Rotten Banana: a fun early reading game

Leggi questo post in: Italiano

A fantastically fun and easy game for kids to practice reading without it feeling like work! Five levels of vocabulary to get your child to immediately recognize sight words! Try not to get the rotten banana! (in English or Italian)

My little boy just turned six and is in first grade this year, which means that he’s learning to read and write. While my daughter had no problems learning written Italian in school and didn’t really need any outside help to pick up written English on her own, it hasn’t been quite as easy for my son.

So while he’s out of school for Christmas vacation, I decided that he could use some reading practice.

A fantastically fun and easy game for kids to practice reading without it feeling like work! Five levels of vocabulary to get your child to immediately recognize sight words! Try not to get the rotten banana! (in English or Italian)

My mother was a reading specialist in an elementary school for many years. This means that she worked with hundreds of children to whom reading didn’t come easily. She developed all sorts of techniques and fun methods to get kids to love reading, but one of the all-time favorites was an early reading game called “Rotten Banana.” It’s a really simple game to get children to recognize what are called “sight words,” which are the words that they should learn to instantly recognize without having to spell them out.

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When my mother retired, her Rotten Banana game continued to get used with her grandchildren, and ended up living at our home so that my bilingual kids could get some English reading practice while living in a non-English-speaking country.

A fantastically fun and easy game for kids to practice reading without it feeling like work! Five levels of vocabulary to get your child to immediately recognize sight words! Try not to get the rotten banana! (in English or Italian)

But before I started using the English Rotten Banana game that my mother made, I wanted my son to get a firm grasp on reading Italian, which is much more simple because it’s a very phonetic language in which most words are pronounced exactly as they are written, unlike the much more phonetically complicated English language. And so I decided to make my own Italian version of my mother’s Rotten Banana game for him to practice with, which I translated as “Banana Marcia.”

A fantastically fun and easy game for kids to practice reading without it feeling like work! Five levels of vocabulary to get your child to immediately recognize sight words! Try not to get the rotten banana! (in English or Italian)

And, just like my mother did, I also made rotten pears, apples and oranges to give a little variety as the child progresses from one level to the next. Something about all that colored fruit is so appealing!

Is there a child in your life who could use an early reading game to begin a lifetime of happy reading? Then continue reading for the downloadable template and word list and to find out how to play!

A fantastically fun and easy game for kids to practice reading without it feeling like work! Five levels of vocabulary to get your child to immediately recognize sight words! Try not to get the rotten banana! (in English or Italian)

Materials:

  • Colored paper (yellow, green, orange, red)
  • Rotten fruit template and word list (download it from my Free Downloads page for the English version. If you’d like the Italian version, you can find it here.)
  • Pencil, pen, scissors

There are five levels of vocabulary on the word list. My mother made the first two levels on bananas and she put each of the other three levels on one of the other types of fruit. You can make only one type of fruit for all levels or mix them up like my mother did. Likewise, you can make just one level, or all five. It’s totally up to you and your child’s reading level.

The vocabulary was taken from the Dolch word list, which is used in schools in the United States. I couldn’t find a similar sort of list for Italian vocabulary, so for my Italian version I went through my son’s first grade books and notebooks and then separated the words by number of syllables and difficulty.

A fantastically fun and easy game for kids to practice reading without it feeling like work! Five levels of vocabulary to get your child to immediately recognize sight words! Try not to get the rotten banana! (in English or Italian)

How to make the game:

1. Print out the fruit template. I suggest gluing it to a cereal box before cutting out the pieces to give them more stability.

2. Trace the pieces with pencil on the colored paper and cut them out.

A fantastically fun and easy game for kids to practice reading without it feeling like work! Five levels of vocabulary to get your child to immediately recognize sight words! Try not to get the rotten banana! (in English or Italian)

3. Write each word on a piece of fruit with a pen. Write “Rotten Banana” (or “Rotten Pear,” “Rotten Apple,” or “Rotten Orange”) on five to seven more pieces of fruit per 40-50 words.

A fantastically fun and easy game for kids to practice reading without it feeling like work! Five levels of vocabulary to get your child to immediately recognize sight words! Try not to get the rotten banana! (in English or Italian)

4. To avoid mixing up the levels, make a cover piece for each level.

That’s it!

If you plan to use this game a lot, I highly suggest writing the words on the fruit and laminating the paper before cutting out the pieces. My mother’s laminated Rotten Banana set lasted for decades despite being used by tons of kids.

A fantastically fun and easy game for kids to practice reading without it feeling like work! Five levels of vocabulary to get your child to immediately recognize sight words! Try not to get the rotten banana! (in English or Italian)

How to play:

Choose a level and spread the bananas face down.

