Sizing Things Up
The game in today's blog is probably one you've never heard of called "In a Pickle." I have yet to meet a student who had heard of this game or played it before I've introduced it in a session. I bought this game at a large "box" retail store for about $10 nearly 10 years ago having only read the back of the box and knowing nothing else about it. Unlike the other two games I've blogged about in this series, "In a Pickle" is still commercially-available for a reasonable price.
The directions of this game are easy once you experience it. Basically, the box is full of cards with nouns on them. Each player starts with five cards. The object of the game is to make rows (and "win" rows) by adding cards that are either "bigger" or "smaller" than the on the table. For the sake of keeping this blog a reasonable length, please read here for more thorough directions:
The best (and simplest) explanation of the strategy for this game was provided to me by a student several years ago. "I look for the biggest small things and the smallest big things" when deciding which card to place on a row on his turn. The game is completely language-based. Some of the speech- language concepts that can be worked on while playing "In a Pickle" include:
- Comparison and contrasting - I always remind students to "picture" the words in their heads. This is especially good for students who may already be working on such skills through programs such as Visualizing and Verbalizing.
- Multiple meaning words - Some of the cards in this game are pretty straight-forward. How many different things can "shopping cart" mean? However, there are numerous words in the game that can have multiple meanings as nouns (i.e., spring). The more meanings students can think of for words, the more options they have for placing the card in a row.
- Categorization - Many of the cards are open for interpretation depending on "what kind" it is. For example, the words "ear" and "neck."A "mouse's ear" and a "human's ear" are quite different in size.Same with a "human's neck" versus a "giraffe's neck!"
- Flexible thinking - When I worked with middle and high school students on the autism spectrum I used this game all the time for encouraging flexible thinking and multiple meanings/interpretations of words. As surprising as this may sound, even the most rigid students enjoyed this game.
- Articulation - I love this game for carryover of /r/ sounds. I'll sort through the cards and give the students ONLY nouns with /r/s in them (some examples include, "world," "horse," "theater"). Plus, every time a student puts a card down, I require them to say the sentence, "A _____ is bigger/smaller than a ______" for extra /r/ practice.
A few modifications I've made with this game:
- Age - Although the recommended ages on the game are 10+, I have used this game with children a bit younger (3rdgrade, 8/9 years old).To use this game with younger children, make sure to sort out some of the words that you think will be unfamiliar to them and eliminate some of the words that are very open to interpretation (i.e., wisdom).
- In the directions, the group is supposed to decide whether or not a card placed on a row makes sense. As I tell the students, I am the judge, and I make the final call.
- When students are working on a row of four, I allow them to add bigger OR smaller words to either end of the row (the directions say only larger ones are allowed at that point in the game). This offers more practice opportunity instead of having a bunch of kids "passing" because they don't have any "good" cards.
- The directions say a student can't add descriptors before the nouns (i.e., noodles - egg noodles vs. lo mein noodles); however I work so much on categorization and descriptions with my students that I encourage this! (see above under "categorization")
How many of you have heard of this game before? Have any of you played "In a Pickle" in therapy with students? If not, I hope I introduced you to a new game to add to your shelf!