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Category Card Games
Ages: 5-13   Grades: K-8

Children learn category concepts with fun, motivating card games at three difficulty levels.


  • Match items by category
  • Name categories and items by category
  • Improve recall and critical thinking
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There are three decks of playing cards.  Each deck contains 54 cards (four cards for each of 13 categories and two Wild Cards).  The decks are arranged in a hierarchy of difficulty:  

  • Deck 1—basic, earlier-developing categories:
    Food, Animals, Clothing, Colors, Numbers, Letters, Tools, Body Parts, Musical Instruments, Toys, Sports, Furniture, and Rooms in a House
  • Deck 2—differentiates basic categories into subcategories:
    Fruits, Vegetables, Seasons, Kitchen Utensils, Containers, Fasteners, Farm Animals, Forest Animals, Pets, Appliances, Relatives/Family, Vehicles, and Rooms in a School
  • Deck 3—challenging categories that interest older students:
    Meats, Desserts, Things to Read, Buildings, Occupations, Jobs/Chores, School Tools/Equipment, Girls' Names, Boys' Names, Beverages, States, Jewelry, and Computer Equipment 

Students match cards from the same category in four stimulating games like Steal the Pile and Stack 'Em Up.  Each game comes with suggestions for expanding categorization skills and reinforcing goals in verbal expression.  A student progress tracking sheet is included. 

Copyright © 2004

3 card decks (54 cards in each deck), instructions, Student Tracking Sheet, vinyl Velcro® bag
  • An efficient lexicon is not organized like a dictionary: instead, words and their properties (e.g., semantic meaning) are interconnected and associative. Language-impaired children have fewer lexical entries than their typically-developing peers and fewer connections among the words they know (Brackenbury & Pye, 2007).
  • Categorization economizes storage of information in the mental lexicon.  This facilitates efficient retrieval for future use and enhances the capacity to extend knowledge (Miller & Eilam, 2008).
  • Effective vocabulary learning occurs when a student can relate new words to existing knowledge or schema (Perfection Learning, n.d.).

Category Card Games incorporates these principles and is also based on expert professional practice.


Brackenbury, T. & Pye, C. (2007). Semantic deficits in children with language impairments: Issues for clinical assessment. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 36, 5-16.

Miller, P., & Eilam, B. (2008). Development in the thematic and containment-relation-oriented organization of word concepts. Journal of Educational Research, 101(6), 350-362.

Perfection Learning. (n.d.). Research-based vocabulary instruction. Retrieved March 19, 2009 from


Susan B. Anderson


Susan B. Anderson, M.S., CCC-SLP, received her Bachelor's degree from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1973 and her Master's degree in communication disorders from The Pennsylvania State University in 1980, completing requirements for the certificate in clinical competence in 1986.

Susan has 30 years of experience working as a speech-language pathologist in the public schools, providing services to children with speech and language disorders.  In addition, she assists with the Intermediate Unit's autism team which provides training and consultative services to teams working with children with autism spectrum disorders.  Category Card Games is Susan's first publication with LinguiSystems.


Children with language problems often have difficulty storing and retrieving information.  Learning to categorize often helps these students develop a mental "filing system" to assist with these problems.

Category Card Games provides a variety of formats to increase students' motivation to practice and learn category concepts.  Category Card Games is made up of three decks of playing cards.  Each deck contains 54 cards (four cards for each of 13 categories and two Wild Cards).  The decks are arranged in a hierarchy of difficulty, with Deck 1 containing basic, earlier-developing categories.  For example, Deck 1 includes Animals as a category.  Deck 2 further differentiates Animals by including categories for Farm Animals, Forest Animals, and Pets.  Deck 3 includes categories that interest older students, such as States and Computer Equipment.  As students master the easier categories, you may mix the cards from the three decks to add one or two more challenging groups.

A Student Tracking Sheet is also provided so you can:

  • chart progress
  • collect data for progress monitoring
  • collect data for evaluation reports

To use this tracking sheet, write the student's target categories on the lines at the top of the page.  Select the skill(s) you want the student to practice.  Possible skills are listed below.

  • naming an item in a given category (Name a food.)
  • answering yes/no questions about objects belonging in various categories (Is pizza a vehicle?)
  • naming the category for a given word (What is a shirt?)
  • telling similarities (How are baseball and basketball alike?)
  • exclusion (Which is not food: a sandwich, a shoe, or soup? or Which one doesn't belong: airplane, red, yellow? Why?)

Category Card Games is fun and motivating, as well as easily modified and useful for practicing articulation, fluency, and other language skills.  You can use the cards for drills and practice activities with your students in addition to playing the games.  I hope you and your students enjoy the time you spend together playing these games!