games as a teaching tool, they remain a very efficient and effective venue for learning. Many parents have reported that their children either learned to read in order to play video games or greatly improved their reading skill while playing various games. The same can be said of many other subject areas including math, geography, writing and science. To be educational, the game doesn’t necessarily have to be labeled as such. Components that are “educational” are built into all games. Playing games regularly can improve skills in math, reasoning, logic, hand-eye coordination as well as all components of language arts.
“Word games” often involve spelling and vocabulary, no matter what the format. This can narrow the age range of players who will enjoy the game. Most word games also involve very limited creativity and give a distinct advantage to the most skilled wordsmith in the party. There is, however, a word game that carries none of these disadvantages. What Is The Sentence (WITS) is an example of a game that is lots of fun, extremely creative and very versatile. It can be played solitaire or with a small group and the players will seldom guess that they are playing an “educational” game because it is so enjoyable. Hint: Don’t tell them!”
One element that makes WITS so attractive and hilariously fun is that it removes the barriers often associated with word games (spelling and language proficiency) by asking players to construct sentences based on their own unique vocabulary and language understandings. It is an oral language game which challenges players of all ages with an ingenious format that doesn’t give more linguistically skilled players an advantage.
In WITS, a player is dealt from three to seven “Letter Cards” along with an “Action Card” that gives a category that must be included in the sentence. For instance, if your cards are B, H, S, U, D and the Action Card says, “Your sentence must include an animal,” your sentence might be “Big Hairy Unicorns Stomp Dandelions” or “Huge Bears Sleep Under Dragons.” There is a timer and the other players may challenge you with their own sentences if you fail to create a sentence before the timer runs out. Thus, all players are continually engaged.
This is wonderful from an educational standpoint because the players are spending most of their gaming time creating complete, correct sentences. Since sentences are the basic building blocks of writing, becoming proficient in creating sentences gives students more confidence when faced with a writing assignment. They practice making grammatically correct (although often ridiculous) sentences without the stress associated with a school assignment. So, when faced with the real thing in school, they are better prepared.