Top Tips For Better Educational Results With AGO Cards

  • Aim to play using only English* !  An easy way to implement this is by adding a ‘pick up penalty’ for non English chatter. It can work like magic when done right, and can lead to tears if done wrong! You don’t want to be so strict as to spoil the fun, so maybe give a yellow card warning first up and reinforce this rule over time. Students really enjoy policing it, too once the rule is established! *(or whatever the target language is!)
  • With AGO Phonics, get players to touch the target phoneme on each word (to ensure focus is on the word, not the picture). There is also a “kinesthetic” learning benefit to doing this. Also, players should say the target phoneme last (if they can say the target phoneme correctly in isolation, that is more or less proof that they understand its function (and if they get it wrong, it is easy for the teacher / parent to diagnose and offer corrective feedback). 
  • Customize the decks. Add a few new cards from another level, or remove some easier ones to keep things fresh, and add a learning gap as players make progress.
  • Play a variety of games. Different games have different strengths and weaknesses. For example, “Quiz Show” (for Q&A) doesn’t require students to be able to read (so it is good for introducing new content in a controlled manner), but it is also very teacher centered and individual students don’t get much practice in a large class. “Rock Scissors Paper” is all about speed, so despite its simplicity it is a good activity for developing fluency once students are familiar with the content. In general, teachers and parents are encouraged to get a feeling and understanding for what is happening in the background educationally during a game and make choices based on that.
  • Push ahead! Students can learn the content on AGO games quickly, so don’t hold them back if they are ready to go beyond what’s in the curriculum or lesson plan. Remember, what they encounter in AGO will later be reinforced when it is practiced it other contexts such as text books and lessons later on – and in this case, the fact that the content is already familiar will make it easier to digest. 

General Tips for Using AGO Cards:

  • Start off simple and slow. You don’t have to start off with a complete deck. Aim to gradually increase difficulty and speed over time by adding new cards to the mix, or adjusting how the games are played as players progress.
  • Consider students’ needs interests and abilities when deciding what game play method and level of playing cards to use.
  • Remember – it’s OK if players encounter unknown concepts, vocabulary or grammar. It’s an opportunity to learn, and if a player doesn’t completely understand first time, there will be many further chances to practice a given learning target in future games. (i.e. as decks of cards, AGO content typically repeats itself in random order each time you play, so material gets mixed up and covered many times).
  • Try to reinforce positive behaviours and (lightheartedly) punish negative ones. (such as adding a penalty for non-English chatter – as described in more detail later on). 
  • Timing: Some games take a predictable amount of time (i.e. a game finishes once cards run out). Others continue until someone reaches an objective – and thus will sometimes finish quickly, and other times drag on and on (such as last card). If a game finishes too quickly, try re-dealing the winning player in, or keep them involved through assisting another player, or helping to manage the game. If a game is dragging on… you can call ‘one minute left’, and after this expires, the player closest to finishing (e.g. in the case of Last Card, the player with fewest cards in their hand), wins!
  • The AGO supplementary apps can be used as ‘learning scaffolds’ – adding a voice to unknown words and sentences, or in the case of the Q&A games adding in extra vocabulary and examples.
  • When using the apps in small groups, or with young kids, we recommend using over-ear headphones so that only the player wearing them can hear the prompts (i.e. if a child is having trouble reading a word, they can put headphones on, look the word up, then say it). This takes away kids tendency to just whack a whole bunch of buttons in order to make as much noise as they can! With headphones, the focus also subtly changes – children seem to make more of an effort to answer independent of the app, and can take pride in this.

AGO As A Different Learning Angle:

It takes all types to make a world, and we all have different strengths and weaknesses. In the same vein, people learn in different ways, often based somewhat on what their personal strengths and preferences are.

If you ask someone what their likes are, and what they consider their strengths to be, often there is a lot of overlap.
That is to say: what you like and what you are good at are often pretty much the same thing (and that is not just a coincidence, either). Furthermore it works the other way, too: there is a relationship between what you don’t like and what you consider yourself weak at.

Why is this? What can we take out of this?
In simple terms, when we like or enjoy something, our mind is open to it, we may think about it in our free time, our subconscious will process it and rehearse it, and we will be open to encountering the subject again in the future. The opposite is true for things that we’ve developed a dislike for: we would rather be doing something else, that topic is not interesting, brings stress and so our mind is reluctant to focus upon it or learn about it. 

Bearing the above in mind, It’s not hard to see why people are prone to make more progress when  enjoying themselves, relaxed and interested in something. They are not fighting it, or trying to switch their focus to something more pleasant; their mind is open and curious. That is the frame of mind as a teacher you want your students to be in, and that state of mind is where people can begin to feel “flow” – where time goes really fast, faces light up, learning comes naturally and our performance markedly increases.

AGO games offer a different learning angle to a coursebook, and that can sometimes appeal to a different type of student.

As an example, AGO Phonics has proven itself a useful tool for students in native English speaking countries that have struggled early on with reading and perhaps become disheartened in the process. Almost all students enjoy playing games, so while this type of student may dread reading or writing practice in the traditional sense, they are probably open to the idea of playing a phonics game (so long as you accentuate the game part, and make the goal first of all to have fun). Within this adjusted mindset, students will give more effort, and may surprise even themselves by how quickly they progress, or how much they actually already knew, and a good teacher is able to then use this momentum to steer them back on track! 

