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8 fun literacy games you can play on video calls

The travel restrictions imposed by the Corona Virus in the past couple of years has made it very difficult for families spread around the world to meet up as often as they used to. Many families (like ours) have relied heavily on video calls to keep family ties strong. Many in-person language classes have also adapted to an online format.

As a teacher, and a father raising children whose grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins all live in other countries, I have sought for ways to make video calls more than just little chats. I have included activities to help strengthen family ties, and make my online lessons engaging.

Today, in this post, I share with you 8 literacy games you can play on video calls to practise reading and writing in a fun way.

Before we start, let us summarise the constraints of video calls.

Constraints of a video call:

The main, obvious obstacle we encounter when video calling is that we are not physically next to each other, and are separated by a screen. It is therefore very difficult to point precisely at something that is on the other side of it, and impossible to pass anything to each other. When it comes to practising reading and writing, this can understandably be seen as a big disadvantage. Luckily, this situation can also become an advantage.

Let’s have a look at various activities that will help strengthen the family ties (and that can also be used in online lessons).


Reading a book together with SCREEN SHARING:

To start with, One of the favourite things my mum enjoys doing with her (very!) active grandsons, whenever she comes over, is to read them a bedtime story (Probably because it is a lot less tiring than playing hide-and-seek or football!!)

When she is in France, she also reads them stories by sharing her screen with us. Screen sharing allows my sons to read at the same time what their Nana is reading. (Note that Facebook messenger and Zoom both have the screen share function). If you have an e-reader installed on your computer, you just need to open it and share your screen. Otherwise it requires a little organisation beforehand, as you would need, for example, to scan the pages of the book read.

This set up enables as well for the two people on each side of the screen to read a book together.


Reading together with 21 dares

You can also help your child read by playing a “21 dares” type of game. In the original game, each player say 1, 2, or 3 successive numbers. The player who ends up saying 21 loses and is given a dare.

You can play a similar game where each player reads 1, 2, or 3 words. The one reading the last word of the paragraph / text loses, and is given a dare.

This game is ideal if your child if starting to decipher words relatively confidently (emergent reader). Indeed, your child CHOOSES to read up to three words, but can also read only one. The task FEELS more than achievable and the fun your child gets outweighs the effort required (read related post on balancing fun and effort if you want to learn more about it). The game aspect will encourage your child to read.

Connect 4 to read single words or characters

Because a screen separates both players, you can use that as an excuse for one player to guide the other one. This can be made easy by introducing a reading element in the game.

The adult has the “Connect 4” game. They stick different words at the top of each column. Your child reads the word corresponding to the column they want the adult to put the counter in. If your child gets very confident, to the point where they are not even reading the words, you can move the words around, or swap some with new ones.

Here your child will have to read the words properly to indicate their moves.


(game detailed in The Parents’ Guide to Raising Multi-literate Children)

Similarly, in this game, your child has to read the cards (with words) the other player put down to work out the correct combination.

Noughts and crosses / tick tack toe