Mastering Academic Vocabulary: Match Card Game Applications for ELLs (Part 2)
In my previous blog post, titled Mastering Academic Vocabulary: Match Card Game Applications for ELLs (Part 1 of 2), I shared some examples of content area topics we can integrate into the use of match card games to help students master academic vocabulary. I also highlighted a couple of cognitive and social benefits associated with students’ use of with real cards they can manually hold, shuffle, and deal (as opposed to virtual cards from electronic gadgets).
In this post, I will describe three games students can play using a set of match cards: the traditional match card game, go fish, and quick pairs. But first, let us focus on the purpose of these games and a few key considerations.
The purpose of these games is for each individual player to get as many pairs of match cards as possible. The winner is the player with the most pairs of match cards.
To play the three games described below, a set of match cards is a must. Depending on the game, the set may consist of as few as 8 or 12 match card pairs. You can create the match card sets or the students can create their own sets. Either way, I suggest color coding the match cards. For example, for a multiplication match card pair, the equation may be shown in red and the product may be shown in blue. A match card size that has worked well with the K-5 students I teach is 1.5 inches by 2.5 inches.
Help students self-check match cards
Because matching cards related to content-area academic vocabulary can be a challenging task, it is critical that you have a method in place for students to self-check their match cards when the need arises. I recommend using a set of match cards that are larger in size than the students’ and readily accessible for players to use. I like to print out my sets of match cards for self-check on letter-size card-stock. I print out a match card pair per sheet as shown in the picture below. Notice how I color coded the English and Spanish terms for this match card pair.
Once I am done printing out the card stock sheets, I fold them in half and make them available for students to retrieve and manipulate as they self-check their own sets of cards.
How many players?
I recommend having students play in pairs, especially if your decks consist of a reduced number of matched cards. If you would like to have more students play together, I recommend using groups of no more than 4 students and making sure you have twice as many matched pairs as recommended below if you have 3 or 4 players.
Where to play?
You can have students play on a large table or on the floor. In my classes, K-5 students prefer playing on the floor because sitting on the floor is more fun than sitting in chairs and cards are always in plain sight.
When to play?
You can have the whole class play games in pairs right after the introduction of new academic vocabulary, so students can help each other process the brand-new terminology. You can also use these games as rewards for good behavior or as transitional/extension activities for early finishers.
Traditional Match Card Game
This game requires at least 8 pairs of cards for two players.
With the deck face down on the table or the floor, have the players draw a card. The player who gets the highest card (or the card with the longest word) deals.
The dealer shuffles the cards and lays them face down one by one in various rows forming a rectangle or a square.
The game starts with the dealer. Each player turns over two cards, one at a time, keeping the cards in place. If the cards match, the player takes the cards and turns over two more cards. If the cards do not match, the player turns the cards face down, and the next player proceeds. Players watch carefully to remember where cards are located. The players continue to take turns until all the cards have been picked up.
The game requires at least 12 pairs of cards for two players.
As was done in the previous game, with the deck face down on the table or the floor, have the players draw a card. The player who gets the highest card (or the card with the longest word) deals.
The dealer shuffles the cards and deals five cards to each player, one at a time. The remaining cards become the draw pile, which is placed face down at the center of the table or on the floor.
Next, the players check their hands of matched cards (for example, a card showing 4 x 7 = ___ and a card showing 28). The players put all their pairs face up in front of them.
Then, starting with the dealer, each player asks the other player for a card that would match one in their hand. If the player who was asked has the card in question, she must hand it over to the player who requested it. If the player who was asked does not have the card in question, she says, “Go fish!” and the player who asked for a card fishes for it by drawing a card from the draw pile. When a player gets a matched pair by asking or fishing, she keeps trying to get another matched pair until she gets a card that does not match. The game is over when all the cards are gone.
This game is faster to finish than the previous two, and it is a good option to wrap up play time.
A player shuffles the cards several times and deals the same number of cards to each player until all cards are gone.
Each player figures out her matched pairs using only the cards she was dealt.
Once students are finished playing, they can further work with the cards they matched. They can explain to each other the meaning of vocabulary words, they can have each other guess each other’s terms, they can sort the terms based on how familiar the terms are, and they can connect the terms in an oral presentation or a written composition. The options for activities are endless.
Subscribe to our newsletter to retrieve a two-page template on Microsoft Word that will yield 24 match cards on a letter-size sheet of paper. The template can be used to print out the front and back sides of match cards. On the front side of the template, you can replace the words shown with your own academic vocabulary words. The back side of the match cards shows a symbol to help players identify the top and bottom of each card as they lay them out to play.
Can you think of a topic you teach that could lend itself to a match card game? If so, I hope you will encourage your students to play match card games to practice content-related academic vocabulary. If you would like to explore other games for the classroom and live in Texas, you might be interested in one of the two workshops I will co-facilitate. For more information, go Dallas workshop or McAllen workshop. See you there?
Thank you so much for reading! Claudia
Claudia Sánchez is a bilingual curriculum writer, conference presenter, and professor. The focus of her work is the practice of teaching and learning with ELLs.