Pelmanism for paraphrasing

Paraphrasing pelmanism

Copyright © 2014 Emma Gore-Lloyd

This activity combines paraphrasing skills with a children’s memory game and can help students practise Sentence Transformation exercises the likes of which appear in the Cambridge exams. It takes a bit of preparation but it’s worth it (and you can reuse it). It appears in my resources thanks to Louisa Cristo who shared it at a teacher’s meeting last year.

You can use any Sentence Transformation exercise. Prepare cards of one colour with original phrases from the exercise on them, and write the paraphrased versions on cards a different colour.  For example:

  • Original sentence: This time I didn’t manage to win first prize.  Green card: manage to do
  • Transformed sentence: I didn’t succeed in winning first prize. Blue card: succeed in doing
  • Original sentence: In spite of the heavy snow, we managed to get home quickly. Green card: in spite of + NOUN
  • Transformed sentence: We managed to get home quickly, even though it was snowing heavily. Blue card: even though + SUBJECT + VERB

In class, you can play Pelmanism, or the memory game. Arrange all the cards face down on the floor. The students take it in turn to turn over one card of each colour and read aloud what they see. If both the phrases mean the same, they keep the pair of cards. The winner is the one with the most pairs.

Now pair up the students and give out the Sentence Transformation exercise. They can use their card pairs to help them complete the answers. After a couple of minutes, ask the students to pass round their cards to the next pair. The students can use the cards to check their answers. When you reveal or ask for the answers at the end, the students should be fairly confident that they’ve got them all right.

I’ve done this activity with teens and adults and both groups have enjoyed the game and the opportunity to make the connections. Because some of the phrases come up many times whilst someone is searching for a matching phrase, there’s a good chance the students will remember them.  Also, when they complete the sentence transformations at the end of the activity, they often do very well and this hopefully gives them more confidence about this part of the exam.

An alternate method (which I haven’t tried, but thinking about it, seems like a good idea) is to give the students the exercise to try for a few minutes in pairs before playing Pelmanism. This would prime them, make the phrases on the cards relevant and make finding the answer even more satisfying.


  1. Nice one! Do you have a complete set of pairs to work with somewhere?

    1. Yes, I do, in my house! Unfortunately, I don’t have an electronic copy of either the cards or the exercise itself, but they’re easy to make from any transformations exercise. And you only have to make one set – then you can use it with every FCE class every year! Good luck!

  2. Hi Emma,

    Just to let you know that we’ve shortlisted this blog post for this month’s TeachingEnglish blog award and I’ll be making a post about it on tomorrow’s TeachingEnglish Facebook page, if you’d like to check there for likes and comments.


    1. Thank you, Ann!

  3. My students would focus on the non-target part of the sentence (eg first prize) to match them up and ignore the paraphrasing parts. The only way around this would be to make all the sentences about the first prize.

    1. Hi Kevin. I’m not sure i quite understsnd what you mean. You could write the sentence and paraphrased sentence in full to help them match the sentences, but do you think that would be as effective in teaching them ways to paraphrase?

  4. Sarah de Pina · · Reply

    Thanks for this great activity. I use pelmanisms to learn phrasal verbs. I put a part of a phrasal “hand” on a card and a definition or synonym for it on another “submit” and give a pack of 12 to groups of students. They go through and see if they can match up the cards with their pair and fill in the particle. Hand in = submit. I help them with those they’re unfamiliar with and once they’ve had a look at all of them, they play the pelmanism to lock them into their memory.

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: