In my last post 3 Memory Activities for Your One-on-One Class, I shared some challengingly fun and engaging activities you can use for your one-on-one students. Here I’m going to talk about three memory activities for your group classes, whether your classes are in person or online.
By “group class”, I mean four or more students. If your class is smaller than that, you might find it difficult to conduct the following activities and you’d probably be better served by using the suggestions in my previous blog post.
Besides honing your students’ integrated language skills, memory games benefit your students in a way that many other language-learning activities don’t—they improve your students’ attention, concentration, and focus and give them space for critical thinking. In addition, memory games develop your students’ attention to detail in language.
If that isn’t enough reason to incorporate memory games into your lessons, consider the fact that memory games, put simply, are fun and enjoyable. I’m sure you’ve played a memory game or two just for fun with friends and family. The same exact thing can be done with your students.
Now, with all that information out of the way, let’s get started!
Although this activity requires a good deal of preparation on the part of the teacher, it’s extraordinarily worthwhile. Prepare a story; you can either create it yourself or pick a story. Either way, the story needs to have a logical sequence of events. Create strips of paper with each paper containing one sentence from the story. The number of sentences/strips of paper depends on the number of students. Two strips for each student would be ideal, so if you have a class of six, twelve total strips would be perfect.
Randomly distribute the pieces of paper. Alternatively, for the more kinesthetically inclined students (and even for the non-kinesthetically inclined!), you can quickly hide the strips of paper in random places around the classroom while the students are waiting outside. Once the papers have been distributed, give the students two to five minutes (depending on their levels) to quietly memorize their sentences word for word.
Now, collect their papers, ask them to sit in a neat circle (no mobile phones, notebooks, or pens/pencils allowed) and challenge them to work as a team to put the story together. Without writing anything down, they have to listen to each other deliver their sentences, memorize all of them as they’re being recited, and put them in logical order.
The first minute might go something like this:
Student A: “She was very upset when she heard the news.” That’s my first sentence. My second sentence is this: “Her friends gave her very useful advice.”
Student B: My first sentence: “Her brother called her to deliver some news.” My second sentence: “After her friends gave her advice, she felt much better.”
Student C: Here’s my first sentence: “Once upon a time, there was a young girl.” (Students usually laugh when the story’s first sentence is recited in the middle!)
My second sentence: “Now that she felt better, she thanked her friends for their thoughtful advice.”
When your students have successfully put the story together, you can ask a volunteer to write the whole story on the board while the rest of the class dictates the sentences. You can even turn this activity into a role play or dramatization to inject even more fun–and learning–into it.
Possible Language Focus: Linking Language, Verb Tenses, Listening Skills
2. Term and Definition Matching
Prepare a list of words, expressions, and phrases (preferably expressions and phrases since they’re usually longer and, thus, more challenging to memorize than words) and their definitions and put them on strips of paper with the terms separated from their definitions. Again, the number of terms should depend on the number of students and their levels.
Divide the class into two groups: the “terms” group and the “definitions” group. Give each “terms” student their terms and each “definitions” student their definitions. They should be given one to two minutes to memorize their terms/definitions verbatim.
Afterwards, collect the students’ papers and have them stand up and interact with the students from the other group. When the students think they’ve matched all the terms and definitions, have a plenary discussion with them, eliciting the correct definition for each term and putting the terms to practice (e.g., in a role play).
Possible Language Focus: Vocabulary Acquisition, Listening Skills
3. Discussion Questions
If class discussions seem boring and mundane at times, here’s a definite way to make them livelier and more energetic. Instead of making your students read a list of discussion questions, why not have them memorize the questions?
Give the students pieces of paper with each one containing a question (open-ended questions are usually much better than close-ended ones in class discussions). You can give advanced students as many as three questions to memorize and lower-level students maybe one or two.
While the students are memorizing their questions, help them with features of pronunciation such as intonation (e.g., falling intonation for open-ended questions and rising intonation for close-ended questions), stress, and rhythm.
Now it’s time to see the students in action! Have them stand up, interact with each other, and change discussion partners at the same time every few minutes. You can circulate the classroom, ensuring the conversations are active by, for example, asking students follow-up questions of your own and reacting to their answers.
Possible Language Focus: Intonation, Listening Skills
If you’re teaching classes online and are wondering how you can use these activities when using an online platform, the answer is that it’s super easy and feasible. If you, say, want to conduct the storytelling activity, instead of giving your students paper, you can privately message them (video communication apps like Zoom have chat boxes through which you can message your students privately). Thankfully, most activities that are done in physical classes can certainly be done online—that is, with a little planning and creativity—and memory games are no exception. Have a great teaching week!