Memory (Modified)

The purpose of this activity is to provide a level of “desirable difficulty” by adding a memory component to an interpretive listening/reading task. Students work in small groups with a set of cards placed face-down on their desk or on the floor. The teacher displays the text showing the correct order.  Students read the order and turn over the correct cards in the correct order.  If a student turns over an incorrect card, all cards must be returned to their original face-down position, and it is the next student’s turn. The activity engages all members of the group because they need to pay attention to the cards turned over during previous turns so that they do not mistakenly turn over the wrong card and end their turn. As an additional element of challenge, a "wind" card may be added to the images. If the "wind" card is turned over, all of the cards must be flipped face-down and shuffled, and the group must start over from the beginning. This activity works well for literacy development, matching oral/aural language to written forms, especially in non-alphabetic languages.


  1. The teacher divides the class into groups of 3-5.

  2. Each group stands around a desk or table, or finds a place to sit in a circle on the floor.

  3. The teacher gives each group a set of cards.

  4. The students spread the cards out, face down on a flat surface.

  5. The teacher shows the list of words, sentences or images in the correct sequence.

  6. Once the teacher says go, one person in each group starts the game by reading the first item in the assigned sequence and turning over a card.

  7. The first person continues their turn by turning over additional correct cards until they either (a) complete the whole sequence in the correct order; (b) turn over an incorrect card, in which case all cards remain in their current position but are flipped back over to be face-down; or (c) turn over the wind card, in which case all cards are flipped face-down and shuffled, and the game starts over.

  8. Once the previous student’s turn has ended, the next student takes their turn.

  9. The game continues until the group successfully turns over each card in the correct sequence or time is called by the teacher.

  10. Any group that finishes early should proceed to the next assigned sequence as described in the Tips section below.

  11. The teacher instructs students to store their cards in a sealable bag or envelope or with a clip and return them to the teacher before returning to their seats.

Helpful Tips

  1. Though most often used as an interpretive reading activity, this could be modified to be interpretive listening also. The teacher would a pre-record and give students access to an audio file to play repeatedly in their small groups as necessary at their own individual group’s pace.

  2. The cards can be printed with (a) images, (b) words/phrases or (c) sentences. Depending on what is printed on the cards, the sequences would be the opposite (i.e. if there is text on the cards, the sequences assigned by the teacher would be in images, so the students must interpret meaning while reading the cards. If there are images on the cards, the sequences presented would be text, either words, phrases, or sentences. Sample sequences can be found in the images below.

  3. This could be modified to be a whole-class activity or a You Do activity if each student had a set of cards to work with.

  4. If printing cards on regular printer paper, it is advised that the teacher print the cards two-sided with a pattern on the back. This will make it impossible for students to see through the thin white paper and cheat by seeing the cards’ contents even when the cards are face down.

  5. The wind card that is described in the Overview section can be excluded, if desired. The image on this card can also be modified to be more culturally appropriate for the target culture with the card showing some other kind of strong "force" that would cause the cards to shuffle.

  6. It is ideal to present students with multiple assigned sequences, so that if one or more of the groups finishes early, they have another sequence to try. These sequences could be the same difficulty level or could increase in difficulty level.


  1. The teacher could assign different sequences to different groups, if grouping is intentionally done based on different proficiency levels with one group having short phrases and images, with another group having sentences and images instead.

  2. Higher level students might also be asked to work to create a sequence with sentences for their classmates prior to doing this activity.

  3. This activity could be expanded to include a requirement for language production. Each time a student turns over a card correctly, they could either (a) ask a question of a group-mate and wait for an answer or (b) make a statement to the group about the item depicted on the card before continuing their turn.


  1. One set of cards per group (see image below and tips section for more information)

  2. An assigned sequence for the cards to be flipped over in, displayed either on paper distributed to each group or on a PPT slide

  3. Bag/envelope or paper clip to store cards

Sample Materials