Slice of Life Tuesday: Gamifying Reading

This post is part of the weekly Slice of Life challenge from Two Writing Teachers. Check them out!

It’s been two weeks since I first got my students. Yes, it’s a late start. I’m a gifted-talented enrichment teacher, so I have to wait on instruction until after our identification process.

Yes, there’s probably another soapbox waiting to happen about identification. But even with the struggles and challenges, I can tell you two things without a doubt:
1. Gifted kids NEED one another.
2. The fact that my job even exists is a miracle in and of itself.

One thing I’m excited about is a reading activity that I introduced a long while ago, but put away because…well, I don’t really know. As a teacher, I think we all have great activities that we shove under the proverbial bed and forget about sometimes, then take out and dust off, only to wonder why we ever put it away to begin with.

Let’s start at the beginning. Some time ago, I noticed that kids, especially when reading in a group, almost NEVER stop reading to ask about an unfamiliar word or pose a question they don’t understand, let alone marvel at fabulous language. Yet that’s exactly what I NEED them to do when they’re together.

I know I’m not alone in this.

So, I developed a reading activity that I’ve used with kids to “gamify” the group reading experience. I call it the “Speed Bump Game.”

Basically, when we’re driving, we know that speed bumps are there to slow us down. If we don’t, we’ll do damage, both to our car and perhaps ourselves! Well, if we don’t slow down for a challenge in our reading, we do damage – to our learning.


The Speed Bump Game treats us readers like we’re all just passengers in a car. The person reading aloud is our “driver.” Anyone can stop and say “Speed Bump!” any time they have a question that needs answering. The group then talks through or researches the question. If they can answer it, they’ve safely navigated the speed bump. If not, they report it as a “road hazard,” and I’ll help them out later on.

I’ve also started asking the groups to reread sentences or paragraphs after a stoppage so they can hear the word and understand it in context.

Here was a class example from today.

We didn’t have any “road hazards” here, but that’s because I was part of the discussion. These are, however, all their own answers after discussion. It’s all about the gradual release, friends…

I’m hoping this game accomplishes a lot of things:
1. Convinces kids what a relief and joy it is to admit when they don’t know something
2. Gives kids the confidence to work through difficult text together
3. Builds to text-based conversations about wonderings, reactions, thoughts
4. Transfers to independent reading
5. Transfers to instruction in the regular classroom

A girl can dream!

Interested in giving this a try in your classroom? I’d love to hear how it goes. You can make a copy and personalize the rules by clicking this link.

Published by Lainie Levin

Mom of two, full-time teacher, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and holder of a very full plate

16 thoughts on “Slice of Life Tuesday: Gamifying Reading

  1. This is a great idea! It brings in discussion, sharing of ideas, working through a solution. The fact that anyone can call out a “speed bump” makes it a shared experience and not the responsibility of just one person.

    1. Thanks! I’m hoping it brings the kids more skill and independence when it comes to discussing text. Fingers crossed!

  2. Oh, this is great! Gamifying makes everything more fun. I love that your activity motivates kids to talk about text and have fun doing so. I’m already wondering how I might use this in my classroom. Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. Ooh, I’d be excited to see how it turns out! For me, the tough part will be sticking with it long enough to watch them develop independence with it. Fingers crossed for us both!

  3. An excellent analogy AND solution to a problem – for, let’s face it, kids will do almost anything if made into a game (even an old-timey one like Hangman!). This is such a great example of student-led, teacher facilitated learning – highly effective. I will be sharing this! Thank you, Lainie!

    1. You’re welcome! I hope someone finds this useful. And you’re right. Once kids realize there’s an option for game play or “leveling up,” all of a sudden they were in. You should have seen how excited they were to complete a nonfiction dojo last year. Whoa!

    1. I know, right? I feel like I have a whole host of talking points, activities and strategies that I forget about. Then again, maybe it’s also a matter of knowing that it works for some groups and not for others? I’m not sure.

    1. oooh maybe it might! If you’ve got a group that’s comfortable with one another, they just might be along for that ride!

  4. This is a great idea, Lainie! I’d expect nothing else from you! I remember my son’s (now 22) second-grade teacher using post-its for the kids to write things down they didn’t know or to respond to a question she asked about the text during guided reading. I helped weekly with that as a volunteer and then spent a week subbing for her. It worked but your “game” is better. It allows for more discussion, collaborative activity, and those precious TAG students helping EACH OTHER! You so aptly pointed out that they need each other and they absolutely do! Thanks for sharing your great idea!

  5. You come up with the most lovely ideas!

    As a mostly autodidact kid reading at near collegiate level when still in primary school, this is how I words. I never gave it terms, I was a kid after all, but this was certainly the methodology. Speed Bumps for me were words I could get the gist of its meaning by how it’s used in the sentence. It slowed me down, but I could continue reading and maybe look it up later for further clarity. Word Hazards were words that flummoxed me where I had no choice but to stop and grab a dictionary. I considered it a hazard because having to stop ruined the flow, the mood of a story and sometimes took a while to get back into it. Now that I think of it ‘autodidact’ was one of those words that were a hazard – lol

    All that to say, I adore your creativity in teaching and your kids are lucky to have you.

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