Card games

My wife and I are pretty hard core boardgamers.  We have a large collection, love to play, and have gotten our children pretty hooked in the process.  My first couple of years of teaching, accordingly, I spent a pretty large amount of time figuring out how to get some good games into my classroom.  After I started TPRS, however, and started to trust the process of just interacting with the kids, most of the games tended to fall by the wayside because I didn’t get the same return off of investment with them.

There are, however, a couple notable exceptions here.  The first game I lucked into is a German version of Apples to Apples that was given to me by a friend who works for the company that makes the English version.  So I don’t spend all my time running around translating, I created a table that contains all the translations on three pages and now the games can run in my classroom almost independent of me for year end level one students and up.   I pull this out maybe once every other month on a Friday when I remember to, and everybody enjoys it.

The game that I get the most burn off of, however, is a game called “Once upon a time” that I absolutely love.  In the original version of this game (which you can order), players are dealt a hand with various fairy tale elements–sword, evil queen, betrayal, escape from prison, etc.–that are all on separate cards. Everybody also has different cards on how the story ends and tries to interrupt the group-told story to both get rid of all their cards and end up with their ending prevailing.  There are a few game mechanisms to make this happen that work very well for advanced speakers, but are just too much for beginners and most intermediate speakers.

I still liked the basic idea of this, however, and one year instead of making all my students memorize lists of verb forms, I embedded them into this game by making my own cards for them.  A sample sheet looks like this:

I basically found pictures to illustrate a given card, and then put the two major past tense forms at the bottom in different colors.  I got sort of carried away doing this and have about 88 different verbs I threw in here.  Not content with just verbs, however, I decided to make a number of objects (Gegenstand in German) as typified by the cards below.

By the time I was done, I had around 110 cards and made up six different decks of them.

When I roll this out to classes now, I have them create a progressive story in small groups. Each player has five cards, which they renew each round and when the story gets to them, they need to choose which of the five cards they like best.

Sample stories turn up along the lines of “One day I was going to a museum when an evil robot broke out on the floor.  I threw my stinky cheese at him and went to go for a hike in the woods where I met a llama.  I tempted him to me by using chocolate candy, and….” You get the idea.

For my upper level classes, I tend to break this out a couple times a quarter to let them just make up silly stories.  What I discovered, however, is that these cards also make wonderful writing prompts.  I’ll deal everybody six cards and tell them they have to use three of them in a story which they also have to use our target phrases for the day.

Again, I don’t really have a huge use for games in my class now that most of the class is one big game, but I’ve found this useful to mix things up occasionally as well as to sharpen the saw occasionally about how fun it is just to create random stories.

UPDATE: Here are the files
Eines Tages Master cards — The cards featured above
Eines Tages red — The card backs (red) I created.  I have a different color for each deck I create so they don’t get mixed up.



7 responses to “Card games

  1. OMG Nathan…this is such a great idea! (giving them cards that they try to get rid of by using them) — I can see this working in a bunch of ways. It would also be a good project for an aide to take on.

    It’s akin to handing out rejoinder statements that kids try to work in (how sad! Fabulous! I can’t believe it!) — you could hand out these cards at the start of a class story too and let them try to work them in at appropriate moments.

    It could be a back-door way of getting them to use review structures, too. Susie suggested to me long ago that I use all 25 words for a given time period in every class story, just translating the new ones until they become familiar. You could have cards for all 25 of those words, and hand out the review ones to groups each time, or hand them out to class members.

    LOVE IT!!


  2. These are brilliant. Would you consider selling them? Then again, maybe making something similar myself would be best, really forcing myself to engage with high-frequency verbs and fun story-prompting Gegenstände….
    That may be true, but like it’s wonderful to have Anne Matava’s story scripts to work from, I would love to a base-set which was obviously so thoughtfully made.


  3. I really like the idea of putting the rejoinder statements on cards because having something physical in hand would remind a) me to do it consistently, and b) remind the students to do it consistently. I need routines as a teacher. I need something that organizes the activity so students can recognize the routine and say “oh yeah, this is how I need to operate.” That’s one reason I like the cards, because it activates the organizational structure of “game” for the students and they can more easily follow a routine if it gets filed in their brains as “game rules” rather than “instructions.”

    I’d not thought of using this as a means of getting good reps on structures, but I think you’re onto something here. Thinking aloud here…I could give each group of four students a number of cards: starting out with say five or so of our target words from the word list, creating duplicate cards for words you want additional reps on. Each group would then create a basic story (perhaps start each group out with a common character experiencing the same problem for all the groups so as to give them a little boost out of the gate) and tell to plot out what happens using the cards. That’s basically a student generated story, but perhaps a bit tighter as the cards organize it as a form of play and ensure that your get your target focus in.

    Extending this another way, you could hand out one or two word cards to everybody in the class and as you put together a story (perhaps an embedded reading), you make it a game for the class to make sure that everybody’s card gets used in some way. That way you not only guarantee yourself a minimum number of reps, but you have the students organizing their cleverness around getting those reps in. Maybe keep score from class period to class period about how many cards you were able to get in so you could have the class compete against themselves from one class to another.

    This would also work really well as a review. I’m thinking something simple like jump back to the document camera, slap down a number of cards and say “give me a story.” Be sure to slap in one object card like a Llama, stinky cheese, or Mercedes to create additional variety, and you’re off to the races.

    Great possibilities here MJ! I’ve just had these sitting in my closet, but finding ways to adapt the concept to fuel what we’re doing in class would add just that much more variety. Thanks!


  4. Hi Andrew,

    Nothing to sell; I’d prefer to give them away if anybody were interested. I don’t have immediate access to the file, but I could probably find it in a day or two, and post the file on this site. That way other languages could just substitute their own terms into the cards if interested. It takes a little while to print these out (I create card backs saying “Eines Tages” in six different colors so that the sets don’t get mixed up), but they’re nice to have (especially if you have an aide like MJ suggests).


  5. Hi Nathan, If you find the files with this card game, would you upload it (in your copious freetime, hardyhar) — Thanks, Andrew


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