The Bossy E card game

from Spelling it Right

Spelling it Right


Roger Smith

I recently watched a group of children enthusiastically playing a game that included what I call the "magic E". Their teacher uses the term "bossy E" because the silent E "bosses" the preceding vowel and changes it from a short vowel to a long vowel. So, for example, putting a bossy E on the end of pin changes the short i to a long i in p ine.

The pack of cards had been prepared by the teacher herself and laminated to give them a long life. Each card had a different word in which the bossy E and the preceding vowel were written in red. (There were also a number of CHANGE cards: see below).

Two or more children played the game, the dealer giving five cards to each player as well as to themselves. The spare cards were placed face down in the middle.

1. The dealer starts the game by selecting the top card of the pile and placing it face up alongside the stack.

2. The dealer reads the word, then sounds out the letters and finally draws attention to the long vowel and the bossy E. So, for example, if the word is take, the dealer says "take", spells it out "t-a-k-e" and then says "a like in take". (If the card were bone then the dealer would say "bone", spell it out "b-o-n-e" and then say "o like in bone").

3. If the next player has a card with the same sound as the one turned over by the dealer (for example late) they place it on top of the pile, spell it out "l-a-t-e" and say "a" like in "late".

4. However if they don't have a match in their hand they have to pick up a card from the face down pile. If the new card is a match they can play it immediately.

5. The next player then takes a turn and so on.

6. Any player who doesn't have a match but has a CHANGE card in their hand can play the CHANGE card, saying, for example, "I'm going to change it to i like in bite". They then play their bite card, spelling it out "b-i-t-e" and saying "i like in bite".

7. The following players must then match i like in bite.

8. The winner is the first player to get rid of all of their cards.

9. The teacher should make sure that each player says the correct wording, as above, as they play a card.

10. In the game that I watched there seemed to be, on average, about one CHANGE card for every six word cards. Of course some players ended up without any CHANGE cards in the first round.

Here are some examples of words that you might use:
   face gate late cape made slave gave irritate operate celebrate these extreme complete
   concrete delete athlete stampede ride bite pine quite dive arrive decide spiteful smile
   white twice hope slope dome home probe note quote bone cone brute dilute flute rule

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Roger Smith


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