In her second instalment, Carol Read presents ten more activities suitable to use with any pack of Top Trumps cards. The activities are available to Staff Room members.
11. Alphabetical order
Organization: pairs, groups
Language focus: vocabulary relating to pack of cards chosen, the alphabet, present simple, Put … here! / Where does … go? It goes here / before … / after … / between … and … , … is for …
Materials: any pack of Top Trumps cards (one for each pair or group)
- Revise the letters of the alphabet.
- Divide the class into pairs or groups.
- Explain that you’re going to give each pair or group a pack of Top Trumps cards. The aim of the activity is for children to arrange the cards on their desks in alphabetical order as fast as they can. Depending on the age and level of the children, alphabetical order can either be by initial letter only or by the whole word(s).
- Give a set of cards to each pair or group. Ask them to wait before starting the activity.
- Say Are you ready? Go! Children work with their partner or group and arrange the cards in alphabetical order on their desks as fast as they can, e.g. Where does giraffe go? It goes between giant panda and guinea pig.
If you like, you can turn the activity into a game and the pair or group who arranges the cards correctly the fastest is the winner.
- Check the order with the whole class by getting children to say, e.g. A is for American bison, B is for border collie, C is for camel etc. If there is no word beginning with a particular letter, children say Pass!
- Collect in the sets of cards.
- Go through the alphabet again and see how many of the items children can remember.
- If you like, children can make and illustrate an alphabet frieze to decorate the classroom based on the cards. In this case, you may try and supply words for any missing letters, e.g. Y is for yak.
12. Top Trumps dictation
Language focus: any language and vocabulary relating to the cards chosen; How do you spell …? / Can you speak louder / slower, please? Can you repeat that, please?
Materials: selected Top Trumps cards from the same or different packs (one card for each group)
- Divide the class into groups of 4-6.
- Assign a Top Trumps card to each group. Stick the cards on the classroom walls away from where the groups are sitting.
- Explain that the aim of the activity is for the groups to write the descriptive text (not the statistics) from the Top Trumps card they have been assigned in their notebooks as fast as they can.
- Explain and demonstrate that one child from each group should walk to their card as fast as they can, read and remember one or more sentences and then go back and dictate it / them to the rest of their group. The rest of the group listens, writes the dictated sentence(s) and asks questions as necessary, e.g. How do you spell …? Can you repeat that, please? Can you speak louder / slower?
- Whenever you say Top Trumps! the child who is dictating must immediately sit down and another member of the group takes over.
- While they are dictating, children leave a gap in the text in their notebooks which they can complete later. Once they have finished, ask the groups to take their card off the wall, compare it to what they have written and correct any spelling or other mistakes.
- As a follow-up activity, ask different children in each group to take turns to read their text to the class substituting the name on the card, e.g. zebra, for a phrase which doesn’t give away the identity, e.g. ‘this animal’. The rest of the class listens and guesses what is being described, e.g. Is it a(n) …? Yes, it is. / No, it isn’t.
13. It can’t be true!
Organization: whole class, groups
Language focus: any language and vocabulary relating to the cards chosen; It can’t be true! / Yes, it is! / No, it isn’t. It’s false. You’re right!
Materials: selected Top Trumps cards from the same or different packs (one card for each child)
- Give a Top Trumps card to each child.
- Explain that you want the children to prepare three sentences about the item on the card. Two of the sentences should be true and one should be false.
- Explain that the aim of the game children will play when they have done this is to guess which statement is false.
- Give an example to show what you mean, e.g. I’ve got a card about the giraffe. Giraffes spend 15 months in their mummy’s tummy. Giraffes are almost two metres tall when they are born. Giraffes like to be on their own.
- Explain and demonstrate that children should guess by responding It can’t be true! to the sentence which they think is false (in this example, it’s the third one).
- Ask the children to work individually and write two true sentences and one false sentence based on the information on their card. Give them time to do this and be ready to help and advise as necessary.
- Once children are ready, divide the class into groups of 3-4.
- Children take turns to tell each other their sentences and guess which one is false by saying It can’t be true! At the end, children in each group who have not been challenged on their false sentences are the winners.
- Ask children from each group to take turns to report back on the most interesting or surprising facts they learnt from the statements in the game.
14. Top trumps riddles
Organization: pairs, whole class
Language focus: any language and vocabulary relating to the cards chosen; present or past simple; What is it? I think it’s … / It must be … / No, it isn’t. / Yes, you’re right!
