Word Pirates

•Fun    •Engaging    •Instructional

Game Instruction Demo (click arrow on image)



About Word Pirates


Although this game can be played in a similar manner to the classic game of Battleship, the intention was to create an interactive and fun way for students to practice isolated word decoding skills with the guidance of an instructor.  Monitoring and skilled error-handling is necessary in order to maximize the student’s learning experience.  


Most of the words are presented as on-set rime:  on-set = y axis and rime = x axis.  These chunks are easier for sounding out words, but then the students have to “hold” the sounds while synthesizing the two parts.  If this is too difficult for some students, they can say the two parts separately, then synthesize the word once it’s displayed.


The game format also builds skills in plotting coordinates on a graph.  


For now, the game is for one player only, against the computer, but I’m hoping soon that I can add a two player function.  


What’s Next?


My goal is to create games with content that align with the scope and sequence of a variety of evidence-based literacy programs.  Teachers, tutors, interventionists...can just select the needed program and level to have a skill-targeted, engaging and motivating game at the ready.  


This is my first attempt at game development, so I would love feedback on functionality, content, teaching tips....I plan to have more games with new themes and target skills.  Ideas abound! 


Game Instructions

Set Up:


  1. Choose your program/skill target in the dropdown menu under the game.

  2. Click “Randomize Data” if you want to change up the word content.

  3. Choose 3 or 6 ships (game defaults to 6).

  4. Select the number of sunken ships needed to win the game (defaults to one ship).

  5. Student chooses a character for player 1.

  6. Choose level of difficulty under player 2 (defaults to easy).

  7. Click the music button to hear music on the intro and concluding screens.



  1. Click Play

  2. Drag and drop the pirate ships onto the grid.  Be sure it snaps to the grid. Spin the wheel to rotate the ships.  Avoid islands and characters in the water.

  3. Player 1 starts by deciding which player 2 coordinates to fire on.  The student clicks on the first part of the word along the left column (y axis) and it will turn green.  The student reads this aloud. Then, the student clicks on the second portion of the word along the horizontal (x axis) and reads it.  

  4. The combined word will form in a scroll above the grids.  The student should read again/check the word. 

  5. Word parts that form “illegal” words are blocked and cannot be selected.

  6. Click the coordinates - the lit-up target -  on the grid to fire a cannon.  

  7. The winner will be the player who is first to sink the determined number of ships needed to win.


Game Tips:


  1. Ships can be repositioned after dropped on the grid.

  2. Students may make selection changes on the vertical axis before selecting a horizontal one.  

  3. Click the sound icon on/off as desired.

  4. Playing with 6 ships can be a quicker game than 3 if the number of sunken ships to win is kept low.  

  5. Choose full-screen mode in your browser to increase the game size.  Zoom more if needed.

  6. Click the white surrender flag in the upper left of the screen to stop/restart the game or click the refresh button in the browser bar.

Instructional Tips:

  1. Word Pirates focuses mostly on nonsense words which is great for kids who have a lot of words memorized.  This makes them rely on reading strategies.  It's also fun to point out the recognition of real words.   

  2. If students are making decoding errors, ask them to just point on their selections and read more slowly, then click only once they read correctly. Have students verify their accuracy when the word forms in the scroll. This is an excellent strategy to stop impulsive guessing and learn to self-correct. 

  3. If students continue to guess incorrectly at words, mouse control may need to be taken away for a time so the instructor can do the pointing and guiding.

  4. Instructors can guide students to verbally synthesize (blend) the two parts of the words before or after clicking on the second part of the word, depending on the student. 

  5. The completed word will remain displayed on the scroll until the target is clicked.  This is an opportunity to have the student read the word back to check for accuracy.  

  6. More advanced or older students may notice combinations of words that have been blocked or might bring up alternate spellings.  Discuss different spelling rules/expectancies, homophones and homographs and meanings.  (And of course, there are words that would just be misspelled or inappropriate, so they are blocked)










































  • Game Setup

  • Error-handling


Barton student reading vowel team syllables with guidance in flexible pronunciation.

Game Credits 

Scottish Pirate Music: Hoist up the Sails, by Derek & Brandon Fiechter, dbfiechter.bandcamp.com

Female Pirate Voice Overs: Heather Woods of Pistoleros Wild West, wildweststuntshow.com

Audio and Tech Assistance: Tristan Young, Tristan Bay on YouTube

Programming and Design:  Tim Anderson, Pace Computing Limited

Concept, Content and Design: Laura de la Houssaye, Literacy Matters, LLC

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