Teachers, parents and students alike are encouraged to experiment and foster children’s innate curiosity and affection for playing cards (that young people like colorful playing cards is almost universal!). If you can get your students feeling good and interested in the topic at hand, you are already halfway there!

Multiple Intelligences:
Multiple Intelligences theory is a framework that attempts to capture the different types of learners you’ll find in a classroom. It is useful for teachers to have a basic understanding of the categories of learners, so that they can better reach more of their students. Many ESL or EFL coursebooks incorporate the Multiple Intelligences theory framework to appeal better to different types of learners. 

Image Credit: Thrive Global, 2019.

Broadly speaking, it’s a good idea to mix different elements together to keep lessons fresh, and appealing to different types of learners and doing a variety of activities in classrooms that can appeal to these different types of learners. 

AGO cards weren’t exactly made with Multiple intelligences in mind, but the various card games (and apps) do cover most of the categories at various times, and give different types of learners opportunies to practice in their preferred mode.

Using AGO Cards At School and At Home:

When is the the best time to bring out the AGO cards in class?
While any time is OK, most teachers tend to break out the AGO cards either at the beginning or end of a lesson. Here are a few reasons why:

In an EFL or ESL classroom, starting a lesson with an AGO game, especially when encouraging students to communicate only in English can set the tone for the lesson (i.e. students start the lesson doing something enjoyable, are made conscious of the importance of trying to communicate in English, feel good if they can achieve it, and once the class gets used to this behaviour, it becomes easier(but not necessarily easy!) to maintain ‘English only’ for the entire lesson). The same applies when playing games in other languages, too!

AGO cards (especially QnA cards), are also a great way to introduce or later review grammar and vocabulary. If you are super organized, it can be worth picking out question cards that have relevance to your prepared lesson, but otherwise, just grab a pack that fits your students needs, and start playing!

AGO TO FINISH A LESSON: On the other hand, some teachers prefer to use the promise of a game after completing lesson tasks as a motivator to keep kids on task during a lesson, or as an end of lesson filler. A lot of it comes down to teacher preference and what you find works for you and your students!

AGO AT HOME: At home, AGO offers a realistic and low resistance way to get children practicing reading and language skills. It’s a form of homework that’s willingly done, so long as it’s fun! And teachers, if you can get your students into the habit of playing at home with their parent or siblings… they have a good chance they will do their homework several times over, and start making some rapid progress!

Getting Great Results With AGO Card Games!

As a general rule, the goal when using AGO cards is to maximize BOTH educational value and fun. There is an art to that, no matter what game you play! 

AGO cards are essentially tools for presenting educational targets and information in ways that are motivating and interesting to students. Whoever wins a game is not as important as how engaged students are, and the amount and quality of the practice they get during play. 

Choosing The Right Game:

There are lots of ways to use AGO cards and different methods each have their own strengths, weaknesses and draw focus onto different aspects of the content. Factors such as class size, age, ability, amount of time available, familiarity of target content and the personalities of the players are considerations educators need to bear in mind when setting up to play.

Don’t Make It Too Competitive:

While competitive instincts can be harnessed to create an exciting learning environment, it’s important to first of all ensure everyone has fun. Generally, the younger a child is, the less they can handle losing, so with young students, try to minimise the amount of focus placed on the winning, while offering lots of encouragement for good play and good effort. If you are playing too, it’s generally a good idea to ive your students the satisfaction of beating you, and this can also be used to soften the blow of not winning for other students. 

Using Only The Target Language (when using AGO for language acquisition):

When using AGO cards for language learning, ideally students should only communicate in the target language – in practice, this may just be an aspirational goal at the beginning, but it’s certainly something students should work towards. AGO cards don’t contain translations in other languages on them, but especially with beginners or those learning a new language at home via AGO there may be times when access to a translation would certainly make things easier. In this case, we recommend downloading and printing a translation from the website, or otherwise using one of the AGO apps (which have the advantage of modelling pronunciation as well). From 2021, the QnA apps now also offer translations of each card into a number of  languages within the app.

If you’d like more info or ideas on how to get students communicating only in the target language in game, check this article we wrote about the topic: 

Welcome to the AGO EFL / ESL Card Games Blog!

Welcome to the AGO card games blog!

We intend to use this page to post useful things related to AGO card games here!

AGO cards are designed for language learning and developing reading skills. We started off making games for learning English, but now have games in 5 languages, and over time hope to add many more!

AGO games are pretty easy to use right out of the box, but experienced teachers, parents and students also know that there is a lot more that you can get out of the games with just a few little tips, and by mixing in new things to keep it fresh! We intend to make this blog the best place to find those tips.

And if you have a good idea… or have a question / content request that you think others might also find useful, please let us know, and maybe we can add it here, too!

A common question / request that we often get is for new game ideas, so over the next few weeks we will start posting a bunch of ideas for games and classroom management.

Till then, take care and have fun learning languages and reading!