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Memory Challenge

Target: Vocabulary, Phonics, Writing words
Age: Elementary Age & Up
Duration: 5-10 minutes
Class Size: Any
Energy Level: Moderate
Type: Memory Activity
Equipment: Otional (see below)

I first came across this idea at a presentation by Penny Ur. She has written various books including Grammar Practise Activities (Cambridge University Press, 1988).

In the presentation she suggested that the traditional word game Hangman is inefficient for language practise. Most of the time players are simply guessing letters and for the time it takes a relatively few number of words can be covered. Instead she suggested a variant of Kim's Game.

In Kim's Game players are shown a collection of objects for twenty seconds or so and then one object or some objects are secretly moved, removed or replaced. Players are then challenged to find the differences.

Penny Ur's idea was to put up a number of words on the board, show them for twenty seconds and then cover the words (or erase them). Players have one minute to individually write down as many words as they can remember. After this players pair up and swap words. Pairs can also check each other's spelling.

In the competitive version players can see which pair has got the most words. I prefer the non-competitive version. Here the doubling up process continues. pairs double up to make fours and so on until the whole group has got together and shared all the words. Each student ends up with the same list and then the whole group can see the original set again and discover how many words they missed.

It is worth considering what words to use and how to present them. Words could chosen for review or they could be pre-selected from an unread text. New words will be more difficult to write down than old words. Words presented in a list will be easier to cope with than words written at random across the board, especially if the list is alphabetical.

For children I made the presentation more theatrical by using a Memory Challenge Cabinet. I took a clear B4 plastic wallet (available from stationery stores) and made a set of double doors to cover it. I then made some memory challenge sheets. When the cabinet doors are open the words are revealed. The words are, of course hidden when the doors are closed.

With children I also experimented by using pictures rather than words. My intention was to have the children write the words. I think this is more difficult than actually seeing the word. I found that some children would try drawing pictures rather than writing the words for the pictures. Accordingly it's important that the difference between 'write' and 'draw' is clearly established in the children's minds.

I also experimented with writing down single letters for phonics practise. I don't recommend this. There are other ways to practise individual letters. I think it better to save this game structure for when children can cope with writing whole words.

You can download a PDF file which contains the doors to the cabinet and some Memory Challenge Sheets to use. It also includes a blank template which you can photocopy and make your own sheets. The page size is B4 so you may need to adjust your printer settings to print it out.

The Memory Challenge sheets are as follows:

1. Three letter words (includes every letter except q), picture only
2. The same three letter words, picture and text
3. The same three letter words, text only
4. Farm animals, text only
5. Sea animals text only
6. Blank template for making your own sheets

getfile:Memory Challenge Cabinet

PDF FileB4, pages, 1.05 MB

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