Sagebook Chutes and Ladders


This is the third week that Astroboy is on Sagebook’s first book.  He seems to be having a lot of trouble with the “concept” characters like 很, 指, 隻, etc.  Given the success of the other games I introduced last week, I thought I would try a character game with him this week.  Today, I pulled out the Chutes and Ladders game.  I realized the other day that Chinese characters are just like sight words!  So any sight word games you see in English, you can do it in Chinese too.

Chutes and Ladders

  1. Place your tokens at the starting point.
  2. Roll a die and walk as many steps.  Read the character you land on.  If you read it wrong, go back to previous step.  If you read it right you can stay.
  3. You may sometimes go up a ladder (red line) or go down a chute (green line). You may also land on a square requiring you to sing the zhuyin song or use your body to compose a character.
  4. The first person to reach the finish line wins.  Make sure you discuss in advance if you need to roll the exact number to reach the finish or not.  Otherwise you will have cranky kids!


  • Have the child come up with a word phrase containing the character.
  • Have the child come up with a word phrase using the character you land up and only other characters on the board.
  • Have the child tell you the beginning sound (zhuyin/pinyin) of the character as they say them.  “ㄕ,ㄕ,上”

How We Played

The game is pretty straight forward.  We played it 5-6 times tonight.  After I had my fill, Astroboy wanted to play with his sister.  He is, as I write this, jumping up and down on his knees on the floor, laughing maniacally and giggling uncontrollably when he rolls a good die or wins the game.  I like the “wild squares” as he actually doesn’t actually know his zhuyin song and he got to practice that a lot tonight.  After 3 games, I went through all the characters once again with him because I could tell he was getting frustrated when I asked him what the characters are and he can’t answer.  He was much better the next game.

[Edit to add 2 days later] This is the only thing he really wants to do in the classroom during work the work period.  We’ve played this game so much this week and yet somehow he doesn’t get tired of it.  What I have noticed though is that while he may “remember” the character on the board, when he sees the same character in the book, he cannot recognize it.  There seems to be this thing with remembering character as part of a phrase vs character standing by itself.  This is different than say, recognizing a character in a picture book where he cannot read 90% of the words.  In this case, he should be able to read 100% of the words since he recognizes them 100% on the board.  However, at those instances, the hard words he has to think about, he definitely has more problems with in a sentence.  I also want to say that Astroboy is not a language-smart boy like his sister.  It’s not a bad thing or anything.  But he doesn’t get language quite as fast as the kids who may be more developed in language at his age.  He does not look at the pictures for clues to what he’s reading.  He does not have the language skills to even just guess at the word phrase he’s reading.

I don’t know if the game is effective, he does seem to remember those characters a bit more in a fun way.  The problem is that with only 20 characters and one die, you reach the finish line fairly quickly.  So I’m re-arranging the characters on the board a bit to make sure the hard characters show up where we tend to land.  I really really need to get working on word reading practice sheets….Maybe tomorrow.

I’m excited because the board looks really pretty!  When I get that sense of accomplishment after designing something, I always remember what Montessori said about humans needing to work with their hands.


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