Two Games to Memorize Vocabulary

Teaching new words can be difficult. It’s often hard to find fun ways to incorporate the new words into activities that will drill the new vocabulary into the students’ minds instead of memorizing a list.

The Moon and the Cap is about a boy who loses a new cap up in the tree outside his bedroom window. The cap looks as though it is sitting on the moon’s head creating a connection with the boy and the moon. Luckily, his parents buy him a new hat so now he can match with his friend, the moon!

We worked with six children total, two groups of three. The first group, energetic and fun five-year-olds could read a handful of 3-letter words but knew what each vocab word was despite being able to read. They knew all the letters but struggled with the sounds when certain letters are paired with others. The second group of 4-year-olds was shy, and their English reading skills were not very good. They didn’t speak much and needed more guidance and clues to get through the games.

With both groups, we played the story first. 
After, we asked a few questions:
– Did you like this story?
– Which words did you recognize?

To make vocab learning fun, we created BookBox vocab cards. Ten vocab words, 20 cards. Ten cards had the picture of the object: tree, baby, cap, etc. The other ten cards had the word in English. We played two versions of the same memory game and played the easier one first.

Game time. The kids got excited!

Game 1: Easy Matching (cards facing up)

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We mixed up the cards and laid them face up on the table. The kids took turns matching the card with the word “tree” to the card with the image of the tree. It was best when the kids got the wrong answer because we would go through the word and figure out why the cards did not match. Together, we spelled the word, going over the alphabet, then tried to sound it out.

The first group stumbled on a few words, especially “glasses,” but could read “sun,” “Baby,” and “red” easily. The kids were completely confident in few words. This activity confirmed letters, sounds and spelling for the kids. By the end of the game, they were very confident on 9/10 of the words! The younger, second group struggled more. They guessed often, but still, at the end of the game, they learned the easier words such as “sun,” “moon,” and “cap.”

Game 2: Hard Memory Matching (cards facing down)

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The second game added a whole new level to activity. In addition to knowing what all the words are, they have to memorize where each card is in the pile the cards has been seen previously. We mixed the cards and placed them face down, 4×5. The kids took turns flipping the cards over and were playfully disappointed when they didn’t get a match. Occasionally, a child from the older group stumbled on a word or try to remember how to spell a word after they had picked the image. For this, we asked a few questions:

– Can you read this word?
– How do you spell this word?
– What letter does it sound like?
– If the child was having trouble:

  • Give a hint: Tell them the word “Baby” starts with the letter “B.”
  • Once, a child picked up the image of a sun, and we helped by pointing to the wrong card, and asking “is this sun?” Sometimes the kid guessed, but eventually, they got the hang of the test. With the process of elimination, knowing that the word “glasses” has way too many letters to read “sun,” the kids could realize what made sense.

The memory version of the game was a bit too challenging for the younger kids, so we divided the cards; one side of the table was the pile of images while the other, the pile of words. We spent most of the time going over each word they picked up, reviewing the letters and sounding out the words.

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At the end of the game, we asked a few questions to gauge their knowledge, understanding of the words, and of course, if they had fun!

Follow up questions:

  • Did you have fun? 
  • What words did you learn?
  • Which words did you recognize before the game from the video?

All the children enjoyed the game, and it was clear they learned new words. If we had more time, I would have the kids write out the words to practice writing to add another way to instill the words into their vocabulary.

Vocab List:
– Cap
– Moon
– Glasses
– Candy
– Tree
– Sun
– Blue
– Baby
– Smile
– Red

Want the memory game cards for your classroom? Here are the files. Just print, cut and laminate!

We also have these Memory Game Cards for The Greatest TreasureFour FriendsLittle PianistRosa Goes to the CityWhispering Palms, and Zippy the Zebra! Please email blog@bookbox.com for the files.

Tell us what you think! Share your students’ language learning stories with us in the comments section!


character 1Tamar is BookBox’s Outreach and Social Media Coordinator. Now in Pondicherry, India, Tamar was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, then in 2014 graduated from Binghamton University in International Social Change. You can find her at tamar@bookbox.com, on Twitter at @tamargc, going on outdoor adventures or eating delicious vegetarian Indian food.

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