Advanced Memory Match Game
So here's how the Memory Match Game relates to the following 'executive functions';
- Inhibitory control: When Memory Match Games are introduced as a group task (or a game between one adult and one child) there is an element of 'turn-taking'. The child must wait for his/her turn and when this turn does come he/she must also pick up only 2 pieces at a time (inhibiting/controlling the desire to lift more - which is especially tempting if the first two do not reveal a match!).
- Emotional control: Temporary disappointment is an inevitable, and necessary, part of a Memory Game. In order to identify the position of matching pairs the players must first reveal some at random. This leads towards a goal but is initially disappointing for those seeking instant-gratification. This small dose of temporary, and easily resolvable, disappointment can actually help a child to develop emotional resilience.
- Task initiation: The consistent pattern of a Memory Game (set up the board, take two pieces at a time, seek pairs etc) means that a child can confidently approach this activity independently and initiate it with a peer. This particular set includes the added bonus of eight separate playing cards - so the familiar process can be repeated at an increasing level of difficulty, thus allowing the child to direct his/her own progress.
- Organisation: Following the repetition of the play pattern (lift two lids, observe, commit to memory, next player's turn, observe, commit to memory, lift two lids...etc) helps to promote organised and controlled thoughts and behaviours.
- Goal-directed persistence: The child is able to begin the game with the understanding that the 'goal' is to remove all of the lids by uncovering matching pairs. Throughout the game the progress is evident (see below) as some of the lids are removed, then half, then most and then finally all. This obvious movement towards a goal helps to keep a child focused on that intended outcome and provides natural motivation to persist.
- Metacognition (self-monitoring and self-evaluating): Each time a child makes a match with the Memory Game he/she removes the lids from the game board entirely, leaving the matched pairs exposed. This allows the child to very clearly visualise and evaluate the progress of the game.
- Working memory: This one is fairly self-explanatory; the child who is trying to make a match needs to keep the location of previously revealed icons in his/her working memory.
- Sustained attention: The child's attention is maintained in a Memory Game by the simultaneous presence of memory and planning. The child can recall the location of some icons, and is intending to uncover more, so there is a 'past self' promoting attention and a 'future self' encouraging it too. This helps a child to maintain focus and concentration in the 'present' moment of his/her turn and throughout the game.
- Planning / prioritisation: During the Memory Game a child will often be faced with cognitive choices. A narrative of the internal thought process might read; "I think I might remember where two blue circles are, but I'm also quite sure I know where there are two pink circles. Which do I feel more confident about? I can only lift two lids, so I can't reveal both matches on this turn, which should I choose now and what should I save for next time?" and so on.
- Flexibility: When playing a Memory Game in a group there will often be times when a child has identified a potential match prior to his/her own turn, and then another child uncovers this match before the first child has the chance. This first child must therefore flexibly adjust to this new situation and formulate a 'plan B' for when his/her turn does arrive.
- Numerals (matching pairs from 1 & 1 to 18 & 18)
- Block Colours (including varying shades of multiple colours)
- Half Colours
- Letters (matching uppercase to lowercase - e to E and so on)
- Animal Patterns
- Animal Tracks
- Sea creatures
Each card has a tab on it (as shown above at the far right) so that the child can keep track of which card is active in the memory board. The cards all fit in the board at the same time for easy storage (and fit inside the included box!).
"But," I hear you ask, "surely Montessori environments are non-competitive? Isn't there a "winner" in a Memory Game?". Well that is usually true, but I make a few modifications in the way that I present this with my Montessori children.
One alternative is to disregard the concept of each individual collecting the winning tokens (as tends to happen with competitive memory games). Instead we make a communal collection in a designated spot, such as a basket placed beside the memory board. When a child makes a match he or she simply places the lids/tokens into the basket. This promotes a sense of teamwork and removes the focus on 'winning' or competition. The whole group is simply working together to uncover the pairs.
I also utilise another approach, which can be used in conjunction with the first idea, or on its own within the standard rules of each child keeping the tokens of the matches he/she uncovers. This second approach involves an adult guide actively and strongly emphasising the importance of not making matches. I tend to do this when I know I have some children in my group who are focused on (or anxious about) the idea of 'winning' and 'losing'. I will gather a group of children and make a point of thanking each child who reveals two different icons. Each time this occurs I will repeat the process of expressing my gratitude for helping us to see the colours. I encourage the child to leave the icons exposed for a while (rather than covering them again straight away, which children often do the first time they play as they are disappointed to not get a match). I identify to the other players how much this has helped us (eg "Tom has shown us where the green and orange are, that will really help for our next turns!"). When a subsequent child reveals a match using one of those colours I also refer back to the child who exposed the different colours (eg. "Molly you found two green colours. I'm so glad Tom helped to show you where that first green one was hiding!"). This approach helps to remove the focus on 'winning' or 'losing' and makes it more about the process and the collaborative experience.