ESL Playing Cards Vocabulary

Instructor: Yolanda Reinoso Barzallo

Yolanda holds a CELTA Cambridge, a Juris Doctorate, and a Master of Public Administration. She is a published author of fiction in Spanish.

When introducing playing cards vocabulary to your ESL students, it's very easy to present them in an interactive way, whether or not you have decks of cards available. This lesson gives you some ideas for introducing basic playing cards vocabulary.

Playing Cards Vocabulary for ESL Students

Your English as a second language (ESL) students are likely to learn new vocabulary more quickly if you introduce the words in an interactive way. Ideally, you'll need enough decks of cards for each student in your class to use as tangible examples. If you have a limited number of decks of cards, you could give one deck to a team of three, four, or more students and/or supplement them with a PowerPoint presentation. For each new word you introduce, have your students use it straightaway in conjunction with the cards you give them or the visuals you show them.

Vocabulary Words Related to the Deck

Decks of Cards

To begin, show your students a deck of cards. Introduce each new word with a sentence that illustrates the meaning of a deck of cards. You could say, for example:

  • I have a deck of cards.
  • My deck of cards is blue.

If you give your students a deck of cards, ask them what colors their decks are. Or, if you show images, show different colored decks of cards and get students to talk about them.

To reinforce vocabulary, you could ask questions like:

  • Do you have a deck of cards in your house?
  • What color is the deck of cards you own?

Finally, get your students to count their cards to answer this question: 'How many cards are there in a deck?' If students already know that the answer is 52, it is okay for them to just tell the class.

Suits of Cards

Once your students know what a deck of cards is, you could show them the different categories of cards, which are known as suits. Illustrate by showing a group of cards of the same suit and saying, 'This is a suit of cards'. Show another one and say, 'Here is another suit of cards'. Ask your students to show you a suit of cards.

If your students are not working with real decks, show them two PowerPoint images. The first image could be a suit of spades, whereas the second image could be a mixture of different cards. In this case, ask students to point at the suit of cards.

Next, introduce the name of the individual suits as you show an example of each one:

  • Clubs
  • Diamonds
  • Hearts
  • Spades

To engage your ESL students, show one card and say: 'I have a four of spades'. Then, ask your students to pull a card with any number out of their decks and take turns telling the class what card they have. Otherwise, show images of different cards on a PowerPoint slide and get your students to tell you what type of cards they see.

Next, introduce the face cards:

  • J is for 'Jack'
  • Q is for 'Queen'
  • K is for 'King'
  • A is for 'Ace'

Show one example of a face card and say, 'I have a Jack of Hearts'. Then, have your students show you their face cards and tell everyone what they are.

Before moving on, show your students the 'Joker' cards, which are often absent in modern decks of cards. You can tell your students that most games do not use the 'Joker' but, sometimes, the card is present in decks and is known as a 'trump card'.

Here, you could give your students an assignment for the following class: 'Find out the history of the Joker and why it is called a 'trump card.'

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