Barrier games are a great tool for speech and language intervention! Students love them and they are a great way to incorporate many expressive skills (giving directions), receptive skills (following directions), and social skills in an engaging way.
What are barrier games?
Barrier games are a language game in which two players sit across from each other with a barrier between them. Each player is given the same scene and pieces to go with that scene. The barrier is placed between the players to hide one’s scene from the other player but still be able to make eye contact – similar to the board game Battleship.
How to play:
Barrier games are most commonly played on a magnetic surface. You can play on cookie sheets and place pieces on a thin, sticky magnet. Another option is to put tack on each piece so it will stick to the scene. You can also lay the scene on the table and place the pieces on top without securing.
Give each person/group playing a matching scene and set of pieces. Set up a barrier between the players (e.g. file folder). One person arranges all of their pieces on the scene and then gives directions to other player on where to place the items. The purpose of the game is to have matching scenes at the end.
You can play one-on-one with your student, two students with each other, or a group of students with another group. Alternatively, if I’m trying to target a specific goal, I will control the game by giving the student a scene and verbally give them a list of directions to follow (without trying to match another board).
– Adjectives: e.g. colors, size
– Spatial concepts: e.g. on, in, under, below, next to, between
– Following multi-step directions
– Following sequential directions
– Giving directions
– Formulating sentences and questions
– Social skills: e.g. Making eye contact to give/receive instructions, asking questions to clarify instructions.
Make your own!
Making your own barrier games is quite simple. You can find scenes/images on open domain clipart sites. I suggest selecting pictures that allow for placement of pieces in various areas (keep prepositions and vocabulary in mind). And it’s good to select some individual images that are the same item, but differ in an attribute (sizes/colors).
Toys to use as barrier games activities:
You can apply the same concept of traditional barrier games to toys you make have in your speech room. You will just need to have 2 identical sets to make it work. Some ideas:
– Mr. Potato Head
– legos/building blocks
– sticker scenes
– train track
– coloring on a coloring page
– drawing a picture
Grab a free barrier game activity here:
If you’re not interested in making your own, I have some for purchase here.
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