The evolution of our Bananagrams School Program
How our passion for literacy is taking shape in classrooms around the world
Bananagrams Inc. is passionate about literacy! We love being able to bring playful learning to the classroom! Our Top Banana, Rena Nathanson, feels strongly about creating a school program using BANANAGRAMS as a useful and fun classroom resources. These resources will help teachers and students in the quest to go wild with words! In 2015, the first Bananagrams School Challenge was held in the UK. We offered 1,000 free school kits which included 2 BANANAGRAMS games, a medal, bracelets and a tournament wall poster, all contained in a bright yellow box. Schools competed, and the top student from each school could then compete in an online game segment. The top scoring 12 students from all the online participants were invited to compete in an in-person challenge, with the winner being crowned the UK’s Top Banana!
In 2016, simultaneously to the UK Challenge, the first US-based School Challenge was held. A similar program was open to schools in the six New England states (CT, MA, ME, NH, RI & VT).
Much of the feedback we received from teachers and students was how much they enjoyed playing the tournaments in school. We were also told countless times what a great resource the kit was to use in the classroom and how playing BANANAGRAMS ignited a passion for words in students. After collating all the feedback, we decided to alter the program to make it more user friendly and inclusive. For obvious reasons, the in-person Challenge, whilst being a great day out for the participants and their families, had moments of stress for the players and the logistics of families travelling to the venue posed additional challenges. Therefore, we decided to grow the event so that it has much wider versatility and exposure.
In 2018, the Challenge became a “vote for your Top Banana” competition to celebrate each individual school’s Top Banana, and we discontinued the high pressure, in-person final. We opened it up nationally in the US, and sent out 3,500 free kits between the US and UK. Every school was asked to submit photographs and a short description of what the challenge meant to their school. We received the most incredible responses!
We selected our top 3 finalists from the US and our top 3 from the UK. We put them up for a vote on Facebook to crown the Top Banana. This was enormously successful, and allowed us to share the fun of learning through Banangrams with approximately 45,000 students in the US, and about 60,000 students in the UK!
As we continue to grow and evolve the program, we’re motivated by the positive feedback we’ve received from teachers.
“The Bananagrams Challenge was the best thing I brought into my classroom this year. Students were begging me to play every day, any free chance they would get. They learned lots of new and interesting words, many because they just wanted to know, “Is this a word?” However, some words students learned because they spent their own time, outside of class, trying to find words to use some of those pesky letters, like ‘Z’ (have you ever heard of a Zorilla?) We talked about prefixes vs suffixes, proper nouns and other parts of speech, making plurals, etc. It was great!” – Akin Road Elementary
“My sweet kids really enjoyed playing BANANAGRAMS! They appreciated the opportunity to play the game, and were even excited when I mentioned staying after school to play! This was their first time to do something like this, and they are already excited for next year! Thank you again!” - San Jacinto Elementary
This has made us realize the real Top Bananas in our program are the TEACHERS. The incredible educators who seek out great classroom resources like BANANGRAMS, to inspire learning by having fun. And the best part for everyone in the Bananagrams Challenge truly was playing the game in schools. So that is what we’re focusing on as we evolve the program in 2019 and beyond. We would like to introduce the BANANAGRAMS SCHOOL CLUB. We’re so excited to share all the details with you very soon.
We are also eager to focus more attention on celebrating the teachers and their passion by creating the BANANAGRAM-EES Awards. The “EES” stands for Exceptional Educator Surprise. BANANAGRAM-EES will be celebrated in April. More on this later!
We can’t wait to share the details with you. Stay tuned to join the best club in town.
Some great moments from the Bananagrams School Challenge events throughout the years