Updated: Jul 18
When asked, most people remember playing memory/concentration game, where cards are arranged in an array, face down. When it's your turn, you turn over a card and try to remember if you have seen the matching card and where it was located. If the cards match – even a lucky match – you get to try and match again! In the beginning, everyone is really focused to remember pairs to try to win. The point is to win right?
What might start to happen? Every time it is almost your turn AND you know where a match is, someone else matches it. After a short time, players may begin to realise, “There is someone better than me. I don’t think I can win no matter how hard I try.”
What happens then? Players start to give up, pull back and shrink attention away from the game. They shift from “I want to win”, to the realization, “I won't win. So I will give up now.”
Observing these movements of disengagement while watching children, we decided to change the rules. Everything we noticed in children and ourselves, we wanted to change. Shift from competition and giving up, to cooperation and support to play in the best possible way throughout the entire game.
With these new rules - the magic started to happen. Kids were supporting each other to match the pairs, giving and receiving help, focusing on the game without shrinking away, developing comradery and having lots of fun. And guess what else? Memory actually began to improve as focus increased and players developed strategies to remember the placement of cards. Soon children realized the success of the game depended on the focused attention of everyone playing. So everyone began to concentrate on the cards for the entire time of play.
Another shift from the old rules – cards start face up. It may seem like cheating yet it actually engages memory right from the beginning. Seeing where all the cards are located invites players to find strategies to remember the location of the matching cards. Too much to remember? When the “active” player cannot remember where the pair is, they ask for help. Remember it is a team game, so everyone supports each other. Quickly everyone realized they did not need to rely on their memory alone. And began to ask for help and get support from everyone. Isn’t this a good lesson to learn in life? Ask for help when I need it!
What else happened? Instead of disengaging, giving up and zoning out, people zoomed in with their attention. Everyone was focused and working together. A camaraderie developed as interest in the outcome built. The goal was to match the pairs with a high count. The count being, number of consecutive pairings. However, as soon as two cards didn't match the count started at zero again. Then everyone slowed down and was motivated to look to see and remember pairs, and ask for help when needed.
Old way of playing - two cards don't match- player turns them over quickly. Strategy – “I saw the cards and don’t want the other players to see them. This will give me an advantage.” Why? “I want to win the game, of course!” New way of playing – mismatched cards become an opportunity to slow down and focus. The team wants to remember these cards for later pairing.
What can you witness? Harmonious team play that concurrently builds many abilities- visual discernment, attention, memory, perseverance, motivation – while having heaps of fun.
Offer your students this chance to learn and play today! Or better yet, play with them.
Watch the accompanying video here.