Me: if you are a sore loser, I don’t want to play with you anymore.

Lily: what is a sore loser?

Me: When you get mad when you are losing and try to put down the wrong cards.

Lily: OK, I won’t be a sore loser anymore.

Me: sounds good.

Lily slaps down the wrong card to win.

Lily: I won!!!! ……don’t worry, mom. I won’t be a sore loser on the next game.

You can see from the example of Lily and I playing Uno, that there are aspects of the game Lily is still working on. There is never a dull moment!

Between playing Uno with Lily, and recently modifying Uno for a student, it got me thinking about Uno, and what a great game it is for teaching students at various levels a variety of skills. Since I just went through the process of task analysis for Uno, I thought I would share my thinking with all of you in case it is helpful.

To start, I look at what the person needs to ‘do’ and what cognitive demands are inherent with each task. I have big picture questions about the game, and specific questions.

  1. What does the game require people to ‘do’? What is the value in playing Uno?

I think about each aspect of the game, and I analyze why any of it matters. In the case of Uno, it is a great game to work on categorizing and decision-making skills. At the highest level, players focus their attention on multiple dimensions, or categories and make strategic decisions. It is also a great opportunity to work on good sportsmanship and social skills.

  1. What are examples of the skills mentioned in question #1?
  • The player scans his cards for color only, that is one dimension. (1 category)
  • The player scans his cards looking for a certain color or number, that is two dimensions. (2 categories)
  • When the player doesn’t have either the color or number, a strategic decision to look for a wild card is the next step.
  • If the player uses a wild card, a strategic decision about which color to call is based on his current hand. (versus a random color being called without strategy)
  • If the player uses the ‘switch hands with another player’ card, a strategic decision to exchange cards with a player with the least number of cards is made. (versus trading hands without strategy)
  • If a ‘skip your turn’ card is played, the player manages disappointment. (versus getting overly emotional or stubborn)
  • If the player must draw cards, the player manages disappointment. (versus getting overly emotional or stubborn)
  • The player pays attention to the game. (versus constant reminders that it is their turn.)
  • The player understands the nature of games, and understands the role they play in the outcome. (versus no sense of self determination-no sense of how strategies are used to win)
  1. What are the instructional implications now that I understand the tasks in the game?

How can I modify this game for a student who doesn’t have the skills to go beyond matching?

Game 1: One Dimension Strategy– Sort the cards so that you play with two colors. Remove all other cards from the deck.  Start with 4 cards each-2 red and 2 green. Put the cards in the holders if needed (accommodation-picture below). Then, start with a red card. You say, “Oh, it’s a red card. Let me see if I have a red card in my hand. Yes, I do! I am going to put my red card down”. Then, say, “Your turn. Mary needs to put down a red card.” “Good job! You put down a red card.” Then, move that pile to the side and put down a green card, and do the same thing. You can add more cards to each other’s hands as you play. Over time build to playing with all 4 colors, but only matching by color.

What is another example of modifying the game to practice sorting 2 categories?

Game 2: Two Dimension Strategy– Remove the wild cards and play with only numbered cards using all colors. Support in a similar fashion as described above.

Game 3:  Playing Uno with all cards and rules: The skills being learned in this game involve strategic decision-making, managing disappointment, attention, good sportsmanship and social skills. Effective instruction requires a skilled facilitator be involved in the game. Here are examples of things a facilitator would say:

  1. Ok, you selected the wild card. Before you pick a color, look at your cards. I see you have a lot of blue cards, it would be nice to get rid of those, wouldn’t it? Do you want to call ‘blue’ so that you can get rid of these cards?
  2. Good move! You have a lot of green cards and you said the new color is green when you played your wild card. That is a good strategy!
  3. I know you don’t want to draw 4 cards, but I like how you are being a good sport about it. (Alternatively, I am playful and tease that the student has to draw cards, and then when I have to draw cards, I act dramatic and funny to model being light-hearted about it. Model being a good sport. This helps develop the concept of a game and wanting strategizing to win. Note: Be sure you don’t push the student to a point they are too upset, as that becomes unproductive. The goal is being fun/funny with the students.)
  4. Oh, you are going to play your ‘swap hands’ card. Do you want a lot of cards or just a few cards? What do we need to win? Let’s look at who has the best hand for you to trade with right now. Let’s see how many cards each person has. Look, Janea has 8 cards and Lily only has 3 cards. You have 6 cards. Do you want Janae’s 8 cards, or Lily’s 3 cards?……If you switch with Lily, you might win!
  5. Lily has to draw more cards. Now you have 12 cards! Snap. Right? That’s ok, Kai might have to draw some cards on his next turn. Let’s see what happens! (light- hearted)

Final Thoughts:

Modify the game as needed so it can be used to work on IEP goals.

Secondly, I can’t emphasize enough…. don’t forget the needs of students who can play Game 3.  A common mistake is thinking they don’t need help with the game. But you can see as you look at the highest level of demands, students fall short on skills like strategic decision-making, problem-solving, attention, good sportsmanship and managing disappointment. These skills tend to be  on their IEP, and this is a fun way to work on them.