Dylan Lewis
Mark Kramer
Tina Metoyer
Louise O'Flaherty

| Instructional Objective | Learners & Context | Object of Game | Game Materials |

| Time Required | Rules | Design Process |Trial Run | References |

Instructional Objectives

Learners & Context of Use

Grocery Grab is designed for adult students (ages 18-22 years) with learning disabilities. Reading ability of these students may range from good reading skills to no reading skills. As adults, they are motivated to become more independent in ways such as learning how to shop at a grocery store.

Although the target audience is special education adults, this game may also be used by elementary school children learning to read and perform pattern matching.

Grocery Grab will be used in a classroom setting to supplement the actual grocery store trips that the students take with their teacher and teacher assistant(s). The game is designed to be played more than once, which accommodates the special education teacher who spends numerous days teaching her students how to grocery shop.

Object of the Game

Each player must collect all 6 grocery item cards which correctly match the 6 grocery list cards picked at the start of the game.

Game Materials

Game materials include the following:

Game board

The board, which measures 2 feet by 2 feet (24 two-inch squares), is designed to illustrate a generic grocery store.

The store entrance, represented by a red area is the starting point for all players. At the start of the game, all players must place their shopping carts at the entrance.

The store aisles are represented by gray squares. At each turn, players roll the die to determine how many gray/blue squares they may move through.

The store sections are represented by blocks of colored squares. Each section also contains a label for that section. These labels represent the overhead signs placed in grocery stores. At each section, you will also find bi-directional arrows which indicate the entrance and exit square for the section.

The store checkout, represented by a yellow area is the finishing point for all players. Once a player has collected all six grocery items, they continue to play until they reach the checkout. At the checkout, the checker must verify that the player has the correct items.


Shopping carts

The shopping carts serve as the players' tokens. Each player uses one shopping cart to move through the game board. As players collect grocery item cards, they are to store these pieces in their shopping cart.

Grocery List Cards

These ancillary pieces are cards that each player must choose from at the start of the game. All grocery list cards are turned faced day at the beginning and each player then chooses six cards. The six cards picked by each player determine the six store items that must be collected before advancing to the checkout stand. In essence, the six product cards represent a grocery checklist of six items.

Grocery Item Cards

These ancillary pieces match the grocery list cards (for each grocery list card, there is a corresponding grocery item card). All grocery item cards are managed by the "food manager." Each time a player enters an aisle/section with an item from one of their grocery list cards, they ask the food manager for the corresponding grocery item card, which is then placed in the player's shopping cart.


One six-faced die is used to determine the number of spaces each player may move and to determine which player starts first.


Time Required

For the intended audience, the setup and play time for Grocery Grab is approximately one hour if players choose to end the game once one player has successfully entered the checkout. If players choose to allow all players to proceed to the checkout before terminating the game, total play time is approximately 1-1.5 hours.

The Rules

  1. Before starting, select a food manager and a checker. The food manager is in charge of the grocery item cards (the smaller cards). The checker is responsible for ensuring that the player collected all grocery items from his/her grocery list. The food manager and checker may or may not be one of the players.

  2. Each player must select a shopping cart and place it at the "Entrance." The shopping carts will be used to move through the board and to collect grocery items.

  3. Turn all grocery list cards (the larger cards) face down.

  4. Each player then selects 6 grocery list cards.

  5. Each player rolls the die to determine who goes first. If there is a tie for the highest roll, roll again. Once the first player has been determined, play will occur in a clockwise direction. 

  6. During each player's turn, the player must roll the die and move the shopping cart the number of spaces shown on the die. Each square represents one space. Players may not move diagonally.

  7. A player may not land on or go through a square occupied by a grocery cart. If a grocery cart is on a square or in a section, that square or section is considered blocked and the player must find an alternate route or destination.

  8. To enter a section of the store, a player must enter where there is an arrow. An exact roll of the die is not required to enter the section.

  9. Once in a desired section, a player may collect the grocery item by asking the food manager for the grocery item card. If the player is in the correct section, the food manager will give him/her the matching grocery item card. If the player is in the wrong section, the game resumes with the next player. There are no penalties.

    A player may only collect one item from a section at a time. If the player has multiple grocery list cards from a section, the player may remain in the section until his/her next turn to collect the item.

    Players must place all grocery item cards in his/her shopping cart.

  10. Once a player has collected all 6 grocery items, he/she must continue to play until he/she reaches the Checkout.

  11. At the Checkout, the checker must check that all 6 item cards collected match the player's 6 grocery list cards. If the cards do not match, the player must leave Checkout and continue to play.

  12. The first player to successfully check out is the winner and the game ends. Alternatively, if all players agree before the start of the game that play should continue until all players have successfully checked out, the game may be played in this fashion.

Design Process

Our team member Mark Kramer, realized the need for a grocery store board game after speaking to Ms. Mah (personal communication, October 1, 1998), a Special Education teacher at Mesa College. This teacher mentioned that she often uses games to assist her adult special education students. Her games are often hand-made by herself and students. While she takes her students to grocery stores to learn how to shop from a grocery list, she stated that a game would also be beneficial.

