Card games for Literacy (A0)

Reading can be quite boring, and very teacher centered as monitoring is necessary.
However, it is important to allow students to do it on their own, otherwise they grow very dependent on the teacher and never learn how capable they are by themselves. While illustrated books are one option and work well with students from a reading background, card games are a wonderful way to incorporate reading practice into Literacy lessons, especially for Secondary level learners. They may work well for some Primary groups, provided the students are patient enough to watch a long demonstration. Basic Cards: 1. Have students work in pairs or groups of three. 2. Give each group a stack of word cards. 3. Cards are placed in a pile face down. One student takes a card and reads the word out loud for his group to hear. He also allows them to look at the word on his card. If all the students agree that he has read the word correctly, he keeps the card. If not, he puts it back into the pile, placing it at the bottom. 4. The next student then repeats with the next card, and so on until all the cards are over. At the end of the game, the student with the most number of cards wins. Oops: A variation of the above activity is a game called ‘Oops!’ found on Here, some of the word cards will have the word ‘Oops’ written on them. The game is played the same way, except if a student picks a card with the word ‘Oops’ on it, he/she has to put all the cards he/she has collected since the start of the game, at the bottom of the face down pile. You might also add a few cards with the word ‘Free’ on it. If a student picks a ‘Free’ card. He/she gets to pick an extra card from the pile and keep it without having to read it (or having to read it too, if you like!) Have you got: 1. Prepare 10 sets of 4 cards with the same word. For example, if the words you choose are: cat, mat, hat, sip, nip, tip, top, pot, cot, let, make sure there are 4 cards with each word on them. This would mean one set includes 40 cards. 2. In class, have students work in groups. Each group is given one set of cards. 3. Students deal the cards equally among themselves. 4. The purpose of the game is to collect word sets. So, students look at the words they have and try to complete their sets. For example, if a student has the word ‘mat’ on two of his cards, he needs to collect the other two cards with the word ‘mat’ on them to complete his set. 5. To complete his set, he needs to ask anyone in the group for the cards, saying, ‘Have you got a ‘mat’? He can only ask one person each time it is his turn. 6. If the student he asks has it, he/she has to give it to him. 7. Students take turns asking others for cards, aiming to complete their sets. The first player to have completed all his sets wins the game. Read it: There are many variations of the game SNAP all over the internet. Many of them require knowledge of spelling or vocabulary to be played. However, this version only requires visual recognition, blending and reading abilities. 1. Before class, decide on a list of about 30 words, depending on which letter sounds you want students to practice. Create cards so that one word appears on two cards. This means if you have 36 words in a pile, you’ve got 72 cards. Make sure that the 72 cards are divided into two piles, so that each pile has each word only once. 2. In class, have students play in groups. Have them face one pile of cards face down. The other cards are to be dealt among them. 3. To play, one player takes the card from the top of the face down pile and flips it over, keeping it on the table where all the players can see it. 4. All the players look at the cards they have, to find the card with the same word on it. 5. When a player identifies a match, he places the card on the table next to the card from the pile and reads the word on the cards once. 6. If his group agrees that he has read it correctly, he collects both cards and keeps them with him. If he has read it incorrectly, he keeps his card back in his pile, and the other card face down at the bottom of the face down pile. 7. When all the face down cards have been matched, the player with the most sets collected wins the game. Run and Stick: This game is not played like a traditional card game. The ideal set up for this would be to have students work in pairs. However, a very strong student may do quite well working individually. 1. Each pair is given a set of word cards, or cards with one sound on them, such as vowel sounds. 2. Before, class, the teacher prepares a list of the words on the cards. If the cards do not have words on them, but have only sounds, the list needs to include one word for each vowel sound, and in class, students need to be told that they need to listen for vowel sounds, and not consonant sounds. The same can be done with tricky consonant sounds like ‘sh’, ‘th’, ‘ng’, etc. 3. Before beginning the game, assign each pair a wall space of their own, and give them some blue tac. It would be better organized and easier for the teacher to keep track if each pair was assigned its own colour and were given a set of cards of their assigned colour. 4. When students are ready and have their cards placed face up in front of them. the teacher calls out a word. 5. Students identify the sound card or word card that matches the word, and stick it up on their wall with tac. 6. The first team to stick the correct card up on their wall gets a point. 7. The teacher then calls out the second word and so on. To prevent stronger students from dominating, and to maintain order, students in each pair take turns to stick the word up. There will be some running, so it would be best to keep chairs and tables out of the way. There will also be some pushing as students race to stick their card up. However, this can be managed by assigning pairs wall spaces that are some distance apart from each other. Last Letter Dominoes: If you look up dominoes for English language teaching, you will probably find that most of the available material cannot be used unless students have a good amount of existing vocabulary. With second language learners, this is often not the case, and having experimented with vocabulary lessons, I have found that most vocabulary lessons have been a waste of time. Students struggle with being able to remember words, and learning vocabulary is ultimately not one of the aims of an A0 course. Therefore, in my opinion time spent learning vocabulary can be spent learning to read and write, especially during the beginning of the course. Later, students may be taught meanings of some words, or to use a dictionary, etc. Last letter dominoes is a game of dominoes that does not require vocabulary knowledge and provides some good reading practice. 1. Before class, find a dominoes template online. Paste the template onto a word document and insert words, using the text box tool in the blocks of the dominoes. It would have to be two words per domino, which would mean 24 words for 12 dominoes. For the game to work, make sure that the last letter of the second word of each domino is the same as the first letter of the first word of each domino. This is what students will be matching. For example, an ideal list of words (arranged according to a dominoes template) would be: tilt/tin, nap/pub, bug/gum, mill/luck, kit/tell, lap/puff, fish/ship, pop/press, sun/nag, gun/nay, yo/old, dim/mat. The letters in bold are what students will be matching. Also, to keep it simple, make sure not to repeat the letters that need to be matched. 2. To play, deal an equal number of dominoes for each student in the group. A group of 3 or a pair would be ideal. 3. Place one domino, either an extra one, or one from the first player face up on the table. 4. The second player looks at his dominoes to see if he has a matching one. If he does, he places it. However, he has to read the word he is matching correctly, to be able to place the domino on the table. If he cannot read it, he has to wait until it is his turn again to match and have a second go at reading the word. If he does not have a matching card, he has to pass his turn. 5. The third player then plays and so on. 6. The game ends when one of the players has lost all his cards. This player is the winner. As students learn more sounds, more dominoes can be added, and mixed into the set with older dominoes. I like to do newer words in a different colour, so I can re-use the same dominoes for the next A0 class I have without having to do much sorting. While a lot of these activities require quite a bit of preparation before class, they are well worth the time. Students will spend at least 20 minutes of class time using most of the material to read and listen to others read as well as learn to be able to monitor peers for errors. The material can also be kept carefully and used numerous times for review activities in class or for fast finishers to spend some time on. Such games also make them willing to read and this is absolutely necessary at A0 level. Furthermore, in being willing to read, they would not have to be forced to open a book when they do not want to, every day during class time. While books are necessary to develop a reading culture in the mind of the student, reading does not have to become a boring, repetitive task. Reading games are the best way to get students to practice blending, reading and phonics recognition.
Average: 5 (2 votes)

Research and insight

We have hundreds of case studies, research papers, publications and resource books written by researchers and experts in ELT from around the world. 

See our publications, research and insight

Sign up to our newsletters for teachers and teacher educators

We will process your data to send you our newsletter and updates based on your consent. You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the "unsubscribe" link at the bottom of every email. Read our privacy policy for more information.