pelmanism (with a twist)

Pelmanism: a card game in which matching pairs must be selected from memory from cards laid face down.

Here is my tweaked version of it. Give your students some scrap paper and ask them to cut out cards. On each card they must write down a word or an expression that they have seen in class that is both challenging and interesting to know and remember. Every student should be making about 6 to 8 cards. This will force your students to have a look at vocabulary from their textbooks and notebooks prior to the game.

Now get your students into groups of 3-5. The students, in groups, can sit around a desk where they will be placing the cut out cards face down. The first student turns over a card with a word or expression on it. She must prove knowledge of that word or expression by providing an explanation, definition or a translation. If successfully done, the card stays on the desk face up. Next, she will have to turn over another card and repeat the process. The same thing goes a third time. Only if this student has proved she knows the meaning of those three words or expressions can she keep those cards. Failure to know what’s on a card at any given point will result in that card (and the previous one/s) being turned over again and left on the desk for other players to choose.

I like this personal variation of the game for two main reasons. For starters, it provides plenty of repetition, which, as we all know, is essential to consolidation. Secondly, it gives plenty of help and chances to students who may need this. A highly competent student may know or remember the meaning of a given card but may fail to come up with a valid explanation or translation on the second or third round. This gives the rest of students plenty of chances as long as they remember the position of the cards.

And let’s not forget, the students are creating their own teaching and learning materials and they are doing serious work while it’s zero prep for the teacher. Having said so, you should be circulating and helping out when students need clarification or confirmation in their explanations, definitions or translations.

It’s up to you how long you want the students to be engaged in it. You may set a time limit and whoever has collected the highest number of cards will be the winner. You may let them play another game by switching sets of cards with other groups. Five to eight minutes for the first stage when students are generating the cards and another fifteen minutes of playing time seems adequate to me.

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