Card Games for Learning: 1) Rummy

Polski: Rummy (game)-card configuration.ext

Polski: Rummy (game)-card configuration.ext (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In these digital days we can forget how much children enjoy card games. And apart from the social interaction involved in playing card games, the multisensory processes involved – kinaesthetic (making and manipulating the cards), visual, and auditory (reading them out and listening to each other) contribute to effective learning as well as to the enjoyment of the activity.

A lot of learning is about grouping things in sets, whether it’s spelling families, numbers, scientific classification, whatever: “this belongs with that” is one of the fundamentals of the learning process. Rummy is a game that puts “this” with “that”.

Introducing Rummy

Rummy is a simple set-collecting game that can be played by children as young as 6 or 7, or by older children with some learning difficulties. Although simple, Rummy is a “proper” card game, and is also therefore a good activity for older children and adult learners. It’s a good idea to play the original game with playing cards first, then move onto adapting it (see below – you can either make the 4-card version or play with seven cards and two sets) to your teaching needs. Enjoy!

How to play Rummy (2-4 players can play)

Deal 7 cards each. The players do not show their cards to other players.

Place the remaining cards face down in the centre of the table. This is the “draw pile.” Turn over the top card and place it face up next to the pack. (This begins the “discard pile”.)

Object of game: to collect two sets of cards which can either be 3-4 cards OF THE SAME SUIT in sequence, or 3-4 cards OF THE SAME VALUE e in different suits.

Play: players take turns to pick up ONE card at a time, either from the top of the draw pile, or from the top of the discard pile, and then placing one card on the discard pile. The discard may be the card that has just been picked up, or it may be another card. Through this process of selecting, matching and discarding, players build up their hands until the winner places his entire hand on the table in two sets, and discards one card.

The winner: the first player to collect two sets as described above.

In a learning situation it is often appropriate just to concentrate on collecting single sets, so here is a single-set adaptation of the game: 

How to make and play 4- word Rummy

Divide a sheet of A4 card into 16 squares. Using a coloured felt-tip, write one set of four words (eg HAY SAY DAY PAY to learn/reinforce “ay” spellings) in the top four squares. Write the same words in a different colour on the second four squares, and again in the third and fourth rows, so you have a set of four words written in four different colours on your sheet. On a second sheet, do the same with a second set of words belonging to a different family. Cut them up, and you have your deck of cards. The deck will just be targeting these two families/sets.

Winning hands would be either


This example shows how rummy can be used specifically for teaching spelling families, but of course the possibilities are much broader. Rummy can be played with sets of topic vocabulary, with number families (multiples of 4, multiples of 5 etc.)- basically in any context where grouping in sets or matching to patterns is the object of the activity, from basic work with letters and shapes to advanced exam vocabulary.

A useful preparatory exercise for a 4-suit rummy game is to write on the board (if you’re at school) or on a large sheet of paper or flipchart the four sets of words that are going to be used, WITHOUT GROUPING THEM. Children must group them first, in their books or on paper; or by cutting up the sheet and physically putting them together.  (Of course this could also be done on a computer, but part of the object of this activity is to use the kinaesthetic channel and engage children in the social activity of the game.) The correct grouping is then shown. Equipped with card and felt-tips, children then work in groups to make the playing cards themselves and finish by playing the game. An appropriate written follow-up or homework would be to put the words to use in sentences or cloze passages.

A MEMORY element can also be added to rummy so that actually MEMORIZING word groups or particular statements becomes part of the winning strategy of the game. To play “Memory Rummy”, the first player to get a set must commit it to memory, close up their hand and put it on the table, then repeat the sets from memory when their turn comes round again. If they can’t do this correctly, they are out of the game.

(THis article is adapted from Bob Hext’s book “Learning, Games, and Puzzles“, available at

One thought on “Card Games for Learning: 1) Rummy

  1. Playing rummy is a talent. when ever i got time i use to watch the game. while watching i come to know these person having the hight concentration and memory power. Now i got an interest to play rummy. I got a nice tips from you … thanks

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