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Sunday, November 1, 2020

Barrier Games from Afar - an Old Trick in the New Distance Learning

 I recently suggested to another SLP that barrier games are perfect for telepractice and received a sort of questioning look.  But when you think about it, distance is an ideal barrier.  With very little effort, you can make it impossible for students to see over to each others’ papers or to yours. And if it is just you and a single student it is even that much easier.  Concentrate on either side of the skill set - listening or formulating - or both and have fun. I have always found students to be engaged with very little effort!




When I first started using barrier games I had been a SLP for a while, but hadn’t worked with students who could actually speak very much up until that point. So it was a novel experience for me!  My first introduction to barrier games was with basic geometric shapes of different sizes and colors.  I don’t know about the students, but I got bored pretty quickly!


Then I found some fun cling-film sets. Boom!  The kids were hooked.  I had sets for the zoo and park, grocery store and house, and several other environments. These allowed me to throw in some other vocabulary, too. I got many, many hours of therapy out of these sets.


Now I just make my own with some fun clip art! Or cut up magazines and hit the copy machine. Another fun idea is to tie the barrier game to a book you’ve read and create vocabulary tie-ins that way, as well.

Barrier games are easy to do. Both people have identical sets of materials; a background (which can be a plain piece of paper or a fun scene) and picture pieces to be placed on the background. In a pinch, you can go back to the blank copier paper and geometric colored shapes.


One person is the listener, who must process the directions and descriptions and create the scene as the other person directs. 

The “narrator” gives directions using precise vocabulary  and good descriptions, making the scene they describe as they go. 

At the end, the two scenes should match.  If they don’t, mediate discovery of where the breakdown occurred. 

Were the directions too vague? The descriptions imprecise or vocabulary incorrect? Did the listener choose the wrong items or misplace something?

The errors can give you good insights about your students and where their difficulties stem from.



If you’re looking for some easy themed barrier games, try these in my store. Or have fun making your own. Tell me what fun themes you come up with!






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