By Kevin Fabris

June 10, 2016

15 - 20 Minutes, Adult, Big Class, EFL, ESL, Fun, Game, High School, Memory Game, Practice It, Small Class, Some Materials Required, Speaking, Use It, Vocabulary, Word Game, Young Learner

Concentration is a classic ESL game. It’s extremely simple and all you need is two identical sets of vocabulary cards.

The goal of this game is to turn over a matching pair of cards in succession while using the lesson’s topic and/or target language.

How To Play Concentration:

  1. Start by picking an age appropriate amount of vocabulary cards.  
  2. Pre-teach your lesson topic / language target.
  3. Divide your class into teams.
  4. Shuffle the deck of vocabulary cards.
  5. Place the cards face down on the table in a grid pattern.
  6. Have the first team turn over one card.  The players must then use the image on the card to make a sentence which combines the language target and lesson topic.
  7. After making a sentence that combines the language target and lesson topic the team must try to make a match by turning over another card from the grid on the table.
  8. If the team is successful they get another chance to make a pair.  I like setting a maximum of 3 pairs per turn just to keep things moving.
  9. If a team finds a pair they remove the two cards from the grid on the table and those cards become “points”.  If not the cards are returned to their original spots in the grid with their faces down.
  10. If the team is unsuccessful at making a match or doesn’t use the required English, then the other team gets a chance to play.
  11. Repeat until all of the cards have been turned over and the table is empty.
  12. The team holding the most pairs wins.


Concentration is an easily adaptable ESL game.  In these examples we’ll demonstrate how to use a set of animal cards play with students of any age.

For very young learners (ages 2-4) we’d suggest playing with 3 pairs of cards.  The target language should be very easy.  
Card 1 – “It’s a peach.”
Card 2 – “It’s a peach.”
As children get older and/or the class size gets larger we like to use a more cards and a more difficult language target.  For students ages 5-10 we suggest playing with between 5 and 10 pairs of cards.  The possible language targets are almost limitless.  I like alternating between positive and negative answers each time one of the cards is revealed.
Card 1 – “A dog has four legs.”
Card 2 – “A dog doesn’t have reading glasses.”  (I like to let the kids get a little crazy when they’re making up their negative sentences.)
Finally, for older students I like to use A LOT of cards.  Between 20 and 30 pairs seems to be an ideal number.  The language targets can get as difficult as you want.  I like to force students to use the word “because” in their answers as a way to practice language expansion.
Card 1 – “I have a book because I’m a student.”
Card 2 – “I don’t have a book because it’s Saturday today.”


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