Matching Exercises: Off the Page

If you’re a kid who can’t sit still, you get into a lot of trouble in elementary school. Kids like that often drop out, or fail to graduate with the classes and grades required for further training. To catch themselves up, they come back to adult literacy, ABE and GED programs, but they are still people who have a hard time sitting still!

Unfortunately for them, and for us who teach them, the cheapest and most readily available material for adult students often requires a lot of sitting still in front of a workbook of some kind or in front of a screen.

However, almost any activity for skills practice can be turned into something that has a physical component, with a little imagination. I’ve written about some examples with human digits and the number line and reading on your feet.

Matching Exercises

Any matching question is ripe for conversion into a physical exercise. Some examples: words to be matched with their definitions; words to be matched with their opposites; equivalent fractions; names of characters in a story to be matched with words that show their relationship to other characters (e.g., “George” to be matched with “Marian’s father”).

It’s easy to do:

  1. Enlarge the items to be matched.
  2. Cut them apart.
  3. Give one item to each student.
  4. Ask students to move around the room, looking for their match.
  5. When all have found a match, ask each pair to read their items to the whole group.

You will have to do a little juggling as you give out the items, to make sure that everyone gets one item that will match up with someone else’s. Always a last-minute decision, depending on how many people are there that day.

Like matching exercises on a page or a screen, if you make a mistake early on, everything gets messed up. So if most people have matched themselves up, but two or more people cannot find a match, that is a sign that some people who are paired up are not correctly matched. Ask everyone who is matched to split up, and start again.

Watch what happens as people look for their match: movement, talking, comparing, asking, explaining. All of the advantages of social learning.  You get to watch where people are sure of themselves, where they are making mistakes, and what their strategies are.

All of this, and no marking!

9 thoughts on “Matching Exercises: Off the Page

  1. Pingback: A Restless Student Settles | Working in Adult Literacy

  2. Pingback: Resistance Live | Working in Adult Literacy

  3. I think a lot of teachers convince themselves it will take more time to do anything that gets everyone up and moving. And it does but for a similar increase in learning. And there’s the rub. If those who are not good at whatever you are matching – say recognizing a complete sentence – do it the-getting-up-and-moving-around way – they have more time to think about the problem, more ability to focus because their bodies are moving and more reason to bother because they are interacting with their peers. And if they are a different type of learner – say kinesthetic – this may be the only way they will learn this stuff.

    Then everyone goes back to their seat – woken up at the least. So maybe the time was worth it?

    How I wish I had had the energy to think each class activity through this thoroughly! Great post.

    • You remind me, Evelyn, to write about resistance. I think teachers think that social and physical learning activities take too much time, but even more, I think we are reluctant, or don’t know how, to deal with the resistance adult students make to activities that ask them to get up and move around. When we don’t deal with the resistance, it can be overwhelming.

      • Sometimes a solid, “Yeah, yeah, quit your complaining and get off your butts,” works. Or, “Hey, if I have to stand up, so do you.” Of course, I work with men in a jail, so I probably have more leeway in some respects. 🙂

        • I see the smiley attached to your reply, so I’m treading a bit cautiously here.
          For sure that teasing tone often comes out between teachers and students who have a good relationship with each other. I’m always cautious about keeping to my rule of “Pass if you want to.”

          • Oh yes, I do try to be careful who gets the “kick in the butt” approach (which is, as you note, followed by a smile. I make a lousy mean person. And of course, I do allow the “pass” for those who want it, or I try to get them some assistance. I don’t want to embarrass or discourage anyone! It’s usually the quiet and/or beginning students who need to know they won’t be embarrassed and can get more help. Tutors are especially useful in these cases.

  4. I am ALWAYS looking for new ways to get students up and moving, especially my afternoon class which has less energy than my morning class. I look online for ideas all the time, but anything you can recommend is highly appreciated! I am going to do the matching game tomorrow.

love to hear your ideas or experiences!

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