Shortly after Christmas I was meeting with Joey and noticed the newly opened card game – Sleeping Queens- sitting on his family’s couch. It happened to be a game I love, and one that I not only play with my own children, but also with many of the children I work with. I’ve never worked with a child who didn’t like this game. Joey’s older brother was also home from school, and I jumped on the chance to turn this into a meaningful learning and bonding moment.
The game has dragons, knights, queens, and kings – all vocabulary that Joey has. It also has number cards and encourages the players to make number sentences in order to get new cards (4 + 2 = 6, so that if you have the cards 4, 2, and 6, you can play all three). My mind was spinning. I could encourage Joey’s counting, adding, and back and forth turn taking and game play. All while engaging him in a game other kindergartners like. Sure, we’d have a lot to problem solve, but if we could figure out how to make this work there could be all sorts of opportunities to explore.
Sometimes, I need to keep my ideas to myself.
I stopped what Joey and I were doing and asked Joey’s brother if he wanted to learn the game. We problem solved how to set out the cards so that Joey could still see his device to participate. Then I started (trying) to explain the game. Joey’s brother caught on, but I quickly realized that the pace we needed to go to keep up with his older brother was different than the pace Joey needed. I bounced back and forth between them, trying to offer Joey opportunities to participate and answer questions, while still keeping the game moving for his brother.
At one point I asked Joey if he liked the game and he said “NO.”
“Maybe that’s because you are making him count,” his brother observed. “Normally he likes playing games with me.”
Regardless, we kept going.
His brother patiently waited while I asked Joey to tell me what card we should play, and Joey patiently waited while his brother and I played a game he did not understand. Every time I asked Joey if he liked the game his answer was the same, “No.”
Today I brought it back up. I have an old version of the game at home that I’d love to laminate. I have all sorts of ideas of adding velcro and simplifying the game to make it accessible to Joey. Maybe a week later Joey would want to play again?
“NO,” Joey told me. “No.”
Got it. I don’t regret trying because if Joey had liked it, there could be so much more we could do. As teachers we have to sometimes try and fail. All I can do is thank Joey and his brother for their patience, and keep thinking about other creative ways to engage Joey. Hopefully I’ll have better luck next time!