Body Boggle

As you can read in my bio, I am an adjunct professor and currently teach adults (or almost adults). It was in 2018 that I very reluctantly gave up my first love, teaching middle school, to move into this section of education, and I enjoy it quite a bit. What you can’t read in my bio is that I very briefly taught K-3 ESL. I am a middle school teacher who is happy working with adults, but when I moved back to the USA the only position available was K-3, so I took it (the next year I was promoted to head of program and my first act was to reassign myself to middle school and hire the best little people teacher I could find). That was quite the year and I learned a lot. I was constantly searching for new activities and games to engage my students, and get some of their limitless energy out of them. Body Boggle was one of our favorite games. Now, before my fellow middle school and above colleagues move on, let me assure you–Body Boggle has also been popular with my middle schoolers, and even my adults. I just don’t have any pictures of them playing because they made me solemnly swear to never take or share any. I can assure you though that the competition among my older students was much fiercer and there were more than a few times they requested the game!

Body Boggle is a very simple, virtually no-prep game to play. It’s perfect as a movement break and even Covid-regulations friendly (as long as you don’t allow team jumping, which is something my middle schoolers came up with and I’ll explain at the end). All that is required is some form of a alphabet mat. When I started playing the game I was doing pull-out instruction and did not have a classroom of my own. I taught wherever I could find an empty spot, often in the hallway, so I needed something very portable. Therefore, a foam puzzle play mat was my playing board of choice. You could also use an alphabet rug, or even circles with the alphabet written on it, anything that can be laid on the floor and stepped/jumped upon will work. Lay your playing board out on the floor, grab your spelling or vocabulary list, and you’re ready to play!

The first student stands anywhere along the side of the playing area. You call out a spelling word and he/she then steps onto the first letter of the word, jumps to the second letter, jumps to the third letter, and so forth. So if the spelling word is “cat,” the student would step on C, jump to A, jump to T, and then jump off the playing area. Students who correctly spell the word get a point. Students who are able to jump to all the letters, in order, without touching any other letters, get a second point.

My older learners also like playing Body Boggle to practice their vocabulary words. I will either show them a picture representation of the word (I use the picture half of our sort card activities) or read them a definition of the word. The student then has to state the word and jump out the spelling. They are given one point for knowing the correct word, one point for correctly spelling it, and one point for jumping without touching any extra letters. It makes for a fun, and more active, alternative to another of their favorite games, Spin & Spell.

This game was perfect for the end of the year! I’d take the students outside and we’d play on the sidewalk or in an empty corner of the parking lot. Since we were outside I didn’t even use my traditional playing mat, instead I used sidewalk chalk to draw out a grid and label it. I’d grab our vocabulary lists for the entire year and the students would play in teams. Sometimes they’d even jump as a team, with the first person stepping onto the first letter, the second person onto the second, and so on until the first person had to jump to the next letter in the word. That was especially challenging because they had to make their jumps with 2-3 other people on the playing surface, but they loved the challenge (especially my middle school boys)! It was a great way to review an entire year’s worth of vocabulary, keep them engaged after testing, and a perfect excuse to get out and enjoy the nice weather after a long winter. Give the game a try, I bet your students will enjoy it as much as mine do. Happy teaching, everyone!

My older learners love playing Body Boggle with their vocabulary words. My new arrivals who were just learning to read and write for the first time (they couldn’t read or write in their first language) asked to play it almost every week. I’d show them the picture sort card from our phonics based vocabulary unit for the week, and they’d name the word and jump out the correct spelling.