Customized Apples-to-Apples

Apples-to-Apples is a great game for all ages; easy to learn, adaptable to any language proficiency, and as hilarious as you make it.  It’s all about matching nouns to adjectives.  Sensible matches are typically favorable, but often it’s the ridiculous matches that are the best.  For those of you unfamiliar with the game, check out the rules here.

Take this idea and turn it into a review game for your students.

Create Your Own Cards

All you need to play the game is a bunch of red cards featuring nouns and a bunch of green cards featuring adjectives.  That’s easy enough to do yourself.  And by ‘yourself’ I mean ‘your class’ (you do enough work).

Have your students go through their books and notes and make a list of all the nouns and adjectives they’ve learned so far this year (or last year).  Nouns can be common or proper.  Additionally, you can include other words that they all should know at your own discretion.  I recommend selecting proper nouns that have come up in conversation a few times or that they students encounter regularly.  You may want to use nouns that represent your local area or nouns that are culturally relevant.

Your students should then write out the words on cards you’ve cut out.  Alternately, they can type them up and print them out before you cut the paper into cards.  The official game has a short description for each noun and a few synonyms for each adjective.  You’ll need to decide whether your students should include these to make it easier during gameplay or leave them out to better test your students’ memories.

The standard card size is 2.25″ x 3.50″ (or 56mm x 88mm), but you can choose another size if you prefer (although I recommend keeping the size consistent).  Using red and green paper is suggested (for nouns and adjectives, respectively), but if you don’t have colored paper at your disposal, just a squiggle from a crayon on the back of each card should suffice.  If you have the means, I recommend laminating the cards so they’ll last longer.

Play the Game

You can make a whole bunch of cards at once, and then you’re ready to play the game whenever.  But you can also add more cards each time your students learn new vocabulary (in which case this is more of an ongoing-project, although the marginal effort to continue it is pretty small).  Either way, you’re free to play a short game or a long game whenever you like during class, or let your students play on their own during breaks.

As you play the game, it’s up to you how you help students with words they’ve forgotten.  As adjectives are paired with nouns, students will have a better chance of remembering words later if the pairing is sensible, and an even greater chance if it’s outrageous.  If they laugh, they’ll remember why it’s funny.

By the way, discussion is encouraged in this game.  A player might choose to explain why something is was paired, or convince the judge that it’s a great pair, or convince the judge that it’s a terrible pair.  Getting your students talking in this game is more important that racking up points.

It’s easy for students to forget new vocabulary if they don’t use encounter it after it was initially taught.  But when such words come up again and again over the month or year while playing this game, students’ll be much more likely to remember it by the time the year comes to a close.

Add a Variation

The original game is all about nouns and adjectives, but why not play a game about nouns and verbs?  Choose another color, perhaps blue, and make a bunch of cards for all the verbs your class has learned and often uses.  Again some of these can be relatively serious, while others can be silly, like “forgets homework”.  Up to you.


For the record, Mattel doesn’t pay us to endorse this game.  But since I’m suggesting that you make your own version based off their idea, I should say that it really is a worthy purchase.  I have multiple versions of it.  In fact, I often use their dice version in class.  You can’t go wrong with buying Apples-to-Apples.

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