Thursday, June 7, 2012


One of my students' favorite games is Go Fish!  Because it's such a favorite, like Bingo, we play it in lots of units.  (I've made game sets for animals, family, school supplies, and clothing, and I'm getting ready to make a set with Olympic sports for my summer school ELL kids!)  It's really easy to create cards for any set of vocabulary -- just pick out 15-25 important words (remember, you'll have twice as many cards as the words you choose) and find a picture to represent each.  I've found that having about 40-50 cards makes a nice game that students can play in about 20 minutes.  As long as you use an image or other representation instead of the word/concept, the students really have to practice as they play because they have to know the word to ask for it and to figure out if they have the card that someone's asking for.  (They are always allowed to have out their vocabulary for reference if needed.)

I envision this being easily applicable to other subject areas as well -- you could make decks with pictures, diagrams, definitions, etc. for just about any key vocabulary or concepts.  (I'm already plotting how I could still use this with my high school ELL's next year... maybe literary terms, academic vocabulary, core subject concepts...)

To make my cards, I just create a few pages of evenly spaced 3 cell x 3 cell tables in Microsoft Word (9 cards per page -- this makes them a pretty good card size) and drag one image into each cell of the table.  Then copy & paste the whole set so you have two of each card.
screenshot of one page of my animal card set
 Print in color to make the game engaging, then just cut out the cards, chop up some construction paper into 3"x4" cards, glue the paper cards on the construction paper backing, and laminate.  (That's the tedious part, which is where my husband comes in!  Takes forever but then you can use them again and again.)  I make enough sets so the kids can play in groups of 4 or 5.
a set of animal cards from our 6th grade animal unit (a pair is at the bottom)
Before we play, I always review the basic Go Fish! rules -- a lot of times I'll have a kid explain and then interject as necessary.  Be sure to tell them they're playing for pairs (not sets of 4 like a real card deck).  They have to play completely in the target language, so we go over phrases like "Do you have...?" and "Go Fish!"  After reading Megan and Kara's idea about teaching game language with games, I put up some game vocabulary ("It's my/your turn!", "Cheater!", "Liar", "I won!") on the projector while they played and I was delighted by how much they used it and even retained it!  (Maybe a little too much... my 6th graders were still calling each other "Cheater" on the last day of school!  But they remembered it and wanted to use it!)

One of my favorite sights in my classroom is to see my students clustered around the room in little groups, spouting out the target language with smiles on their faces and bursting into spontaneous eruptions of joy/anguish/yelling in the TL!

1 comment:

  1. Very cool idea. I love your idea of teaching the game vocabulary too, & imagine that the students probably add some words to that. Fun, fun, Jennifer!


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