Fun speaking skills game for vocabulary and grammar

photo of memory game cards
24 Nov Shelley Vernon No Comments

This speaking game is called "Find the Pairs Memory Game". It's also known as Pelmanism, Match Match, Match Up, Memory, Shinkei-suijaku and Pexeso. Use this in small groups or for one to one, to teach your pupil vocabulary and sentences. It's a classic game and I used to love it as a kid with lovely animal pictures. I still love it today, so you could use it with adult learners too.


You need lots of pictures for this game. If you have plenty of time, you can have fun drawing these with your child or cut pictures out of magazines. You can also buy sets in toy stores. I have hundreds of flashcards for sale, in A4 and including a small size, which is easy to print and just what you need for this game. Here are examples from my transport collection:

esl flashcards for transport

Either way, you need two sets of identical pictures. Or if pictures are not identical then you still need PAIRS. So you need two lions, even if they are not the same, or two spoons, or two pictures of shirts, and so on.

How to play

Spread the cards out in a grid and take it in turns to turn over two cards, trying to remember where they are in the grid. (Some people play with the cards spread randomly, but that is harder.) The idea is to turn up a pair, and the player who does that keeps the pair and takes another turn. If you find you are much better at this game than your pupil, then make a rule where when you turn up a pair, you keep it, but do not get another turn. That makes it harder for you to win.

Language ideas for this game

When turning over the cards, players name the vocabulary on the picture. That's the simplest method and is best for when you are drilling newly learned vocabulary. You might also do singular and plural, for example, one horse, two horses. However, a good way to use this game is to drill short phrases or sentences that contain specific grammar. In that case, you use vocabulary that you already know and combine that with a new phrase or grammatical structure.

teaching tip lightbulb idea

  • Don't make the sentences long or the game will be laborious.
  • Insist on absolute accuracy. This is a drill-game, not a general conversation. Accuracy is most important so that the pupil learns the correct structure and becomes fluent using it.
  • If it becomes too easy for your pupil, change to a different sentence mid-game.
  • If you use my small-sized flashcards (or prepare your own) you need to print them on 220-gram card. Either that or stick them on card before cutting up the A4 sheet or you will be able to make out the pictures, even when face down.


In the demo, starting at 1 minute 40 seconds in, on you will see Julie and I drilling word order for adjectives: "a big brown lion, two orange tigers".


One could use those same animal pictures for any verb tense and a whole host of phrases or sentences. For example: "At the zoo, I saw (turn over the first picture) a tiger and (turn over the second picture)...a bear." "Tomorrow we will see a tiger and a bear". Or, for a more advanced student, "If I could see any animal in the world right now, then I'd like to see a...tiger and a...bear".


Basically, it's up to you what language you use with this game. Your imagination is the limit! If you need help, please ask me in the comments below, and I'll be glad to come up with something for you.

Use it for spelling

Of course one can play this with words instead of pictures, and that is good for spelling. A nice idea is to combine the picture of a lion with the written word and that makes a pair. You have to write the words out on card the same size as the pictures or it'll be too easy!

One to one games book for more games like this

So do watch this game on the demo if you have not already seen it and think about getting the whole book of 140 games because you can see two whole hours of lessons demonstrated and really see how to teach English through games.


Teach Your Child English book coverDon't wait any longer - get going right away with the full downloadable resource. Also in paperback on this link. Your child is getting older by the week so get started now!!


Enjoy the game!


All the best

Shelley Ann Vernon



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