Customer Reviews: ThinkFun What's Gnu
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on September 27, 2012
I wanted a game to help my 6 year-old work on spelling and reading in a fun way, so I bought What's Gnu? I did read other reviews and was prepared to reconsider the game's instructions. After a bit of thought, we came up with different ways to play this game that made it fun for the whole family.

As designed, the players are supposed to slide the game mechanism and reveal 2 letters. The first to call out a valid word using a letter on the 3 word cards in front of them gets that letter and can complete a word card. First player to complete all 3 word cards wins. That might work if you have 2 kids at the same level, but obviously it is completely unrealistic for a beginning reader to compete against adults.

We changed up the rules so that each person gets 6 word cards. The first player slides the game mechanism and gets two letters and tries to use them in their word cards. There is no time limit, and if my daughter needs to put tiles in each card and sound it out, that's fine. Once the two tiles are done (either used or thrown out), the next player goes. With 3 players and 6 cards, a game takes about 20 minutes, which is a good amount of time for kids this age (and we can obviously change the number of word cards we use). Toward the end we were even joking around and making funny definitions for fake words. My daughter was laughing and having fun. She had no idea how much reading and spelling practice she just had.

I like that there are no batteries, it makes no noise, there is essentially no set-up (this is quite portable), and games can be made more challenging to suit kids' needs as they develop reading skills. I only gave it 4 starts instead of 5 because the instructions that came with it seem uninspiring and overly focused on time-based game play. If you have K-2 children, just toss the instructions, find your own ways to play, and you'll enjoy this game.
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on May 7, 2007
This is a great game for new readers and for readers who need some extra help and practice. As a retired teacher and now a tutor, I'm using this with a second grader who is having trouble with reading. She really enjoys this game and is getting much better at spelling short words, as well as recognizing longer words because of the skills she is learning with this game. I'd recommend this to anyone with a young reader! P.S. It can also be used with older readers just as a fun game by having a time limit to make a certain amount of words.
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VINE VOICEon March 2, 2008
My daughter is in Kindergarten and we have had lots of fun with this game. Sometimes I think everything is in the timing... and with this game the timing was just right. We recently got this as a gift and my daughter and I have played it several times. We make up our own rules...and she loved it. We don't play competitively, we just work at making words.

I pull out several cards that will make a word then she makes the words, sounds them out and decides which word she likes better. For her the fun was making the words, not "winning".

She's not a game kid, we have lots of the classic games that we gave her as gifts and her three year old brother has played them more than she has. But this one we've come back to again and again, today she said "Wahoo gnu".

The only criticism I have is that they could have created a lot more word possibilities with the word cards.
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on September 14, 2007
It was easy for me to adapt the rules to the needs of my 5 year old grandson.... possibilities are endless but an encouraging adult is needed to help keep a good pace and keep young ones encouraged and not overwhelmed. It's really an excellent skill builder.
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on May 11, 2013
There is a short window of time when this game would be fun.

Beginning readers who are learning phonics would find it interesting. For our children, this period is between ages 3 and 5.

Kids know when games are supposed to be educational, the way they know that carrot cake and zucchini bread are ways of getting them to eat vegetables. This game falls into that category. It is helpful for adults to play with children, to help them sound out word possibilities. It is not realistic for children of different reading abilities to play the game without one player being bored and another being frustrated. Therefore, it is at best a game for one or two kids. The novelty would be fun for kids who are still learning to sound out words---these kids may require a bit of help. But the kids who don't need help would find the novelty to wear off quickly.

The above is just our experience, and it may be different for other people. We never enjoyed the game as a family enough to get it out frequently.
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on May 14, 2007
This game is a great game for teaching phonics and new words. They love being able to choose the letters, and a great educational activity.
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on December 30, 2007
great educational toy, although really need an adult to play with the child if he/she is just learning to read. Using the letter dispenser is alot of fun for the child (just like the tile dispenser in Zingo). It's a fun way for kids to learn - and they don't even realize you're teaching them!
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VINE VOICEon February 26, 2014
I teach first grade students that range in reading levels from Pre-K to upper second grade. While reading books is an important part of our guided reading groups, I felt the need to add some variety to word work rather than using worksheets so I purchased some activities.

In this game students see two letters using a "machine" that "spits" out the letters randomly. Each card has 2 sides. One side needs 1 letter; one side needs 2 letters. (Thus far we've only used the 1 letter side.) If a child can use one of the 2 letters he/she has to yell out the WORD! I've had students grab the letter, yell out the letter, say the word wrong, etc... However, that breaks the rules and the student doesn't get the letter. :( If the child does indeed make a word, the card is kept with the letter and the child gets a new card. If letters aren't used they go back into the pile.

It takes time learning how to play this game. My strugglers obviously needed more support than my non-strugglers. The goal is/was to help students make words and recognize words and this game does exactly that. It also helps them to differentiate between vowels and consonants, a skill that needs a lot of work.
I have another game by the same manufacturer that has a word selector but for some reason it doesn’t work. This one, however, works like a charm! I move the top of it and out “pops” two letters! There have been no issues so far. I say this in case you have the other game (Bingo Sight Word) and have had issues. (Good News! I received the new one and it’s working perfectly. Way to go!) Rather than flipping cards using the “machines” makes the game more exciting.
I highly recommend this game for anybody, parent or teacher, who is looking for additional help in the area of word work. It helps with sounds, letter recognition, 3-letter words and so much more.

Not so short. Sweet. To the point.
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on February 10, 2012
5 year old in kindergarten really likes this game. I adapt the rules a tad for him to play. He can play with his little friend but with me helping them. It's fun for them but for the parent, when they're still very young and beginning readers, it should probably be thought of more as a sneaky way to get in reading practice. All pieces are very durable, this game should last a very long time. The cards are very thick cardboard, the rest is a very strong feeling plastic, no little edges or dangling pieces that might break off easier. Only slightly annoying thing for me was the packaging. This was packaged a little different than other ThinkFun games we've gotten. First, be careful when pulling out of the annoying plastic twisty straps holding it into the cardboard. The only piece not strapped is the top, the piece that holds the letters in. So if you're not paying attention like I guess I wasn't it's pretty easy to flip it back a bit while trying to get the ties off and end up with the top falling off and little letter-tiles all over the floor. The other minor annoyance is some of the other ThinkFun games we've got have a nice little pouch to hold everything in, then we just toss the box. There is nothing but the box for this and it's way too big for the game pieces so stuff will end up moving around and coming apart and it's very likely I'll find a big mess of tiles and cards every time I open it up unless I use a ziplock or something to keep it all together. Oh, one last thing I was a tad disappointed with is that the Zingo game has little slots so you can keep putting the tiles back into the feeder as you play, but this one doesn't have that so you need to open up the top to put them back in once you're done with your game.

Overall though, great game, well worth the money. Durable and provides FUN education.
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on December 29, 2011
I'm a mother of 4 and 7 yo girls who have completely different learning styles and interest. This game bridges the gap and they just enjoy playing. Though it was bought for the younger girl to accelerate her word attack skills. This game actually expanded her vocabulary (the word PER)Im very pleased with thisgame. Not to mention very durable.
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