Once we decided to design such a board game, we began to question which skills our game should teach and/or enhance. After speaking with Ms. Mah (personal communication, October 6, 1998), we identified verbal, reading, counting, and reasoning skills as necessary game components. We developed the game rules and general idea based on these skills. Verbal skills are required as players must ask the food manager for the grocery item they wish to collect. Reading skills were incorporated in two areas: the text on the section labels of the board and the text on the grocery item cards. Counting skills were included with the movement of shopping carts according to the number rolled. Reasoning skills are encouraged throughout the game as players must decide in which sections to find their grocery items. Some players may also use reasoning to determine the best path to take in collecting their grocery items. Furthermore, advanced players may use reasoning skills to block an opponent from entering an aisle or section.

Another aspect we focused on in development was the best design for the board. We chose our board design after reviewing various game boards. The two board games that influenced our design were Clue and 221 B Baker Street, both of which have areas on the board that players must enter in order to progress in the game. Likewise, the Grocery Grab board includes several sections that represent store sections that players must enter in order to collect their grocery items. The process of physically placing the grocery items into the shopping carts is reminiscent of Trivial Pursuit's placement of pie shaped wedges into a player's token to symbolize completion of a task.

Several enhancements to the board game are possible and should be considered. First, a money factor may be easily entered into the game. For example, each player may be given $10 to begin the game. As they collect grocery items, they would see the price of each listed on the grocery item card. The player must then determine if the $10 is enough to pay for all six items at checkout. If not, the player must visit the ATM. For each turn remaining at the ATM, the player earns $1. In order to win the game, the player must not only collect all six items but must also be able to pay for them. Second, chance cards could be introduced to add an element of surprise. For example, each time a player collects a grocery item, the player also receives a chance card. One might state 'Go directly to the Candy section.' Another might state 'Lose a turn.' A third might state 'Find $10 bill.'"

Once we drafted the design, we asked a special education teacher, a professor of special education, two elementary education teachers, several educational technology alumni, and Bernie Dodge to comment on the design and to reflect on our concerns. Ms. Mah (C. Mah, personal communication, October 12, 1998) agreed that the game should finish once the first player reached the checkout. She also felt that students would be able to identify the board design as an actual grocery store. Another concern was how to best design the entrances for each store section. Initially we had bold lines that represented doors. Since doors are not found at store sections, we chose to change this design. After discussing this with others, we decided to use small bi-directional arrows.

While designing Grocery Grab, one of the main lessons we learned was that you must keep the learning objectives in mind at all times. A few times, we found ourselves changing the designs for aesthetic reasons and/or for simplification. But, we would then realize that some of these changes led to a design that neglected the important learning objectives.

Trial Run

The following is Mark Kramer's observation of a trial run. The trial run of "Grocery Grab" was conducted on October 23, 1998 with students from Cynthia Mah's Adult Special Education class at Mesa College.

The game was played by four students (Monique, Hugh, Cameron, and Gubert) and one assistant (Bill) helped out. Of the game players, one could read well, two others have minimal reading skills, and the fourth had no reading skills. Both the assistant and the student who could read (Cameron) helped the other students.

The first thing I pulled out of the tube were the shopping carts. There was immediate excitement. Three of the students grabbed a cart and started playing with them on the table.

I then rolled out the board and described the overall play of the game. When I showed them the grocery list cards, one of them really got excited: "I love ice cream and cookies". She couldn't read but the pictures did their job.

The students understood the game right off. You could tell that they especially liked rolling the carts around the board and sticking the food items in the cart.

They had trouble, though, with the counting of squares. They understood the value of the die without a problem. But counting out 5 squares was sometimes a challenge. It was also a challenge for all but one to understand the concept of one square per pip on the die. Cynthia says that this is due to inexperience with moving pieces on a board like this. She says that they've never before had a game that could help with this skill in this manner. She thinks the game will be a good tool to help them with counting skills. She also suspects that some of them just enjoyed rolling the cart around the board so, even though they knew the right number of squares to move, they purposely over shot the number of squares.

They also had difficulty understanding that they could only move the cart on the gray squares and not through the sections. Cynthia says that this will not be a problem as they learn the game.

This goes for the section entrances as well. In almost every case, they entered each section through whatever square was adjacent to the section. Cynthia says this will be understood after playing a couple of more times.

The color borders were especially helpful for those students who could not yet read. Cynthia says that they've learned to use colors as helpers via games such as UNO. She thought this was great because it helped them relate to familiar skills.

They never did get the concept that you could not share a square with another player or that you couldn't pass a player in a blocked aisle.

One student had to remind another student, twice, of which was the proper direction for a grocery cart to face. Not a problem, but that struck me as funny.

The only real problem with the game is the time it took to play. The students rarely took the most efficient route to get an item, and most forgot what they were going after and changed direction to get another item between turns. For example, Hugh had just stopped in the Drinks section to pick up a soda. He also needed Steak, which was right next to Drinks. Instead of going for the Steak, he went to another section. In another example, Cameron was heading for Pasta to get spaghetti, and, though she had rolled a high enough number to make it into the Pasta section, she had forgotten that that was what she wanted and she headed her token towards another section. Finally, Monique likes cookies so she headed there first. Then she went to get the ice cream because she liked that next best. Rather than playing the most efficient way, she followed the route that led her to her favorite items first...I'd suggest reducing the number of items to get to 4.




Personal Communications

Our primary sources of information consisted of personal communications with Special Education experts and members of the Educational Technology Community. Please see "Design Process" for reference citations.

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Last updated October 22, 1998