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Young Learners

Teaching English to Elementary School Children

August 21, 2009

Using concentration cards in large classes

Concentration (or memory) or shinkeisuijaku in Japanese is a great game for the classroom. In small classes the basic game with two identical sets of pictures works well. Students take turns to turn over two cards and say the word or sentence associated with the pictures. If it is a matching pair, they keep the cards. If it isn’t a matching pair, they turn them back face down. In a larger class, we can have students divided into groups and each group plays among themselves. However without constant teacher supervision there is a tendency to forget or avoid saying the English and just play the game as they would in Japanese. It then becomes just a game with no English practice. In large classes then we need to adapt the game so that English practice happens regardless of where the teacher is in the room. Fortunately, there are several variations we can use that require the children to use English in some way.

Variation 1
Have pictures and words or pictures and initial letters. Students have to match the picture with the corresponding word or letter. This requires the students to know the word in English and read the word or letter and consider if they match.

Variation 2
Have two sets of different pictures. A pair is made when the initial sounds of the words are the same e.g. dog and desk, car and cow. This can be used with students who are learning to read and write and also with students before they learn to read and write, as a phonemic awareness activity. Many students have trouble realising that words such as dog and desk start with the same letter because in Japanese they would start with different “letters” - ど (do) and で (de). Having them become aware that English words are divided differently will help a lot once they start learning to read and write. This variation requires students to know the English words and to think about the initial sounds.

Variation 3
Have sets of matching questions and answers e.g. What is it? and It’s a pig; What color is it? and It’s white. This requires students to read and understand the questions and answers.

Variation 4
Have sets of of opposites e.g. big and small, hot and cold, or words from different categories e.g. lemon and orange, soccer and baseball. This requires students to read and understand the words, as well as think about opposites or categories.

Concentration, when adapted, is a great game for larger classes. As mentioned above, it requires little monitoring. It also needs little setting up as all children know the basic game. Most children will automatically start a new game once they have finished one round so the activity can continue until all groups have finished at least one round without the teacher needing to worry about early finishers. The cards can also be used for different games such as a team game where all cards must be paired up as quickly as possible. In fact this is a good activity to do just before the main concentration game so that all the students know how the pairs should be made.

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Wow, these are great ideas for small classes, too!
Thanks, Carla!

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