How to play the Category game across languages and age groups

The category game, known as Stadt–Land-Fluß in German, in Italiano si chiama nome, cose città en français c’est le  jeu du baccalauréat, ou jeu du bac, ou petit bac –  En español es el juego tutti frutti o también conocido como Stop, Alto el Lápiz, Chanton, Pare carrito, Autopencil, Bachillerato y Basta – y em portugues significa Adedonha.

When playing games in multilingual families, we either decide for one language or we can play them across languages – assuming that all players understand them.

If you also wonder how to involve young children or grandparents in the category game, and want to know how to play it online I have some tips for you.

The Rules of the Game

Categories is a word game where the players have to find words that fit into particular categories that are defined by the players, all starting with the same letter.

The letters can be chosen by asking one player recite the alphabet in his or her head and another player stopping him at any time by saying stop (or basta).

As soon as the player says the letter where he/she stopped out loud, the game starts and players need to fill in the words of each category in one row of the table as quickly as possible.

Goal is that all players find words in each category that start with the chosen letter as quickly as possible.

The first player to fill in all the categories shouts stop / basta and everyone else has to put down their pencil.

At the end of each round, points are awarded for the words: for example, 10 points for words that were chosen only by one player of the group, 5 points for words that were chosen by two or more players and 0 points for words that don’t exist or when a player didn’t find a word in that category.

After each round, everyone counts the points and the winner can choose the next letter, or you can decide to proceed clock- or anti-clockwise.

The game ends when the players decide.

The player with the most points wins.

How to play the game across age groups, with players with different language competencies and across languages

Letters and sounds

If you play this game with preschool children, you can ask them to find objects or pictures of objects that start with a particular sound. For example, if the rest of the group is trying to find words for the different categories that starts with “A”, you can ask the little ones to find objects that start with “A” and gather them on a pile (or whatever works for you). This way you would also add some movement to the game as the child will be allowed to move around the room or place.

You can also ask them to draw things that start with A, while the other players complete their task.

If you play this game with children of the same age, you can adapt the rules to their language fluency: if they can’t write yet, you rather focus on the sounds, if they are emergent readers, you can help them, by writing the first letter etc.

You can also add some more dimensions to the game, by inviting players to “find everything that starts with an A and is soft/hard/small/big/round/green…/“.

If participants are emergent writers in the target language and have a better understanding of sounds, you may want to focus on sounds instead of letters and not penalize if they choose a word that starts with K instead of C (or vice versa, depending on the language of the game).

Adjust the pace to the slowest player

When playing the game across age groups and with players with different language fluencies, you may want to slow down the pace of the game.

One option is also to let everyone finish to complete the task instead of the first player who finishes, stopping the game. This allows those who need a bit more time to think and write to not feel pressured or penalized because of it. – The main aim of the game is to enjoy time together, explore your languages and cultures!

Playing the game across languages

You can play this game across languages by inserting words from different languages in the chosen categories, for example, let’s assume the chosen letter is “C”, one can choose “cat” as animal, “Cello”(German) for musical instrument, “cetriolo” (Italian) for vegetables for example.

When mixing alphabets, make sure that people who are not able to write in the alphabet (yet) can write in one they are more confident in. For example, if a player knows Greek or Arabic or Chinese etc. but can’t write it (yet), allow him/her to write the word in the alphabet of his/her choice.

Make sure to include all the letters/sounds of the language

If the language you play this game in has “additional sounds/letters”, like Ä, Ö, Ü in German for example, make sure they can be chosen too.

Other alternatives to play the game

Another alternative way to play the game is to let players find words where the chosen letter or sound is either in the middle of the word or at the end of the word.

You can also change the rules from round to round to make it more interesting and motivating for the players.

Vary the point system

If for example a child needs to practice the 3/6/9 time table, you can choose to assign 3-6-9 points to the different responses, or 0/6/9, or, to practice the 7 time table 0/7/14.

On my Toolbox for Multilingual Families page you can find a pdf file with a list of categories (in English) and pages to print out or fill in online to play this game on your device.

You can also choose to play the game online with friends and family by choosing categories on this website:

If you need help with words in the target language, you can search for “word games” / “category game” in the target language.

For German, for example, one can find words on the website

Posted in Activities and Games for Multilingual Families, Bilingualism, Blog, Heritage Language Maintenance, Language learning, Maintaining Multiple Languages, Multi Literacy, Multilingual, Multilingual Families, The Toolbox for Multilingual Families and tagged , , , , , , , .

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