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April 2009 Archives

April 4, 2009

Blending a Hand: Introduction


What is Blending a Hand? Well, it's a huge collection of work which includes the digital data CDs, Switchit, Switchit Junior (the game has since been updated and expanded), Read! Spell! Do! (you can download the board for free, but you have to get the playing cards from me) , Dog Dog Dog and BAH Workbooks (these are just the front covers) plus much much more. I started work on the materials long before I ever got a computer, which was in 2001, in fact I started work on it in 1986 when I created my first phonic posters by cutting out pictures from a children's encyclopaedia and pasting them onto card for my then young children. That was before I started teaching. I would like to do a series of low key articles writing about some of these materials and how they are used. If anyone has any questions about Blending a Hand, you can always e-mail me or leave a comment; this would help me get going.

April 7, 2009

Blending a Hand: Switchit Junior

From time to time people asked me to create Switchit for younger children and this thought had been in the back of my mind for some time, then last December whilst attending the Fukuoka ETJ Expo, I met up with Tristan Scholze and David Borgeson. David and Tristan are fans of Switchit, a game they often play with their students. Well, David also asked me to create a Switchit game which could be used by kindergarten children. When I got back home to Shibushi, I was consumed with the thought of creating such a game and had the irrational fear that someone else was going to create the game. This somehow knocked me into a creative mood and within a day of returning from Fukuoka, Switchit Junior had become a reality. You can see the first edition cards here.

First edition? Second edition? The first edition cards are designed to be printed on A4 sized paper or card, laminated, cut to 10 by 7 centimetres and the corners rounded. Pack 1 (level 1) has 104 picture cards and 15 SuperSwitchit cards, Pack 2 (level 2) has 64 picture cards and 10 SuperSwitchit cards. A number of teachers asked me to make the cards for them and I was happy to do so, but the cutting of the cards was being done by a rotary paper cutter, guillotine and corner rounder. I would have eye strain after making each pack. So I decided to make a set which could be machine cut, so I redesigned the game. Level 1 now has two packs of cards, with 65 picture cards and 10 SuperSwitchit cards in each pack,


level 2 has 80 picture cards and 10 SuperSwitchit cards.


How is the game played? Well, it's an Uno type game and the rules are very similar to regular Switchit. Here are the rules:

1. Deal 7 cards to each player.
2. Place the pack facedown, turn over the top card and place it by the pack.
3. Each player in turn plays a card, when playing a card, the letter/s must be sounded out and the picture identified.
4. A 'SuperSwitchit' card, which can't be your last card, changes the color of the card to be played.
5. A player who cannot play takes a card from the pack.
6. The object of the game is to get rid of all your cards.

How long must children study before playing the game?

I've been playing the game with a group of students who have only studied the short vowels 'a-e-i-o-u'. We used three sets of the short vowels cards (first edition), 70 cards in all including the SuperSwitchit cards. We started off by playing concentration (Kim's game), then snap and finally Switchit Junior.

I don't like playing the traditional game of snap as it is often highly competitive and there's always the possibility that fingers may snap instead of cards, so we played it this way.

All the cards were dealt out, face down, evenly among the players and surplus cards were scattered in the centre face up. Each child picked up the top card from his or her pile, looked at the card and then in unison they counted 1, 2 ,3 and placed the cards down in front of themselves, identifying the target sound and picture, saying "/e/ elephant", "/u/ umbrella" etc. When they couldn't identify the picture, then they said "I don't know. What is it?" and I told them what it was. When two of the same cards were displayed, either player to player, or player to centre, then the children called out "Match!" and the players with the "match" then did 'jan-ken' by saying "My cards." and the winner took the cards and placed them under his or her pile, all other cards were left in position. And so the game went on.

What do other teachers say about the game?

I haven't had any negative feedback concerning Switchit or Junior Switchit from teachers or students. Two teachers, Janina Tubby and Leonard Crawford-Goto have given me permission to quote them. Leonard helped me to finalise the vocabulary, he's always helping me with that, perhaps he's a dictionary in disguise. Here's what Leonard had to say:

"A quick word on the two new Switchit packs I've been using recently -
the Junior a-z and double sounds.

First - the students seem to like the bigger size cards as they are
easier to use. Having said which, I personally don't mind the smaller
ones either, plus the boxes are very handy!

I've been doing the usual format game, except that rather than stopping
when one student gets rid of their cards, I give that student a coin and
another card. That way we play until the whole pack is used up or no
one can play any further cards. In addition, I've been using double
sets of the double sounds - so 144 cards total. You get a longer game
plus the chance to get a bonus point if you play the same card directly
after someone else i.e. Taro puts down 'sea' and Hiroko follows that
with 'sea'."

Using a coin (or chip) is a great idea, which I've been using regularly, especially with Switchit Junior.

And here's what Janina had to say:

"Hey David

Thank you thank you for my early Christmas present. I love it. I've played with everyone from my four-year-olds up. It's very useful even for my older reading well students.

With the younger students we have used the cards for identification, snap type games, memory and Switchit as you have explained more or less. The younger kids love it especially because there is usually one or more child who has an older sibling who loves the real Switchit and they have anxiously been awaiting their chance to play. So they are thrilled, which raises the energy and expectation level for everyone.

With the older kids we have used it to review pronunciation in a Go Fish game. "Do you have b?" (not allowed to say "book") and the advanced version, "Do you have "b" with b mouthed silently (i.e. no sound) thus really forcing the students to pay attention to lip and teeth positions. "Well, you have to pick up" rather than "Go fish". For the less able "Pick up please". When they collect a set, they say "I have buh book, bag, bat and..." whatever the words are, I can't remember now, and then put the set down.

The cards themselves are very appealing for the youngest kids. The choice of graphics and the design are great. It's so smart to have the anchor there at the top and the vocab choice is excellent since knowing these words ahead of reading will help them understand what they learn to read (of course you know that but it's a great realization). All in all, it really fills a hole in my curriculum and I feel it requires no feedback for modification. Reading your mail (it arrived after I had written most of this) I agree there might be one or two words that could be replaced but I'm very happy more or less.

Thank you very much!"

What can I say, Janina says is all.

How can I obtain the cards?

You can get ready-made second edition packs from me. Here's the price:

Switchit Junior 1 Second Edition ¥1400 per pack
Pack 1 Aa-Mm
Pack 2 Nn-Zz

Switchit Junior 2 Second Edition ¥1700 per pack
Pack 1: sixteen double sounds

If you are short of money, have access to a printer and laminator (and a pair of scissors) and have a lot of free time, then I can send you the first edition. Just e-mail me for further information, or orders.

Enjoy the game.

David Lisgo

About April 2009

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