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>Here are some ideas for do-it-yourself games with Scrabble letters. You can find a set of Scrabble letters here.

By “Peg” Margaret Orleans – Japan

Boggle – Have students draw sixteen (or twenty-five) random letters and place them in a 4 x 4 (or 5 x 5) square. Give them a reasonable length of time to write down all the words of three or more letters they can find. All letters must be connected horizontally, vertically, or diagonally in order; no letter may be repeated within a single word. After the lists have been made. Have students in each group read them aloud. Duplicated words are crossed out and the remaining words are scored: three letters, 1 point; four letters, 2 points; five letters, 3 points; six letters, 5 points; seven letters or more, 10 points.

Guggenheim – Have students suggest five categories (Countries, Fruit, Animals, Movie Titles, and Months, for example). Then draw five random letters (no duplicates). On a five by five grid, students write one word/phrase for each category beginning with each letter. Give a time limit (5 minutes is usually reasonable if the categories are appropriate). Have groups share answers. Scoring: word spelled with wrong initial letter (r/l confusion, for example), -1 point; word in wrong language, -5 points; correct word given by more than one student, +1 point; unique correct word, +5 points.

Last Word – Have cards with categories (or let students suggest them). For example, Green Things, Bodies of Water, Cold Things, Things in a Stationery Shop, Pizza Toppings, etc. Students choose a random letter, and turn over a category card. Everyone begins on a signal, calling out words in the category that begin with the letter each has chosen. The teacher calls when time is up (variable time limits, from 15 seconds to 2 minutes). The player who called the last correct answer wins the round.

PDQ – It is normally a card game. The dealer turns over three tiles in a row. Each round starts out with a different set of 3 letters. Be the first to shout out a word that contains those letters in order from left to right, or right to left, and you’ll win the tiles. For example, if the letters are PNA, you could shout PiNbAll, PiNeApple, or PheNomenAl. You could also yell ANteloPe, ANticiPate, or ANthroPology. If two players call out words at the same time, the longer word wins. If players agree that no word can be formed, another three tiles are placed on top of the previous three. The winner of each round keeps the tiles. Whoever hass the most tiless at the end of the game is the WNR!

Here are a few games that you can’t play with Scrabble letters unless you put several sets together:

Word Ladders – (as Lewis Carroll called it) or Word Gold (as Vladimir Nobokov) referred to it.

You have to look some of these up on the Internet or work some out yourself to set as puzzles for the students and once they get the idea, they can create some of their own to challenge your and/or their classmates. The game involves choosing two words of the same length and generally opposite of each other. You move from one word to the other by changing one letter at a time, making sure that you always have an actual word. For example, you can move from LASS to MALE in the following steps:
LASS
MASS
MARS
MARE
MALE

Word Mastermind – Students play this in pairs. One thinks of a five-letter word in which no letter is repeated. (If playing with tiles, the player selects the tiles while the other player closes her eyes, and keeps the word covered or turned face-down.) The partner then attempts to duplicate the target word by guessing five-letter words (also without duplicated letters). After each guess, the first player indicates with an X each letter that is in the target word in the same position and with an O each letter that is in the target word, but not in the same position.

You can see why this is easier to play with paper and pencil–or just mentally.

For example, the partner guesses
BREAD and the score is XOOO
READS OOO
BREAK XOOOO
BAKER XXXXX

Of course, it usually takes a lot more guesses.

Before and After – Students find this game amazing when I demonstrate it to a class. I tell one student to think of any English word he/she likes and I will guess it.
Then I guess a word and the student tells me if my guess is before or after his/her word in the dictionary. With students who have a vocabulary of 1000 words or so, you can generally arrive at their word in about ten guesses.

After one demonstration, students can pair off and play. It’s good alphabetization practice and spelling review.

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