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Butterscotch: Game-Based Learning for Writing and Spelling

Game-based learning plays a vital role in modern education, which is why I designed a game for early primary school students to improve their handwriting and spelling.  

Introducing Butterscotch 

Butterscotch, a version of traditional Hopscotch, is a playground game. Letters of the alphabet are written by students in circles and arranged in the shape of a butterfly. Students take turns throwing a counter onto the butterfly. They jump on the circles, to spell a word utilising the letter where the counter landed.  

Butterscotch brings handwriting and spelling into the sunny outdoors. Learning the alphabet has never been more fun!    

Instructional Objective

Butterscotch is designed to help students improve their handwriting and spelling skills. The game principles adhere to SMART objectives.

SMARTStudents test their handwriting and spelling skills.
MEASURABLEThe teacher will observe the quality of student writing through gameplay. Accurate spelling is tested through a points system.
ATTAINABLEThe game is designed for younger primary school students who are physically abled. They are required to draw letters versus whole words. Students attempt to spell words they identify and are familiar with. Less abled children can participate by walking or pointing instead of jumping or partnering with another student.
RELEVANTThe game is for students who are starting to learn handwriting (print) and spelling. Bringing the activity outside will support their learning.
TIME-BOUNDGameplay, including setup and cleanup, is 40 minutes.

Butterscotch is played outdoors. Studies show that spending time outside promotes children’s curiosity, creativity and critical thinking and is linked to improved learning outcomes (Cohen 2023). 

Learners

Butterscotch is for early primary school students of all socioeconomic backgrounds, ages 4 to 7 years of age. While the game is designed for an English-speaking audience, it can easily be adapted for classrooms that teach in any Latin-based language. 

The game requires drawing on the ground with chalk and jumping. This makes it more suited to physically abled children. However, several accommodations can be made for students with physical disabilities. For instance, jumping can be replaced by stepping or pointing, and students can work in pairs. 

The game is played in teams. Teachers should pair students with learning challenges or ESL students with advanced learners. That way, students can help each other learn and succeed. 

Butterscotch is best played outdoors. Weather conditions and access to safe outdoor space can impact gameplay. An indoor version of the game can be played using a “paper-and-pen” or with a “drawing mat and washable markers”. However, this would negate the benefits of vitamin D exposure and outdoor physical activity.

Motivation

Handwriting and spelling are usually not typically viewed as “fun” subjects. But they are critical and must be learned as a precursor to more advanced writing and communication subjects. Bringing the subject outdoors will help promote more positive student perceptions. Handwriting and spelling will be associated with the sunshine and playground.

Teamwork and the point-scoring aspects of the game will also appeal to children’s social inquisitiveness and competitiveness. 

Context of Use

Butterscotch is designed to be supplemental to the class curriculum. Teachers can choose to use it as either test preparation (i.e. for teachers to observe how ready students are for handwriting or spelling exams and identify what further work is required) or as a reward. 

Scope

Gameplay is 40 minutes long. The primary objective is to support students’ handwriting and spelling skills. However, secondary benefits include:

  • Creativity (students use chalk to colour the butterfly-shaped hopscotch template)
  • Discipline (students must correctly recall and write given letters in the grid)
  • Social (students watch and cheer each other during gameplay)
  • Physical activity
  • Teamwork (during setup, gameplay, and cleanup)

Object of the Game

  • Students must accurately write the alphabet letter/s given to them in the butterfly-shaped hopscotch template.
  • Students must identify words within the hopscotch and correctly spell them to earn points. The longer the word, the more points are earned.  

Design Details

  1. The classroom heads outside and finds a free space (at least 20 by 20 metres) with pavement or hard ground. The teacher gives students a not-to-scale image of the butterfly hopscotch template and different coloured chalk.
  2. Students work together to draw the hopscotch template on the ground. 
  3. The teacher verbally assigns each student a letter (or several letters, depending on class size).
  4. Students must neatly write the letter/s assigned in an empty circle within the hopscotch template to the best of their abilities and initial it.
  5. The teacher will observe the quality of the student’s handwriting and take notes. Students should applaud each other’s handwriting attempts. The three students who receive the “loudest cheers” for the letters they wrote will receive 2 bonus points each for their team (to be determined by the teacher). 
  6. When the Butterscotch template is ready, students are organised into groups or pairs by the teacher (note, ensure more advanced learners are grouped with students who struggle with the subject or have other learning difficulties). Groups take turns throwing a counter. They must make a word (correctly spelt) with the letter where the counter fell. The group should decide on the word they will spell collectively. One group member will spell out the word by jumping on the relevant letters without falling over (jumping can be modified to stepping or pointing for physically challenged students). The opposing team/s will watch and assist the teacher with scoring. 
  7. Words are scored. The team with the most points wins. 
  8. At the end of the game, students collectively cleanup the area by washing away the chalk drawings with water, collecting all the chalk pieces and any other materials to return to the classroom, and cleaning their hands.

Game materials

  • Hard or soft copy of the Butterscotch template for the students to replicate 
  • Different coloured chalks
  • One durable counter 
  • Portable whiteboard and marker for recording points  

Rules

  1. Students listen to the letter/s assigned to them and write them into the circles.
  2. Students applaud each handwriting attempt – the cheer volume should correspond with how well the student has written the designated letter.
  3. Teams identify and correctly spell words using letters in the template and containing the letter on which their counter fell.
  4. The team representative accurately jumps (or points/walks, if the game has been modified) on the letters of the word as instructed by their team and without error. 
  5. The lesson ends when everything is cleaned up after gameplay.

Point Scoring

  • Receiving the loudest cheer for handwriting = 2 points
  • 3 letter word = 2 points
  • 4 letter word = 3 points
  • 5 letter word = 4 points
  • 6 letter word = 5 points
  • Word spelled incorrectly = 1 point
  • Student stumbled or missed jumping on the correct letter = -1 point

References

Cohen, D. (2023, February 13). Why Kids Need to Spend Time in Nature. Child Mind Institute.
https://childmind.org/article/why-kids-need-to-spend-time-in-nature/