This game is similar to “karuta” (an educational way of using cards popular in Japan). In this game, spread numbered AGO cards (i.e. the phonics cards) face up on a table.
One player takes the role of leader. They select a card on the table, and read it out, line by line (or even slowly selecting words to read one by one, in any order). The do not touch the card, or indicate its location. The other players then race to locate this card. The first player to touch it, wins the card, adding it to their score pile.
Players only get one chance to guess the card. The first player to guess right takes the role of leader, calling out the next card. If all players guess wrong (which shouldn’t really happen), the leader wins the card and gets to call another. Most cards at the end, wins.
(Thanks to Chris Sharp for his suggestions regarding this game)
This game is easier and simpler than Last Card, but retains much of the excitement, and has the advantage of the game length being predictable. Thus these rules are better for younger / new players, as there are fewer rules and players don’t have to hold cards in their hand. On the other hand, there is no underlying strategy kids can learn – it all comes down to luck! Though most often played with Phonics cards, it can be played with AGO Q&A cards as well.
Setup: To set up, place a large selection of cards face down on the table, and mix them up.
Play: Players take turns picking up cards, starting clockwise and follow the card’s instruction (in Q&A this means asking the next player a question, in Phonics, players read the card they turn over). The objective is to score as many points as possible, and cards are worth their point value (i.e. a 7 card is worth 7 points). If a player gets a pick up 3 card, they pick up three more cards (adding all these points to their score); The Jump a Player card causes the next player up to miss their turn, and scores 5 points; the Change the direction card also scores 5 points, and changes the direction of play; a Change color card scores ten points, then the player draws again.
Finish: Players keep all cards that they draw in their own pile. At the end, there is a chance to practice simple math and counting as points are tallied. Alternatively, you can play “most cards wins”, which simplifies the tallying process. Most points at the end wins.
Over four decks, AGO Phonics cards introduce over 140 different English phoneme patterns and over 400 (mostly) useful picture words.
AGO Phonics cards work best as part of a broader phonics and reading strategy. I.e. alongside phonics songs (early on), phonics readers, workbooks and other reading and writing exercises.
In other words, the AGO Phonics system is best used as a stepping stone on the way towards literacy. When done right, it can help kids progress faster, and offers another learning angle that appeals to a certain set of students, including those resistant to other learning methods, or those that have become disheartened with learning to read.
Broadly speaking, the learning goal with AGO Phonics is to help students quickly develop an understanding of the target sounds and letter patterns used in English, learn some useful vocabulary (including recognition of its the ‘shape’ of words, and have fun along the way!
With this in mind, we advise aiming to move students through the AGO Phonics levels quite quickly, before leaving it behind and moving onto bigger and better things – such as graded readers, or AGO QnA.
There is no strict need to use AGO Phonics in sync with students’ course books. A lot of teachers have found that if students get exposure to more advanced phonics concepts through AGO Phonics early on, it can make it easier for students to grasp the target when they encounter it at a later date in the classroom. Besides that, probably half of the benefit of the AGO Phonics games (in an EFL / ESL context at least) is vocab acquisition. I.e. in order to say the words on a card and take your turn, you have to be able to recognize them one way or the other (i.e. either through decoding or recognizing the pictures).
Target vocabulary selection is generally based on word frequency / usefulness, and how clearly the can be illustrated. I.e. these words are very useful ones for English language learners to know, and even if all an EFL student got out of playing an AGO phonics level several times was the ability to recognize all 108 words, that in itself would be a win. Native English speakers playing AGO Phonics at emergent reader level on the other hand will likely already know all the words, so although they won’t get that benefit, they have more mental energy to dedicate to assimilating and understanding the phoneme patterns, and generally will work through the levels much more quickly.
Whilst AGO Last Card (or other ways to use AGO cards) are not really meant to be overly competitive, it can be more enjoyable when players know what they’re doing strategy-wise. So, for those of you looking to get an edge (or perhaps even the field against some players that have already figured the strategy out), here are a list of strategy tips to consider. You can even create a mini-lesson out of teaching the strategies.
The most important and useful tip that is to hold back from playing ‘double’, ‘triple’ or ‘quadruple’ cards of the same rank whenever possible, as these have strategic value at the end of the game – particularly when played as ‘Last cards’.
E.g. if a player calls ‘Last cards’ when they have three cards of the same rank in their hand, they have a 75% of having a matching color. This is slightly counter-intuitive – especially to children – who will almost always play any double or triple cards from their hand as soon as possible in order to ‘take a lead’ in the game.
Other strategy notes:
A pick up card also has defensive value – it can be used to deflect a pick up card played at you onto the next player – so there is value in holding onto these cards for use late in the game.
Picking up lots of card has benefits, too: Especially early in the game, picking up cards can lead to acquiring doubles or triples of the same rank – so can be helpful in terms of forming a finishing strategy.
Try to maintain cards of all colors in your hand for as long as possible. If you have a few play options in your hand, try to play a single card of your strongest suit.
If playing multiple cards of the same rank, ensure that the final card played is the most useful to you color-wise.
Double or triple jump cards can be very valuable late in the game. (E.g. in a four player game, a player could play 3 jump cards together, after which play jumps back to them, and they have an opportunity to play again, perhaps play their ‘last cards’.
Teaching advanced students these strategy tips can also make for an interesting side-component of a lesson, and lead to more interesting games, but once again remember of course that the focus should be mostly about having fun and getting in quality practice!
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:
AGO TO START A LESSON: 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!
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!