Book Reviews

to appear in "IATEFL"
by: Simon Mumford

 Index Card Games for ESL
Ed. Raymond C. Clark
1998 © Pro Lingua Associates
text - $14.00
ISBN: 0-86647-052-2

This is a short, practical book that aims to enable teachers to let their students have enjoyable language practice by playing games with cards that are prepared by the teachers themselves. There are not many games described in this book: only six, but as the author says, this is only a starting point, and the idea is to encourage teachers to make up their own games. While it does not say how to do this, it is not difficult for the experienced teacher to see how this could be done.

The idea behind this book is that teachers gets some blank cards, of the type for making indexes of addresses and book catalogues. They write words or sentences on these, according to the type of game being played and the language they want students to practice. The first game described here is 'Matched Pairs' or 'Pelmanism'. This book shows the many ways this game can be used to practice synonyms, antonyms, matching halves of proverbs, matching vocabulary like clothing to pictures, prefixes and idioms. In fact one of the best things about this book is the extensive list of examples, which will be appreciated by teachers who have spent hours racking their brains for such ideas.

The other activities involve sorting cards out into groups according to the sounds in the words (Sound and Spell), putting word cards in order to make sentences(Scrambled Sentences), guessing words in certain categories, such as 'Things that are large 'and 'Things that are typically American.'(Categories.) 'Cocktail Party' is a game of role cards where students talk to each other to find out who they are at a party with, and the cards have been carefully designed so that all the characters are related, in one set of cards, or have known each other in the past, in another set. The final game is 'Who's who?' a well-known variation 20 questions where one person takes a card with a famous person's name on it and the class or a team have to try to guess the person by asking yes /no questions. An extensive list in various categories follows, but this would have to be adapted, as I had not heard of some of these people and I am sure my students could not have done.

All activities are clearly explained, with detailed instructions on how to set the games up, the level of student each game is suitable for, and guidance on how to vary the level of difficulty and competitiveness of each game. One thing that worries me slightly is the number of cards needed for some of these activities, for 'Sound and Spell' 30 cards are recommended for groups of 5 students, in a class of 30 that would be 180 cards. There is very little photo-copiable material here, the cards must be written by hand. However as it says in the introduction, once made the cards can be used again and again, so the initial investment of time is really worth it.

This book does what it sets out to do; it provides students with a chance to have a bit of fun, and the activities are straight forward, both simple to use and understand, which is a large part of its appeal. I feel that inexperienced teachers will appreciate the book for that reason, while more experienced teachers might want to look for different ways to use the cards.

Simon Mumford
Mr. Mumford has been a language teacher for ten years and is currently teaching at the Aegean University in Izmir, Turkey.


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