Homemade Matching Game To Teach A Language

 photo IMG_0762_zpsd47a141c.jpg
I sent my boys to school this year instead of homeschooling them, as I did in past years, since I felt my children weren't learning the local language fast enough, and thought full immersion would help them learn it.
Fortunately, 6.5 year old Lee picked up the local language pretty quickly, and while his speech definitely isn't yet on the level of other kids his age, it is good enough for him to make friends who speak only the local language, and this helps improve his grasp of the language.
Ike, on the other hand, had a much harder time picking up the language. He understands a few phrases here and there, but barely speaks a word- his vocabulary is very limited despite being in a class for an entire school year that only was in the local language. We're reaching out to the proper venues to help him with learning the language (I suspect a learning disability having to do with language, because of other speech pronunciation issues he has, but am waiting for an official evaluation), but in the meantime, I asked a friend who had a kid with a similar issue what type of help she got.

This friend said that, in speech therapy, one of the things done to help her son learn the language was by playing a matching game, in our local language, and that was helpful in increasing his vocabulary.
So, in addition to just working on speaking more of the local language in our house with Ike, I decided to make our own matching game. For free.

This doesn't have to be just an educational tool to learn languages; you can also make your own matching game just for kids to have a good time- most kids enjoy matching games, from what I've seen.

What I did was I took 2 cereal boxes, and opened it up with a pair of scissors, and then cut them each into pieces- two big pieces (front and back) and two narrow sides (the tops and bottoms were discarded). Then, using a paper cutter, I cut the sides into smaller squares (or rectangles) with a paper cutter (scissors work as well)- no need to measure with a ruler- its fine if they aren't all the exact same size/shape.

With markers, I colored two of every picture of items I wanted my son to learn how to say in the local language, like house, car, tree, apple, cup, fork, etc... Of course, my sons saw me and wanted to make some as well, so there are a few... uhm... interesting matches in there.

When we play, any item that we turn over, we say its name in the local language. And practice saying "This isn't the same" or "I got a match" whenever suitable. Because of the nature of the game, the turning over of the same cards again and again until a match is found, there is a lot of repetition of the same words, so it'll help the meaning sink in.

Once I see Ike knows the names of all the pictures in the game, I can easily make more cards with new words. When I have a ton of them, it will be too much to be one game, so I'll divide it by category, such as household items, outdoor items, foods, etc... But for now, it's all together.

My kids and I already have played the game a few times since I made it yesterday, and had fun, and even now, I see that Ike has learned a few words from the game.

Free. Fun. Educational. What's not to like?

What games have you made to play with your kids? Any games to teach something? Those of you who are teaching your kids a second language, what games do you find to be most helpful in that endeavor?

Penniless Parenting

Mommy, wife, writer, baker, chef, crafter, sewer, teacher, babysitter, cleaning lady, penny pincher, frugal gal


Thank you for leaving a comment on your blog. Comments are moderated- please be patient to allow time for them to go through. Opposing opinions are permitted, discussion and disagreements are encouraged, but nasty comments for the sole purpose of being nasty without constructive criticisms will be deleted.
Just a note- I take my privacy seriously, and comments giving away my location or religion are automatically deleted too.

  1. I teach English in a country where it is not the primary language, and use memory cards like these. Some additional ideas: Make a set of cardboard or paperboard balloon-shapes (you can even tie strings on the appropriate end), hide one half of the memory cards under the individual "balloons" on the floor--with one or two cards under each balloon. Then get the kids to find the matching cards by drawing the words from the remaining stack. If you call the words out without showing them the picture, they will have to really think about the words meaning! I usually let them just search till they find the right card for the first couple of rounds, but eventually try to get them to tell me under which color they think the right card is. Then they are practising colors, too!
    Also, we keep our memory cards in "cognitive sets", that is, conceptual groupings. One set is objects from the rooms of the house, one is food, one is animals, etc. etc. Theoretically the brain can better remember grouped information.
    Last, we have a couple of sets where the double is a related word--opposites, or compound words, or superlatives (good, better, best). I am sure there are lots more games to play with memory sets. If you look up ESL resources online, and have time to wade through some of the less applicable stuff, you're sure to find lots of ideas.
    Oh, and in my experience, some bilingual kids take a looong time to start talking, even though they understand most of what they hear. Then, suddenly, they start speaking in complete, correct sentences...

    1. Thank you for these ideas! I greatly appreciate it!

  2. Kidlet is not talking yet (20 months), but he very clearly understands everything we say to him in both languages (English and Dutch), and right now, I'm considering adding a third (Chinese) to the mix. We do one-parent-one-language, but we both read to him in books of whatever language he chooses. I'm sure this doesn't help but, well, what can you do if your toddler wants you to read him a book, right? I also let him watch a little TV--some morning cartoons--while I take care of the dishes and other housekeeping stuff. I know, TV is bad for kids and all that, but it really does seem to help his language acquisition--plus it keeps him out of my hair until I've had my coffee ;-)

  3. No kids, but I'm going to be starting a Spanish class this fall and have been doing some research. My favorite trick is to use different colors for different kinds of things that hard to keep track of when making flashcards. For example, in Spanish, there are two genders, so if you use one color for the feminine words and another for the masculine words (Spanish side only--no hints on the English side), you might be able to remember the gender better. You could also mess with position. For example, you could put all masculine words on the right-hand side of the card and feminine on the other. Spanish also has three verb forms--these could be put in three colors as well.

  4. A game I liked from high school is called dictionary, but it doesn't work until everyone can read.

    Someone finds a word that nobody knows (say, in a dictionary). Then everyone writes a definition on a piece of paper. Whoever found the word puts the real definition; everyone else makes up a definition. Then everyone passes their definitions to the person who found the word and that person shuffles them. I recommend that this person also read all the definitions silently because when you laugh aloud while reading a definition--or have trouble reading it--it's a clue to everyone else that that's not the right definition!

    Then that person reads all the definitions aloud twice - first so that people can hear them all and second so that everyone else can vote on which one they think is the right one. (Label the definitions a, b, and c, so you don't have to write out the whole thing to vote.)

    Then gather the votes. Anyone who guessed the right definition gets a point. Anyone who got a vote for their made-up definition gets a point. If everyone guesses wrong, the person who found the word gets one point for each other person.

    Then pass on the dictionary, and the next person gets to pick a word.

    (There's also a similar game called poetry, where someone finds a stanza in a rhyming poem and says all but the last line. Everyone makes up a last line. Then there's voting.)

  5. Oh, and your son can tape signs all over the house labeling things in the new language.

Previous Post Next Post