Abu Dhabi schools earn triple-point score with Scrabble introduction
ABU DHABI // Pupils in the capital will be introduced to Arabic Scrabble as an extra-curricular learning resource when classes resume this September.
The Arabic Scrabble Project was introduced in six schools earlier this year as a way to improve Arabic skills, make the classroom environment more exciting, and help children develop their vocabulary and writing skills.
To measure the effectiveness of the word game's use in the classroom, pupils in the six pilot schools were tested before and after learning to play and a control group of pupils who were not taught to play was also tested.
Dr Karima Al Mazroui, Adec's curriculum division manager, said their study found Scrabble had helped improve skills, engagement and pride in Arabic. In many of the pilot schools, pupils' interest in the game led to the formation of Scrabble clubs.
"The Abu Dhabi Education Council will roll out the Scrabble project among Grade 6 students [aged 10 to 11] to coincide with the implementation of the New School Model in the same grade next year and the project will be expanded to include Cycle 2 and Cycle 3 schools at a later phase," Dr Al Mazroui said.
The UAE's youngest Scrabble star and current world under-16 champion, Navya Zaveri, said Scrabble was also great for developing mathematical reasoning.
"It's the most important aspect: it's all about outscoring and coming up with strategies to outscore your opponent," he said. "You can't have the letters you always want and you want to place the best move in a situation. What you leave on your rack after the move counts. Because strategy plays a role, the mathematical aspect is very important."
Arabic teachers will attend workshops to learn the rules of the game, which involves drawing seven letter tiles and placing them horizontally or vertically on a board to make a word while making use of at least one letter from another word on the board. A standard Arabic dictionary has been selected for use in case a word is disputed. The trained Arabic teachers will then return to school and train their colleagues to pass the game on to the students.
Nikhil Soneja, organiser of the Middle East Scrabble championship and head of promotions for the Scrabble Players Association, said he hoped the introduction of the game in schools would encourage more Emiratis to get involved in competitive playing.
"I have long been of the belief that Scrabble is a brilliant all-round learning tool," he said. "It is great news that Adec has implemented this.
"The obvious benefits are in terms of language, but aside from that their maths increases as it heavily number based.
"Kids who put their time into it have got much sharper memories than older people even in their 20s or 30s. Even if they don't start off with an adult's vocabulary, they have a better retention for new words," Mr Soneja said.
An Arabic version of Scrabble was released by Mattel toy manufacturers at the turn of the century and uses 100 letter tiles.
Although the Arabic language has up to four different ways of writing each letter in its alphabet, Scrabble uses an isolated form – similar to what is used in Arabic crosswords – that allows players to create words out of letters that are not connected to each other.
This is not the first game of strategy launched in Abu Dhabi schools this year; Russian chess master Garry Kasparov launched the Kasparov Chess Foundation at British International School-Abu Dhabi in March. The foundation was launched with the support of the Emirates Elite Foundation and supplies interested schools with all the information they need to set up their own chess clubs and incorporate the game into the curriculum.
A study on the effects of chess on pupils at 100 New York state schools found those who learnt to play the game achieved higher grades in English and maths.
Updated: June 17, 2013 04:00 AM