A fantastically fun and easy game for kids to practice reading without it feeling like work! Five levels of vocabulary to get your child to immediately recognize sight words! Try not to get the rotten banana! (in English or Italian)

Players take turns picking a banana. If the player reads the word correctly, he can keep it. If he reads it incorrectly, he has to put it back in the pile.

A fantastically fun and easy game for kids to practice reading without it feeling like work! Five levels of vocabulary to get your child to immediately recognize sight words! Try not to get the rotten banana! (in English or Italian)

When a player picks a Rotten Banana, he chooses a word from the bananas he’s read correctly and gives it to one of the other players to read. If the other player reads it correctly, he keeps it. If he reads it incorrectly, the first player can keep it. Each time a Rotten Banana is picked it up and played, it is put aside and kept out of play. It doesn’t count towards the final score of the player. After all bananas have been picked, the player with the most wins.

There’s a little variation if there is a considerable difference in reading level among the players, for example if a mother is playing with her young child. In this case, the experienced reader reads each word correctly or incorrectly. If the child realizes that the word was read incorrectly and can read it correctly, he gets to keep it. This is also useful to let the child win more than would happen if playing the game “straight.” Keeping the score close and letting the child win frequently boosts his confidence and makes the game more fun, and therefore more effective.

A fantastically fun and easy game for kids to practice reading without it feeling like work! Five levels of vocabulary to get your child to immediately recognize sight words! Try not to get the rotten banana! (in English or Italian)

Another way to make the game more fun is to let the child participate in making the game. I traced a bunch of bananas and let my son cut them out and copy some words of his choosing on them. He, of course, chose a bunch of dinosaurs, which he copied from the absolutely awesome game DinUovo, which is unfortunatly only made in Italian.

You could also make sets of bananas with only colors, numbers, names, or even with simple syllable sounds. Or make a list of the words that your child tends to have problems with and make a set with those. The wonderful thing is that it’s totally customizable to your child’s needs!

A fantastically fun and easy game for kids to practice reading without it feeling like work! Five levels of vocabulary to get your child to immediately recognize sight words! Try not to get the rotten banana! (in English or Italian)

Store each set of Rotten Bananas in a plastic baggie to keep them separate. My mother kept hers in this contact paper-covered shoebox that she made in in the late 70s or early 80s, as you can see from the awesomely vintage print.

A fantastically fun and easy game for kids to practice reading without it feeling like work! Five levels of vocabulary to get your child to immediately recognize sight words! Try not to get the rotten banana! (in English or Italian)

So, what are you waiting for? Go make a few sets of Rotten Bananas and have fun helping your child to learn to read!

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How to make easy letter magnets with kids

If you want another great early reading game for your kids, make these super easy decorated letter magnets! The children color the letters, you turn them into magnets and the kids will have hours of fun making words and writing messages with them! They’ve been a wonderful learning tool for my little boy in creating written words!

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8 Responses

  1. Che gioco fantastico, magari l’avessi avuto quando i miei figli erano piccoli!
    Il primo ha imparato a leggere velocemente ma il secondo ha fatto più fatica…con lui inventavo dei giochi a premi usando la “lavagna magica” ma certo questo delle banane marce è proprio bello!

    • Quindi la tua esperienza con i figli è come la mia: nessun problema con il primo, più fatica con il secondo. Sì, questo gioco è davvero simpaticissimo! Mi ricordo mia madre che faceva lezioni private a casa, e quando si faceva questo gioco come si animavano i bambini! Buon anno, Carmen!

  2. Bianca Sena says:

    Ciao! Ottima idea. Lo trovo ottimo per l’inglese :lo giro subito alla mia collega specialista e in gamba come te. Baci e saluti a tutti a casa ( un pensiero speciale ai nonni)

    • Ciao Bianca! Sì, è davvero un ottimo strumento per imparare. Per chi lo vuole usare per bambini che imparano l’inglese come lingua straniera, consiglierei di cambiare le parole usate perché sono quelle più semplici e più usate per chi cresce madrelingua inglese, ma non quelle imparate prima come seconda lingua. Si potrebbe fare un livello per ogni tema studiato, ad esempio i numeri, i colori, gli animali, ecc. Fammi sapere se la tua collega lo usa! Un abbraccione a tutta la famiglia!

  3. Daniela Bassani says:

    Bellissimo gioco…come sempre hai idee brillanti.

  4. È un’idea bellissima!!!
    Il mio bimbo è ancora piccolo ma sono sempre alla ricerca di idee per giochi costruttivi che lo aiuteranno a imparare divertendosi…e questo gioco è perfetto!
    Grazie mille

    • Sai, Dalila, si può facilmente adattare questo gioco anche ad altre cose. Ad esempio, a riconoscere i numeri o i nome di certe cose, mettendoci delle immagini al posto delle parole! Se lo provi prima o poi, vorrei tanto sentire come vi siete trovati!

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