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Gamifying with Skittles

Updated: Mar 18

When it comes to gamifying learning nothing is more enjoyable for children or easier to implement than a game of skittles or bowling. A perfect method for making learning fun while practicing the fundamental movement skill of underarm throwing.


Easily differentiated and so easily adaptable skittles can be used for spelling, story writing, maths, geography, history, pretty much any subject.


In mathematics the possibilities for using skittles are greater than in any other curriculum area. At its most simple level students can simply add up the total of all the skittles they knock over. They can add up the total of their skittles and deduct this from 1000. They can make the largest or smallest number they can for the digits they knock over or order the skittles they knock over from largest to smallest.

Students can be given just 5 skittles numbered 1, 2, 3, 5 and 10 and then multiple together any skittles they knock over. But it is not just numerals that you can use for maths. You can try Roman numerals, sets of tally marks or 2D shapes with varying numbers of sides by name or image. For younger children dots can be used for them to count as a precursor to using numerals. The possibilities are endless and limited only by your imagination.


Skittles are also a great way to practise spelling words where students record the words they knock over. Or they use the words they knock over to write a dictation passage or sentences. Alternatively, the skittles could each have a word with letters missing and they must fill in the missing letters for any words they bowl down. Using these sets of words groups could each have their appropriate level of words or if everyone is on the same phonemic rule teams could swap to expose students to more words.

For younger students learning the alphabet, vowels and consonants could be used where vowels are worth more than consonants or vice versa and they add up their score. Older students could be asked to make as many words as they can from the letters they knocked over or the longest real word they can construct - using a dictionary if necessary to include dictionary skills.

Students can make a word starting or ending with each letter they knock over or a word the length of each skittle they knock down such as a 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6 letter word if they knock down these 5 skittles. They can record their words while their team members are having a turn. Race to you to check their words and then line up to have another turn making sure to use different words for each round.

For story writing student could bowl down adjectives and adverbs to use in sentences or items to which they must add these descriptive terms. They could collect sets of words that must be used in a short story such as cloudy, rainy, dark and carriage. The more words the better as it will shape their story.

Geography and History

For geography, students could collect co-ordinates from the numbers they knock down and find these on a map. They could collect the letters they bowl down and see if they can list 5 streets, towns, countries for each letter. For history they could collect dates and see if they can place these in chronological order or by order of importance in a certain period of time.

Differentiating The Skittles

Skittles can be used to introduce, practice or revise the skills in any area of the curriculum it is just a case of creating the elements for the front of the skittle. When using the skittles multiple times it is best to place a Velcro circle on the front of each skittle and the other half of these on the back of the cards to be swapped. Alternatively, double sided tape can be used to adhere and replace the front numbers, letters or words.

What makes this game even more brilliant is that is so easily differentiated to meet your students’ ability levels. Students can be given different skittles numbers, letter or words depending on their ability. The number of skittles can be altered to address students’ ability both in the subject area and bowling. Alternatively, the size of the ball being used can be altered to minimise or maximise how many skittles you want the students to knock over. Students could move closer or further away from the skittles to alter the level of under arm throwing skill required to reach the target.

I love skittles and every time I have played this the students and teachers I have played it with have loved it too. It is a game of skill, learning, improvement and can be adapted to meet any area of the curriculum you just need to find a way to make it fit.

Let me know how you use this with your students and the variations you came up with in the comments below.

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