Boardless Scrabble

Boardless ScrabblePre-writing activities disguised as games make it so much more fun to learn and practice skills. Depending on the activity, you can teach or reinforce spelling, grammar, vocabulary, and writing. One of my family’s new favorites, Boardless Scrabble (also known as Speed Scrabble), would be a terrific way to address both spelling and vocabulary. Here’s how to play:

  1. Place the Scrabble tiles face down in the middle of the table.
  2. Each player picks seven tiles. Someone begins the game by calling, “Draw!”
  3. Working as quickly as possible, players try to use up all seven tiles to create their own little Scrabble puzzle.
  4. The moment a player has used all his tiles, he shouts, “Draw!” and everyone must grab three more tiles.
  5. Throughout the game, players continue adding to their Scrabble layouts, rearranging them as often as needed.
  6. Once all the tiles have been taken, the first person to use all his tiles and complete his puzzle is the winner.
  7. Score the game just like in regular Scrabble. For example, if a player uses “X” for “fox” (vertically) and (“taxi”) horizontally, she will count the points for “X” twice. Deduct points for any unused tiles.

Tips and Variations

  • If all players get stuck at one point, and no one can seem to complete a puzzle, agree to stop and draw more tiles. Continue playing as before.
  • As the tile pile begins to dwindle, try to work with smaller parts of your puzzle rather than attempt to rework the entire arrangement. Remember that if the game ends before your puzzle is finished, unused tiles will count against your score! 
  • Decide in advance your rules for the game. Will you allow foreign words? Obscure words? Proper nouns?
  • With mixed ages, you might allow younger children to use proper nouns.
  • When playing with younger kids, players can grab one tile instead of three.
  • Combine the tiles from several Scrabble sets to make a bigger pile on the table. You can often find old sets at garage sales. If they’re missing a few pieces, it doesn’t matter for Boardless Scrabble.
  • Give younger ones a handicap by doubling their final scores.
    • Or, don’t count unused tiles against final scores. 
    • Or, don’t keep score at all. Simply admire one another’s puzzles and best words!

Copyright © 2008 Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.

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6 comments ↓

#1 Thesaurus game: Describing a person — In Our Write Minds on 03.03.08 at 1:17 am

[...] week I taught you to play Boardless Scrabble as a way to build spelling and vocabulary skills while having a blast with your family. Here’s [...]

#2 What’s in the bag? — In Our Write Minds on 07.01.08 at 9:05 am

[...] activities help to prime the writing pump and get those creative juices bubbling! So we played word games, sentence-building games, and games that built vocabulary or taught writing [...]

#3 Peter on 11.09.09 at 4:05 pm

Hi Kim – great idea to use Speed Scrabble as a learning tool.

You might be interested in trying out Speed Scrabble Online.

Good practice for the real thing :) … or at the very least a visualization for your excellent instructions.

#4 Kim on 11.09.09 at 4:12 pm

Thank you, Peter. This looks like a fun way to play Speed Scrabble!

#5 Cleide Nacimento on 07.17.10 at 9:56 pm

We don´t have that game here in Brazil. I loved the idea though.

#6 Kim on 07.19.10 at 10:07 am

Do you have regular Scrabble, Cleide? This is just a fun version. Hope you give it a try!

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