An Apple a Day Helps Learning Thrive

Who would have thought that one of the most popular party games to come out in recent memory could also be used as a learning tool? As teachers and parents know, the most effective way to inspire children to learn is when they don’t know they’re doing it! Playing games, watching a movie, and reading “fun” things have all been used by teachers for decades to enhance student learning. Well, it turns out, learning is as easy as comparing apples to apples … and believe me, as a pre-service teacher, I am always thinking about sneaky ways to enhance student learning.

The Apples to Apples Game from Mattel is the award-winning comparison game that helps kids focus on two types of language – adjectives and nouns. To begin play, each player is dealt 7 red “noun” cards. When the judge flips over a green “adjective” card, each player must choose from their hand the best noun to fit the adjective. When each player has played their noun card, the judge for that round chooses the winner based on which comparison they believe is the best answer. Apples to Apples is typically loved because it can provide hysterical and thought-provoking comparisons in and out of an educational setting.



Most nouns in Apples to Apples consist of proper names, historical events, time periods, and places, which serve as excellent learning tools for students in various subject matters. Each card (either noun or adjective) uses different techniques to explain what the word on the card means, including synonyms and illustrations, which require students to think outside the “orchard” (or think comparatively). This association technique helps to develop abstract and critical thinking skills in both children and adults when conventional methods receive unenthusiastic responses. The mere mention of the phrase “compare and contrast essay” provokes a collective groan from students – but ask them to justify their answers in a game of Apples to Apples and you will have them participating vigorously.

As a teacher, it is very difficult to develop educational material to properly fill a class period and a quick learning game is a wonderful way to use time effectively while continuing to teach. The game doesn’t take long to set up or to explain, making it ideal for those last few minutes of class. And because the success of the original Apples to Apples Game has prompted Mattel to expand their product line for different ages and subject areas, more children can experience the educational joy that these games can provide. Apples to Apples Junior and Apples to Apples Kids are two games geared towards a younger audience but with the same enchanting word play and imagination prompts.



Best of all, the Apples to Apples Games includes blank cards for personalized game play, a terrific asset to any teacher! Are you an English teacher? Fill the cards with well-known authors or famous books. Teach History? Explore famous events and interesting people. Use these cards to create content as general or as specific as you like related to your subject or area of interest.

So, instead of comparing oranges to apples with America’s youth, compare Apples to Apples, and educate your students while they, and even you, learn and grow! Forget the compare contrast essays, just pick up a deck of these cards, and you have it made!


This post was brought to you by Nicole McCann, a future secondary English Teacher. Here’s a little more info (in her own words) about this dedicated future professional:

I began my education at Penn State with a B.A in English, but have since chosen to persue a secondary education degree at Slippery Rock University. Since switching gears from appreciating language to teaching it, I find myself unable to stop thinking about ideas for classroom use. I am currently learning and discussing education on any and all levels—both the theoretical and the classroom aspects. I will be graduating with an M.A. in education in 2010, with future plans of being a secondary English teacher.

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