Materials: selected Top Trumps cards from any pack (one or two for each pair)
- Say one or two riddles based on cards from the pack you have chosen to use. Children listen and guess the answers, e.g. It’s brown. It’s got arms and legs. It spends nine months in its mummy’s tummy (the same as you). It weighs less than two kilos at birth. It’s very mischievous. What is it? (a baby gorilla).
- Divide the class into pairs. Give one or two Top Trumps cards to each pair.
- Ask each pair to prepare and write one or two riddles based on the card(s) they have got. If appropriate, you may like to write a skeleton framework for this on the board, e.g. It’s … (colour, size) / It’s got … (physical features) / It spends … in its mummy’s tummy (or egg) / It weighs … at birth / It’s (very) … or It isn’t (very) mischievous / independent / cute.
- When they are ready, ask children to take turns to read their riddles to the class and guess the answers. Alternatively, children can write their riddles on pieces of paper. They then exchange, read and guess the answers to each other’s riddles.
15. Information gap grid
Organization: whole class, groups
Language focus: vocabulary relating to the items and statistical categories on the cards chosen; present or past simple; Wh-questions and answers; comparative and superlative adjectives
Materials: selected Top Trumps cards from any pack (one for each child); a prepared grid for children to complete based on the statistical categories on the cards in the pack chosen; copies of the grid (one for each child) (optional)
- Either draw the grid you have prepared on the board and ask children to copy this or give each child a copy of the grid. For example:
- Divide the class into groups of four.
- Give each child in every group a Top Trumps card.
- Ask children in each group to take turns to say what’s on their card, e.g. I’ve got a rhinoceros and to write the names of the cards for all the children in the group in the first row in the grid.
- Ask children to work individually to complete the column of the grid with information from their card. Ask children to do this ‘secretly’ without other members of the group seeing.
- When they are ready, elicit and practise questions children need to ask to complete the grid for all the cards, e.g. How long does a … spend in its mummy’s tummy? / How much does a … weigh at birth? / What does the … score for independence / mischief / cuteness?
- Explain and demonstrate that children in each group should take turns to ask and answer questions and complete the grid with information from all their cards.
- Ask children to compare the information from the different cards in their completed grids. Be ready to help with this as necessary, e.g. The … spends longer than the … in its mummy’s tummy. / The … weighs more / less than the … / The … scores the most / least for … / The … scores the same as the … for … .
- Children write a paragraph comparing the information from the cards in their grid. If appropriate, you may like to write a skeleton framework on the board as above to support children as they do this.
16. Category bar chart
Organization: pairs, whole class
Language focus: vocabulary relating to items and statistical category chosen on the cards; comparative and superlative adjectives
Materials: selected Top Trumps cards from the same pack (one card for each pair); a prepared bar chart for children to complete based on the statistical category chosen; copies of the bar chart for children to complete (one for each child) (optional)
- Ask children what statistical category on the cards they are interested in comparing, e.g. the independence of baby animals.
- Draw an empty bar chart on the board to reflect this. For example:
- Give a Top Trumps card to each pair.
- Ask the children to find the information for the statistical category chosen for the activity, in this case ‘independence’ on their card, e.g. lion – 7; gorilla – 3.
- Explain and demonstrate how to build up the bar chart with one pair. Get one child to write the name on their card along the bottom axis of the bar chart and the other child should draw a bar to show the score. Be ready to help with this as necessary.
- Ask all the pairs to take turns to come to the board. Build up the whole bar chart in the same way. For example:
- Ask individual children to use the bar chart to make sentences about the cards, e.g. A kangaroo scores eight for independence.
- Make the point that bar charts are a clear, visual way to help us record and compare some types of information.
- Either give a copy of the empty bar chart you have prepared to each child or ask the children to prepare their own and to copy the information you have built up together on the board. If appropriate, children can also draw pictures to illustrate their bar charts.
- Elicit sentences comparing the items in the chart, e.g. A baby kangaroo is more independent than a baby giraffe. / A giant panda is less independent than a llama. / A chick is the most independent. / A gorilla is the least independent.
- Ask children to write five sentences based on the information in the bar chart. If appropriate, provide a skeleton framework as above to help them do this.
17. Personal ranking
Organization: individual, pairs, whole class
Language focus: vocabulary relating to items and a subjective, personal category or categories on the cards; comparative and superlative adjectives; I think … / I like … / My favourite … is …
Materials: 6-8 selected Top Trumps cards from the same pack with the score for the category chosen for the activity deleted (one set of cards for each child)
- Give out a set of cards to each child.
- Elicit or explain that the statistical category you have chosen to focus on in the activity, e.g. ‘cuteness’, is based on personal opinion rather than fact or evidence.
