The most remarkable ESL purpose of this game is to develop listening skills at a very young age through sound recognition and rhyming skills, which, as I already wrote here, are crucial in order to build effective communication skills as adults.
In the game box you'll find 4 rhyme robber boards showing a child with a robber's swag bag (1 for each player), 48 rhyme cards and a rhyme guide board, where all the pictures and their respective words are grouped by rhyming sounds and colors.
Each player is given two cards, which they hold in their hands without showing to anybody else, then 4 more cards are placed face up in the centre of the table, while the rest of the cards are left face down in a pile next to these.
The youngest player starts and if they are holding a card that rhymes with one of the four cards in the centre of the table, then they can take the matching card while saying, for example, 'rake rhymes with lake', and put both cards face up on top of their robber board in their character's swag bag. If the next player has in their hand a card that matches a card on another player's board, they can choose to take that one, instead of one from the centre of the table. In any case once a player puts down a card, they have to take another one from the pile so that they are always holding two cards. The game ends when all 48 cards have been stolen or no more cards can be stolen.
The game is especially effective with preschoolers and first graders straight out of the box: you'll only have to be there to read the names under the pictures out loud to help children recognize the rhyming sounds. Very small kids won't love the fact that other players can steal their cards so I'd suggest not insisting that they follow that rule, especially since we should focus on the development of listening skills more than anything else.
Once I noticed that older kids have stronger rhyming skills I suggested an extension of the game: through reading rhyming books I encouraged my students to look for new rhyming word families which they would then copy onto paper, cut out in circles, and added to the basic game in order to make it last longer.
My students' favorite books are ones written by Dr Seuss, the author of Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, The Lorax, Horton Hears a Who! and many more, as well as others by Julia Donaldson such as The Gruffalo, What the Ladybird Heard, Room on the Broom, The Snail and the Whale, A Squash and a Squeeze among others.
Click on the links to Orchard Toys, Seussville and Julia Donaldson websites to entertain your childish soul as much as it needs :)
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