Memory Game: All Grown Up

As a kid, I loved to play cards. I have many fond memories sitting around the kitchen table with my grandparents, playing Go Fish, Rummy, and Cribbage. Once I got to college, my game of choice became Euchre. As a mom, I have gotten to revisit many card games, including the first one I remember ever playing which was the memory game.

On a recent trip to Target, my kids began squealing when they saw small figurines that go with a Basher Science card game. Longtime fans of all things Basher, they were very excited to see figures of the characters in the books they love so much. I was immediately attracted to the card game and told the kids that I was buying the chemistry version for my classroom. Of course, they each picked out a figurine too.

The cards feature the delightfully drawn Basher characters that represent science concepts, like catalyst or element or reaction. Each card also has a sentence about the science concept. It might be a definition or similar information. For example, one of the element cards says “all matter is made of me” and the other element card says “there are 118 variations of me.” 

The card game has two variations. There is a battle game where two opponents flip over cards and determine the winner based on the point value on the card and the power listed on the card (think “War” meets a strategy card game like “Magic”). We played that one and I thought it was ok, but I liked the second version, a variation on Memory, much better.

In this grown-up version of Memory, the cards are placed upside down. On your turn, you flip over two cards but do not reveal them to your opponents. Instead, you read aloud the informational sentence on the card. If you find a match, you keep it. If you don’t, you replace them, but your opponent has to think about what the card might have been based on what you read. This is harder than regular Memory because you have to pay attention to where the cards are on the board, but you also have to think constantly about the vocabulary words on each card. This would be a great activity for a center or station rotation and would give kids great vocabulary practice.

My son and I enjoyed playing the game so much that I created a polygon version for my daughter. Her fifth grade class is working on quadrilaterals right now and we have done a lot of dining room table talk about when is a rhombus a square and when is a quadrilateral a parallelogram. There are so many vocabulary terms that it seemed like an excellent occasion to introduce the game. I created a Google document of the cards if you’d like to take a closer look or even try it out.

When we played, my daughter found it to be pretty challenging (but she DID beat me!). She asked if I would draw all the shapes and label them so it would be easier to think about what the definitions told her about the shapes. My son also thought it was challenging but fun. I like the gaming aspect of learning vocabulary this way. With the game, the definition, the picture, and thinking and talking about the words, using it will hit at least 4 of the 6 Marzano vocabulary strategies.

I am going to keep buying booster packs to add to my Basher card game. I will use that one in my classroom for sure. In the meantime, I am also going to work on a chemistry vocabulary game that has one card with its chemistry definition (a tier 3 vocabulary word) and one card with its traditional definition (a tier 2 vocabulary word). For example, there might be Compound with a definition of “a pure substance made by at least two elements chemically combined” and a second definition of “made up or consisting of several parts.” This will help students learn chemistry vocabulary but also help them apply that knowledge to words used in similar ways outside of chemistry. When I finish that set, I will write about it and make it available here. Stay tuned!

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