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Lessons & Classroom Games for Teachers

Card games for This/That/These/Those and Singular/Plural - ESL lesson
By:Jason D. Renshaw <englishraven2003@yahoo.com.au>

From English Raven's Cardgames collection for Young Learners of English

Teaching the different forms for singular and plural can be a real headache for teachers, especially when teaching learners who are not accustomed to using inflections and articles to indicate number. In combination with the demonstratives this/that and these/those, and the different forms of the verb "to be" required, this is often a very challenging task for young learner students.

For me, the easiest and most enjoyable (and most effective!) way to tackle these areas is through various card games. The cards you can print from the page link at the top of this article are help-cards in that they combine colors and visual hints for students to piece together the right forms, and often have the opportunity to self-correct. These are game cards, not presentation flashcards. They are designed to be used for circular/rotating pass-it games and "flip" memory games. Try some of the games listed below - your kids will love them. You do not need MS word/Adobe reader to print these cards, they are directly printable from the internet. Also read the Guide to Layout for the cards to understand ways you can use them.

The cards have a simple "formula" to their layout which is designed to help steer students toward making correct grammatical use of the vocabulary depicted. The first general rule is that blue equals singular, and red equals plural. The second rule is that any given blue card requires use of the indefinite article "a" as a preceding element to the actual item shown. Similarly, red cards depict a clear "s" after the items to indicate that the plural form requires articulation of "s". There are also card backings available for printing which feature parallel listings of "this that is a" and "these those are s". These are recommended, because in any game where the cards are overturned before viewing, the students are given a direct reminder of how and why they need to employ demonstratives, the verb "to be", article "a" and plural "s" to a huge range of English nouns. Alternatively, singular and plural forms of the one item can be made back-to-back. This is probably more effective for beginning students whose lessons focus is on basic singular vs. plural forms.

This is a simple memory card-game. All the cards are scattered and placed face down on a table, and students in groups of three or four take turns flipping over two cards at a time, trying to match a blue item card with its corresponding red plural form card. For beginners, this can be played in silence, giving them a simple game to play and yet subtly exposing them "visually" to the grammatical difference between singular and plural. As their ability progresses, they can be required to state what is on each of the two cards with grammatical accuracy before they can take them and earn points. This could start with phrases as simple as "a cat - two cats" and move into "It's a cat - they are cats", "This is a cat - these are cats", "That is a cat - those are cats" and/or combined with simple indicative verb phrases like "I have/ I see/ I want/ I like" etc.

This is a circular/chain-rotating game designed to circulate vocabulary quickly and combine it with correct use of this vs. that and these vs. those. Choose either the blue set (for this/that) or red set (for these/those) and distribute the cards to the students. You can have them place the cards face down or up, depending on their level and what you are trying to achieve. Ask everybody to flip their cards over. Starting with the teacher, each person in the circle looks at the card in front of them, points at it and states "this is a..." (blue set) or "these are..." (red set). Then they must point over to the card in front of the next student and say "that is a..." (blue set) or "those are..." (red set). The next student cannot take their turn until the preceding student has correctly indicated and stated what the cards in front of them and next to them are. When the circle has come full-turn, everybody hands their card to the student to the right of them and the cycle begins again. This is beneficial especially for beginning students, because they will have already heard the correct form for the card being handed to them, and should be able to remember the form for the card they just passed on. The game can be made more challenging by having students hide their cards when the preceding student must name the "that/those" item (ie, the card they just passed on), introducing a memory element. This also allows students to correct and help each other. Fluency can be encouraged by timing the whole class for one complete cycle of naming the cards - the objective being to obtain a quicker time the next round. Another way to make the game more challenging is to have the students pass the card along to the person next to the student next to them. This forces students to listen to what other students in the class are saying, not just the person next to them.

This is identical to "a bit of this and a bit of that" above, except that in this game the red and blue cards are mixed together in an alternating pattern of singular and plural. This requires students to name singular or plural forms in front of them in combination with this or these, and then name a singular or plural item next to them in combination with that or those. The great part of this learning process is that the card in front of them will change to a that or those form when they pass it on, and if it was a singular card, the next card they are going to get will be plural. This ensures cycling of various important grammatical forms in combination with regular vocabulary items. It can take some time for the students to get the hang of naming the moving cards correctly, but there is a pattern involved and eventually they will figure it out.

This is a guessing game which combines well with the grammatical forms required. It can be applied in straight up singular-plural combinations of cards, or just singular/ just plural items. Whichever combination of cards you choose, distribute enough cards to the students so that they have three cards each. Instruct them to look at their own cards but conceal them from the other students. Students then take turns trying to guess what other students have. They can choose any other student in the circle and make a guess by asking "I think you have () - Do you have ()?" If the student does not have the named card, they should respond with "Sorry, no I don't have ()" and the turn passes to the next student in the circle. If the questioner does not use the correct grammatical form for the card they are asking for, the teacher should emit a loud "ba-baaa!" before the other student can respond, passing the turn immediately to the next student. If the student correctly asks for an item that the other student has, the other student should state "Yes, I do have ()", at which point they must pass the card over to the student who correctly asked for it. To prevent bouncing back and forth of identical cards with identical requests, once a student has obtained another student's card, they should place it face up on the desk in front of them as a "point card". The point cards also help the other students narrow the range of vocabulary still in other students' hands. Once a student has lost all of their cards, they are finished and out of the cycle. Once all cards have been obtained and turned over as "point cards", the game is over and the winner is determined based on number of point cards.This makes for a sometimes quick game, but it is very useful in terms of using Yes/No question forms and correct pronouns in combination with the singular/plural application.

This can be a difficult game to give instructions for and initially apply, but once students get the swing of it they tend to really enjoy it. It has a "Russian Roulette" feel to it that students find exciting and a little nerve-racking! Ensure you have selected cards that match up in terms of singular and plural. As in "I think"... above, distribute cards to students so that they have three (or four) each. However, place the cards face down on the desk in front of them so they cannot see what the cards are. Students take turns. They simply turn over one of the cards in front of them and state what it is using "I have ()". Do one cycle of this. On the next rotation, repeat the procedure, except this time, once they have turned over and named an item, other students are allowed to state that they have the corresponding singular or plural form in front of them. For example, if John turns over a card and says "I have a pencil", Julie can say "I want that pencil - because - I have these pencils". Then Julie must turn over the card in front of her that she believes is "pencils". If it is not pencils, she must hand the card she flipped over to John, who then places it face down on the desk in front of him. If Julie does name and flip over pencils, then John must hand the "a pencil" card to her - she then turns both "a pencil" and "pencils" face up on the desk in front of her and they are considered to be "point cards" and finished with. Students will often end up with both the singular and plural form in front of them turned face down. They may use their turn to attempt to flip these two cards over in front of them. If they do so, they are considered "point cards" as above. It sounds complicated, but the game works marvellously well once understood. Students really focus on what other children are saying and flipping over elsewhere in the classroom, so it's great for holding their attention!

Download Listing (printable directly from the internet):
Card-backings: http://www.englishraven.com/singpluralcardbacking.html
Set 1 [Classroom Items]: http://www.englishraven.com/thisthatthesethoseset1.html
Set 2 [Farm Animals]: http://www.englishraven.com/thisthatthesethoseset2.html
Set 3 [Zoo Animals]: http://www.englishraven.com/thisthatthesethoseset3.html

NOTE: You may need to adjust your print settings to print out the sheets, especially on the 'width' setting.

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