display | more...

The Original Game

Karuta is an age old, Japanese nursery school game that can easily be adapted to older age groups as well as adults. Elementary school kids will literarily throw themselves against walls with joy when they hear that they are about to play a round of karuta. Adults enjoy having a bit of childish fun when enduring the stress of learning a foreign language and even teenage students sometimes forget how cool they are and get into it.

In pure form, karuta is played with Japanese children when they are learning hiragana or katakana. Students sit in groups of three to six. Each group is given a set of cards, each one with a different letter of the syllabary. The teacher calls out a letter and the students grab the corresponding card. The first one to find it, keeps the card. When all the letters have been called, each student counts how many they have, and the student with the most cards is the winner. I recently played this game with a class of grade ones and I have never witnessed such fierce competition among children, all in good fun of course.

English Language Variations

The simplest variation of this game into English is to use alphabet cards. This game is da bomb with students learning the alphabet in elementary school. You can play a game with lower case letters and follow it up in subsequent lessons with upper case letters. It is important that your letters be on laminated cards, for in the excitement of the race, kids tend to fight over letters and anything not properly protected will be destroyed. To make the game more difficult for higher level and older students read out a word instead of calling out individual letters. Students have to listen carefully for the first letter of the word and then find it. For even more advanced students and adult classes, you can read entire sentences.

Advanced Variations

For students who already know the alphabet quite well, a round of karuta is going to be insultingly easy, but the concept can still be used to test listening and reading skills. Instead of handing out alphabet cards, hand out cards with new vocabulary. You can either read the words individually or in sentences. Karuta is a great way to test verb tense comprehension. Make a series of cards with verbs that the students are familiar with in their dictionary forms. Rather then reading out the verb as it appears on the card, read it out in its past tense or its participle form. This way, students have to think fast to make the connection between the two. Again, for more advanced students, you can read sentences with the verbs in them.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.