Barrier games are simple games that require pupils to speak clearly and be attentive listeners. They learn how to give clear descriptions, instructions and clarify through questioning while also developing communication skills such as social and linguistic skills.
A barrier game requires two pupils to sit at a table with a screen/ barrier between them. The barrier can be anything that inhibits them from seeing each others work (a folder, bag, books, or sit back to back etc). Each pupil receives the same materials and pupil A draws/ constructs/ arranges the items in front of him/her before describing it in detail to pupil B so he/she can construct the same. They then remove the barrier and compare their patterns/ drawing etc. There are many variations of this game possible all of which can be adapted to suit pupil’s abilities. Groupings can vary from one to one instruction, one person giving instructions to a group or whole class, working in teams or pairs opposite each other.
Barrier games encourage children to be precise in what they are saying and can be used in many different ways to practice giving and receiving instructions from others. Barrier games are a powerful tool to use for oral language as pupils receive immediate feedback on how successful they were and while pupils enjoy this task they also become determined to succeed with their partner.
Encourage the pupil drawing to ask questions and clarify instructions. Use these games for the development of:
- Expressive and receptive language skills
- Expressing and receiving one, two, three or more step instructions
- Vocabulary use such as verbs, nouns, adverbs etc.
- Giving clear and concise instructions of concepts like shape, colour, size, quantity etc.
- Questioning for clarification
- Discussion and reflection
Examples of Barrier games
- Spot the difference card activity
Take a matching pair of ‘spot the difference cards’ from the Language for Living resource. Put students in pairs. On giving the pictures to the pupils tell them not to show their partners and tell them how many differences there are before they begin.(10 differences) Give picture A to one pupil and picture B to the other. Have students take turns describing what they have on their own pictures. Encourage students to listen carefully, ask questions and mark the differences. Finally they remove the barrier and compare and discuss the differences.
2. Picture card barrier activities
- Give one pupil a picture to describe so the other pupil can copy it on grid card or paper, e.g. a car/ a coat/ a boot etc. something simple the pupils can describe. It is a good idea to let the pupil drawing know exactly what type of object the first pupil is describing, but they have to add in the correct details.
- Develop the use of right and left for games and when this is established use north, south, east and west with other games. Pupils having difficulties with directions can also use language like ‘it’s on the door/ window side’.
ADAPTATIONS: To adapt games for pupils with learning difficulties or who are less verbal, you could remove the barrier after each instruction is carried through so pupils can check how they are doing.
There are lots of other types of barrier games you can play using the resources from Language for Living. This should be enough to get you started so you can see the benefits from the game.