An ESL Conversation Card Game

Buzzle Staff Mar 19, 2019
Tap to Read ➤
Here's a fun card game that can be employed as a warm-up exercise, a conversation practice activity, or a backup activity in any ESL class. The game can be customized, and once the props have been created, it can be played again and again with no preparation whatsoever!
As a hawk flieth not high with one wing, even so a man reacheth not to excellence with one tongue.
- Roger Ascham
Knowing a second language today is more a necessity than option. And with English being the most widely used language of international business and global communication, the number of people learning English these days is quite impressive.
As with any language, one always begins by comprehending the language, then speaking it, and finally being able to writing in that very language. So, teachers of English as a second language (ESL) are always looking for easy conversation activities.
They are good for such purposes as they provide students with the optimal opportunity to speak as well as enhance their vocabulary and grasp the subtle grammatical nuances of English as a language.
These activities also act as good warm-up games and backup exercises that require little to no preparation.
However, it is essential that these exercises have a clearly defined structure with a clear beginning and end. In order to achieve that, the following card game to initiate and strengthen the speaking skills of a student can be played in class anytime.

The Props

This activity does require a little bit of advance preparation, but once you've readied the props, you can reuse them over and over again with no planning.
The first step is to create a list of 52 questions or topics corresponding to the 52 cards in a standard playing card deck. Your list must have the name of a card written on the left with the corresponding question or speech topic assigned to it on the right.


Ace of Spades: What would you do if you won the lottery?
A card deck has four suits-spades (♠), hearts (♥), diamonds (♦), and clubs (♣). The best way is to enlist the questions in numerical order one suit after the other. As for the content of the questions or topics, the sky is the limit.
This activity can be used as a "getting to know you" activity, as a way to discuss thought-provoking issues.
For example:
❖ Spades could have only conditional questions, such as
→ If you meet your favorite author at the supermarket, what would you do?
→ If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
→ If you had to live without all your favorite things for a week, what all would you have to stay away from?
❖ Hearts could be present perfect questions, such as
→ Have you ever cooked for your friends? Describe the event.
→ Have you ever lied to your parents? Why?
→ Have you ever been to a foreign country? Describe the experience.
❖ Likewise, you can frame "Tell us about..." question-statements for fluency practice to correspond with diamonds. For instance:
→ Tell us about your family.
→ Tell us about a favorite childhood event.
→ Tell us about your house/apartment.
❖ Clubs can be used for philosophical questions, such as
→ Is the act of killing someone suffering from an incurable illness painlessly justifiable?
→ Should the state restrict tobacco advertising?
→ Should rapists be given capital punishment without considering the circumstance?
❖ Jokers can be used to ask any player a question that is not on the printed list.
When you have created the list, print out enough copies for each group in your class to have one. Since this game is flexible, groups can contain 2 to 6 players. The game also works well in one-to-one situations. You can collect the lists from students at the end of class so that you can use them several times over.
You'll also need one deck of playing cards for each group. The game can be played with less than a full deck, but there must always be enough cards for each player to have a minimum of three cards.

The Rules

With the materials at hand, you can play this game anytime, anywhere. The rules are also very simple and take almost no time to understand.
❖ Each player takes three cards from the deck and silently reads the questions corresponding with the chosen cards.
❖ On the arrival of an individual's turn, the player shows one card and answers the corresponding question after the teacher or another group member has read the question out loud. Optionally, other players can check the student's grammar for correctness and fluency. If the grammar is correct, the student keeps the card. Otherwise, the card is discarded.
❖ The player who gets to keep the most number of cards till the end is the winner. For more free form conversation practice, a player can choose to pass cards to another player who must then answer the question. In this version, no scoring takes place.

A note about time

When playing this game, take time into consideration. If you give a group of 2 or 3 players a full deck of cards each, it will take a very long time for them to get through with the entire deck.
To get around this, you can set a time limit on the game, or declare that the game ends after a certain number of cards have been kept or discarded. When played in small groups or one-to-one, the game can just be played until students lose interest.