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10 Memory Games that Improve Active Memory

    Memory games for the classroom are activities designed to help students improve their active memory.

    It improves their overall memory capacity as well as enhance their ability to recall information for tests and quizzes.

    There are a number of benefits for students when they play memory games.

    They can help can:

    sharpen memory skills

    increase focus and concentration.

    review material.

    increase motivation and fun!

    Action memory

    Let’s start with a fun one. Write the numbers 1 to 9 on the board, with a corresponding action for each number.

    For example:

    1 – left step                        6 – down and up

    2 – right step                    7 – turn left

    3 – turn                             8 – turn right

    4 – left arm                       9 – make a heart

    5 – right arm

    You can use whatever actions you want.

    Start slowly and call the numbers 1… 2… 5 …. 6… 3….

    Go faster, if a student makes a mistake, they sit down. Almost like Simon Says.

    The winner becomes the next one to call out the numbers instead of the teacher

    Now, swap some of the numbers. Once they get used to the swapping – erase the numbers and moves.

    This is a fun memory/TPR game to use in class.

    Total Recall

    Having a good memory isn’t just about how much you can remember, it’s also about improving your ability to recall what you’re trying to remember. And like with any skill, you should practice to improve it.

    Here are a few variations of total recall activities:

    Memorize an Image

    Here is an image with 25 different objects, you can print it out or show it to your learners on a monitor or projector. Let them look at it for 30 seconds, then take it away.

    Let them write down everything they’ve seen. It’s also fun to get the students to work in pairs.

    Memory Maze

    You could also draw a grid of dots on the board. Let your students copy it on a piece of paper, then put down their pencils.

    Draw a path connecting the dots together. They aren’t allowed to copy while you do it.

    Once you give the signal, they have to copy the exact path you traced

    Check if they got it right. Make it progressively harder, and erase after doing it once.

    Students can also play with a partner, where they take turns to draw and copy a path.

    Memory Match/ Pairs

    The purpose of this game is to find a set of cards. Lay them out, students take turns to reveal 2 cards, if they match, the student keeps them. If not, turn them back around. The student who finds the most pairs is the winner. This works better with 2 – 3 students in a group but could also be done with small groups.

    IF you don’t have pairs, use a deck of playing cards. When students find 2 of the same number, they keep the pair.

    Sequence Master

    By practicing the skills of putting things in order improves memory

    Place 5 random items in a sequence. Students try to remember sequence before you cover it up. Now go around class with them naming the sequence.

     If it’s too easy, increase the number of items.

    You can also do it with a deck of cards. See how far they can go without making a mistake.

    Sequencing can also be done with coins – If you have different coins, lay them out, and a student has to reorganize them in the correct sequence.

    Make a wordlist – Keep one as the master file. Get your students to cut out the individual words. Show them the master list for 30 seconds, then they have to rearrange the list in front of them.


    Tell the students a story, they have to retell it in a circle. It challenges them to get the gist, or big picture in stead of focusing on every small detail.

    An example of this is a trip to the market – Write a story about a trip to the market. Include all the food items you bought. Read your story to class and see how many items they remember.

    Students can also sit in a circle, and tell a story, each one adding a sentence, or detail. So the 1st students starts by giving one sentence. The second repeats the first sentence and adds their own, and so on.

    First, you can play it with everyone correcting one other, but the version I like, is where no one is allowed to help, it’s fine if they make small mistakes. See how the story evolves.

    It might be a good idea place a limit on how many times the story is allowed to go around the circle.

    You can also do this with categories. Students go around and repeat “fruit”, adding their own. See how many they can say before making a mistake.

    Eye witness

    Have you ever been an eyewitness to a crime? Is your memory of the crime the same as other people’s recollection? Here is a way to explore eyewitness memory. Plan to have someone (a teacher or a student) come into your class. Let’s call this person, “X”. X should plan on doing several things in class such as:

    Change the time on the clock

    Take a book and put it in a bag

    Erase the chalkboard

    Close a window

    Talk to someone

    Before X comes into the room, have all of the students working or reading at their desks. When X comes into the room, most of the students will be curious about what he or she is doing. After X leaves the room, have the students write down all the things that happened. (You can do this immediately after X leaves or sometime later). Once everyone has finished writing, find out what everyone remembers and what they did not.

    What details do they recall? What did X wear? How long was X in the room? What book did X take? Who did X talk to? What did X say? You may even ask some leading questions to influence memory. For example, if X was not wearing a hat, ask, “What color hat was X wearing?”.

    Let students write down what they saw.

    Compare how everyone’s memory was the same and different.

    Group Memory

    Tell the students to take a good look around the room, then ask them to leave and line up outside for a couple of minutes without looking inside the class.

    You move or swap things around in class. Remember to make a note of what you moved. Perhaps make it a nice round number like 10 things.

    Once the students return, ask them to tell you what 10 things have been changed in class.

    You can also do it with 2 teams. One team leaves and the other stays inside to change things.

    Each person on team one is allowed to change one thing in class, it should be something noticeable.

    The second team returns and tries to find all the things that have been changes.

    Teams switch. The team that has found the most changes, wins.

    A variation is where both teams face one another. Team one turns around, and team 2 changes things about their appearance. Undo buttons, swap jackets, take off a shoe.

    Team one turns around and tries to notice how many changes the opposing team had made.

    False Memories

    Sometimes your brain makes up its own memories. Try to “implant” a memory by asking people to remember the words on list 1.

    Wait about five minutes, then probe their memory by asking them which words on list 2 are also on list 1.

    List 1: read, pages, letters, school, study, reading, stories, sheets, cover, pen, pencil, magazine, paper, words

    List 2: house, pencil, apple, shoe, book, flag, rock, train, ocean, hill, music, water, glass, school

    Did they say that “book” was on list 1? Only pencil and school were on list 1.

    Try these words:

    List 1: sheets, pillow, mattress, blanket, comfortable, room, dream, lay, chair, rest, tired, night, dark, time

    List 2: door, tree, eye, song, pillow, juice, orange, radio, rain, car, sleep, cat, dream, eat

    Did they say that “sleep” was on list 1? Only pillow and dream were on list 1.

    Make up your own lists and see if you can create a false memory.

    Memory Master

    Memory Master quizzes players on what they see. Players stare at a picture in a magazine or child’s book for sixty seconds. After the time is up, quiz the player about what they can remember. For example, if the picture was an ad for food, you might ask:

    What foods are in the picture?

    How many of each type?

    What colors did they see?

    The winner is the player with the best memory – the Memory Master.

    Solo Games

    Here are some memory games you teach your students to play on their own to improve their working memories:

    Say the alphabet backwards

    Spell your full name backwards

    Memorize four details of people you see in public

    For example, let’s say someone is wearing a black hat, has blonde hair, a triangular ring, and a green sweater.

    Make a list — grocery items, things to do, or anything else that comes to mind — and memorize it. An hour or so later, see how many items you can recall.


    Speaking of lists – Making of words students know is vital to improving memory.

    Students can make lists of anything:

    Boy names starting with B

    Girl names starting with M

    All the fruits they know

    Words that mean small (tiny, little, petite, miniature, nano, micro).

    All the breeds of dogs.

    Words that mean red (scarlet, auburn, crimson, brick, lipstick, cherry).

    This is similar to the scattergories game you can watch over here:

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