Three Simple AGO Phonics Game Play Methods: (find the phoneme, rock scissors paper, high card wins!)

AGO Phonics (especially Aqua level 1) works great with children in their first months of learning English, or kindergarten aged native English speaking kids just beginning to learn how to read.

With beginners and younger students, simple games with few rules work best. Kids under 5 don’t usually have the patience or dexterity to play ‘Last Card’ or other games that involve holding cards in a fan.


The following AGO Phonics activities are great for developing letter and sound recognition, and easy for young kids to play!. 

1: Find the phoneme “karuta” game:

(A simple ‘Karuta’ type game with AGO phonics cards).

Setup: 

Place all or a selection of phoneme cards FACE UP on a table (the less cards, the easier). Put all action cards aside.

Play: 

The teacher / parent calls out a phoneme sound several times) – e.g. for the g card: “Gih, gih, gih!”.

Students look around for the card. First to touch it wins it. 

If students get stuck, even after repeating the sound several times, the teacher can call out anchor word examples one at a time (e.g. “gih, gih,  gorilla”)… 

If students still can’t find it… the teacher can pick up the card and read through it with students for practice then return it to the face up pile.

After a card has been won, work with the students to read all the words on the card together and lastly, pronounce the target sound last (e.g. “gum, golf, gorilla, gih”). The winner then keeps the card in a pile. 

Continue in this way for several minutes. It works well to switch from this activity to “Rock Scissors Paper Battle”, or “Numbers Battle” when about half of the cards are still remaining. 

Other Notes: 

In some cases, there may be two cards that make the same sound (e.g. the f card and the ff card). In this case, there are two points up for grabs (and it’s an opportunity to demonstrate that more than one letter combo makes the same sound), or if it goes unnoticed, just call out another letter and continue.

Don’t let kids touch multiple cards (i.e. let it be known they only get one (or perhaps 2) chances at guessing per round, before they’re ‘out’).

You can play this game with the AGO Phonics app – whereby the student that wins a round, gets to (secretly) make the hint sounds using the AGO Phonics app (or put headphones on, to provide assistance as they say the sound and target words).

Note: It can work well to play this game for several minutes, then switch to another game such as “rock scissors paper battle” or “number battle”, with students holding onto the cards they have already won.

2: Rock Scissors Paper Battle:

Setup:

Spread all, or a selection of AGO Phonics cards face down, including action cards. Get students to mix them up. Pair up players (or put in groups of three). This game works with up to eight students.

Play:
Groups each play rock scissors paper. The winner gets to choose a face down card. If it’s a phonic card, they read it, then put it in their score pile. If it’s an action card, the player puts it in their score pile, then picks up another card. 

The process repeats until all cards are picked up or time is called. Most cards at the end, wins!

Notes:This game can require the teacher to actively take steps to make sure students are kept honest and fulfil the reading / interaction component properly. i.e. There is a temptation to cheat by playing rock scissors paper as quickly as possible and skipping the reading part! 

If you are having trouble with cheaters, try this: Catch a pair of guilty students (i.e. those most blatantly  winning through cheating), pause the game, and get all students to watch as you make a point of returning all of the cheaters ill-gotten cards face down to the table again, resetting their score. Students will heed the warning and quickly learn not to do this again!

3: Number Battle (AKA High Card Wins):

Setting up High card wins is as easy as mixing up all the cards on the floor!

This game works best with groups of four or less. (bigger classes can be split into smaller groups).

Setup:
Spread all, or a selection of AGO Phonics cards face down. Get students to mix them up. 

Play:
Each player selects a face down card. If they get an “action card”, they put this in their score pile (earning a bonus point), then select another card. 

Once all students have a numbered card, they all now read out their cards (the 3 words then the phoneme). The student with the highest numbered card wins all the other numbered cards from the round (adding them to their score pile). If it is a tie, tied students turn over new cards (adding action cards to their score pile) until they have a new numbered card. Now the player with the highest number wins all other numbered cards from the round. 

Most cards at the end, wins!

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.

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!