- Explain that children should work individually and rate the items on the cards in terms of ‘cuteness’ according to their own personal opinions. Explain that they should use a scale of 1-5 in which 1 = not cute and 5 = very cute.
- Ask children to note their scores for each item in the space provided on the cards. Make sure they realize there are no right answers.
- Give children sufficient time to decide the scores, but keep up a pace and encourage them not to deliberate over each one for too long.
- When children are ready, divide the class into pairs.
- Explain and demonstrate that children should talk to their partner and compare their scores for each card in order to find out how many they have scored the same, e.g. What have you got for a baby llama? / I’ve got four. / And I’ve got one! / What have you got for a baby border collie? / I’ve got five, / Me too!
- At the end, ask different pairs to report back on the cards they have scored the same, e.g. We’ve both got five for a baby gorilla!
18. Top Trumps bingo
Organization: pairs, whole class
Language focus: vocabulary relating to items on the cards
Materials: any pack of Top Trumps cards (one for each pair and one for you)
- Divide the class into pairs.
- Give a set of Top Trumps cards to each pair.
- Explain that children are going to play ‘bingo’ with the cards.
- Demonstrate that each pair should choose ten cards from their pack and lay them out face up in two rows on their desk. Ask them to put the rest of the cards face down to one side.
- Shuffle your pack of cards. Turn them over one by one and call out the names. Explain and demonstrate that children should turn over their cards when they hear their words.
- The first pair to turn over all their cards call out Bingo!
- Check that the cards the children have turned over correspond to the words on the cards you have called out. If so, these children are the winners of the game.
- Repeat the game, this time asking one of the pairs to come to the front and to take turns to call out the names on the cards instead of you.
19. Circle game
Organization: whole class
Language focus: vocabulary and language relating to items on the cards; I like … Do you like …? / I’m scared of … / Are you scared of …? / I’d like to see / meet … / Would you like to see / meet …?
Materials:selected cards from any pack of Top Trumps cards
- Ask the children to sit or stand in a circle with you.
- Introduce one of the Top Trumps cards by saying to the child on your left, e.g. I like guinea pigs. Do you like guinea pigs? Encourage the child to respond Yes, I door No, I don’t and then turn to the child on their left and say, e.g. I don’t like guinea pigs. Do you like guinea pigs? and so on round the circle.
- When the first card you introduce has got to the second or third child in the circle, introduce another card to the child on your left in the same way e.g. I don’t like camels. Do you like camels?
- Continue introducing the cards you have chosen to use in the activity in the same way. Once the cards have gone all the way round the circle and back to you, collect them in.
- If appropriate, repeat the activity with other cards from the same pack and a different question e.g. Are you scared of …? Yes, I am. / No, I’m not. / Would you like to see a baby …? Yes, I would. / No, I wouldn’t.
20. Alternative categories
Organization: pairs, whole class
Language focus: vocabulary and language relating to items on the cards; names of alternative categories; numbers; We think the … scores … for …
Materials: 6-8 selected cards from any pack of Top Trumps cards (one set for each pair); access to reference books and/or the internet
- Divide the class into pairs.
- Give a set of cards to each pair.
- Ask children to look at the statistical categories on the cards they have got. Be ready to explain or clarify these as necessary.
- Ask children if they can think of any alternative categories that would be interesting to find out about, e.g. for baby animals – length of life, usefulness to human beings, quantity of food, speed of movement. Be ready to help formulating alternative categories as necessary.
- Agree with the class on one or two categories to research and investigate.
- Establish the range of scores for the categories chosen. For example, for ‘length of life’ the range could be from 1 = a very short life to 10 = a very long life. For ‘usefulness to human beings’ the range could be from 1 = not at all useful to 5 = very useful. Remind children that, as with some of the existing statistical scores on the cards, the scores they give will refer to averages or reflect general tendencies.
- Children work with their partner and use reference books and / or the internet to find information about the alternative categories chosen.
- Children use the information to decide on scores for the alternative categories for each card. Ask them to make a note of these in their notebooks. Give children time to do this. Be ready to monitor, help and advise as necessary.
- When the children have finished, ask the pairs to take turns to report back on the scores they have given the items on the cards for each category e.g. We think the elephant scores 10 for length of life. / We think the camel scores 4 for usefulness to human beings. Encourage children to explain or justify their scores, e.g. Some elephants live for 80 years. / Camels are useful for transport in deserts.
- Keep a note of the scores for each card and category on the board as children tell you these.
- At the end, ask children look at the scores they have suggested for all the items and categories and see how much consensus there is. If you like, ask them to agree on a final score for each one.