A GO card game

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q: What level of English do students require to play AGO Aqua?

A: AGO can be used with students of any level, though kids under 5 are not usually developmentally ready. With absolute beginners, special considerations need to be taken into account - i.e. start by playing the 'Quiz Show' game, with a small selection of easy question cards, and gradually introduce new cards as students progress over the weeks and months, and strategically moving on to harder games.

The Green deck, and forthcoming Orange deck are targetted towards older elementary, Jnr high and Senior high school students. But of course adults can play, too!  

Q: There's quite a lot of language on the cards. Is it realistic for children to pick it all up within a year?

A: Yes. Of course, some students learn more quickly than others, or have a better base understanding of English to begin with. All the same, we've found that children typically get their head round the language on the AGO Aqua deck within a matter of months if lessons are structured in the right manner, and from there it's just a matter of consolidation and developing fluency and deep understanding. Some of the reasons for the speed in which children tend to pick up AGO are: picture clues (which stick in students' minds, stimulate curiosity and add context), involvement (AGO triggers students' competitive nature, it's fun, and children are motivated to figure out what the cards mean, in order to do well in the game), repetition (each game is in essence a review of the same set of grammar structures, in a random yet controlled manner. Also, similar grammar structures are repeated over several cards. Perhaps most importantly AGO requires children to fill blanks when asking and answering questions -this requires players to adapt their questions and answers to the situation - it puts it in context, and gets the mind ticking over.

Remember: children are smart, and their minds designed to absorb new language. The goal of AGO is to harness children's natural learning strengths and interests in a format that is appealing and easy for them to pick up.

Q: What are some strategies to get parents onside and playing with their children at home?

A: We can't speak for the rest of the world, but in Japan at least, parents are typically hesitant to speak English with their children. Embarrassment, shyness, and pronunciation worries usually top the list of alibis. However, if you can break through this, and get the parents playing an active role in their childs English development, your students' skills will sky rocket.

Parents typically enjoy playing AGO, so it is often as simple as getting parents to play their first game. Despite their claims otherwise, parents are seldom troubled by the language on the AGO decks, as it's much easier than what they learned at school. All the same, to help ease fears, we made this downloadable translation of all the questions on AGO Aqua for them to look at.

Q: Can I use AGO as my main course material in class?

A: There is enough picture vocabulary and grammar on a deck of AGO cards to fill a years worth of English lessons, but that's not to say students should just play AGO all lesson. It's all about balance, and a course that also teaches phonics, reading and writing in an effective manner yields a much better result over all. Asking and answering questions is just one aspect of learning English, after all. Also, most of the AGO questions are in the 1st and 2nd person -i.e. talking about 'you', or 'it', and don't focus on he / she / they / we, so much. Course books will often teach the same grammar on an AGO card, but by it's nature, focus on different aspects of it (i.e. practicing he / she / they, etc.) and hence the AGO and course books tend to complement each other well.  

Q: Isn't using the deck with katakana subtitles detrimental to children's reading and pronunciation?

A: There's a right way, and a wrong way to use the katakana deck, and if done right, the end result (i.e. children typically going from zero, to mastering the AGO deck (without kana) in about six - nine months) far outweighs the downsides. Why does kana work? Quite simply, kana subtitles take the English reading requirement out of the equation, as Japanese kids can read katakana at breakneck speed. Thus their mental focus is on learning the grammar, as well as asking and answering the questions. If you are smart as a teacher, you will be teaching phonics, and sight reading of the key words in AGO at the same time, so that in six months, the children will know the cards inside out, and no longer require the katakana.

On the other hand, there's potential for children learn bad habits, or begin to rely on the katakana, so you have to be careful, and be a little strategic about the way you use the kana deck - if you opt to use it at all. Check this article for some more ideas on how to use the katakana deck effectively.  

Q: Is it really necessary for students to own their own copy of AGO?

A: No. If it's played in class, children should be able to pick it up the language in the course of the year. Do we recommend it? Yes. Why? It speeds progress up a lot! Children like cards (in case you haven't noticed), and they will play at home from time to time, on rainy days or family holidays, etc. whether you set it for homework or not.  Being able to play AGO well, and beat your family members is very satisfying and a source of pride for most children. Not to mention, in the greater scheme of things when parents are often investing up to $1000 a year on English lessons, spending around $10 for a deck of AGO cards is a pretty good investment, we think.

Q: What other ways do you recommend to get students speaking English at home?

A: Many children only study English for one hour a week (or about 50 hours a year), plus do a little homework each week. The reality is that this is just not enough time for children to make really swift progress in English. AGO offers a realistic way to improve this stat, but is by no means the only way. Ultimately, one of the most important things a teacher can do is to inspire their students to take a strong interest in English, and enrol their parents in the importance of nurturing this desire outside the classroom.

We strongly recommend that English schools invest in ELT 'readers', and consider developing a library, where children check out a graded library book every week. 

An excellent 'reader' book series for children learning to read is the 'Fun phonics readers' series. They are great value - each book contains 20 stories based on the 'Finding Out' phonics curriculum, and the difficulty, structure and difficulty progression are spot on. Each story is set on it's own page, with colorful illustrations. I like to set students one page each week (and a review of another page) for homework.

You tube videos, international pen pals, or encouraging parents to get the cartoon network (in English) can get great results, as well. 


Q: Why does the paypal payment page switch to Japanese when I set my delivery address to somewhere in Japan:

A: Frustratingly for expats, Paypal sometimes assumes that you speak the language native to the country you reside in, so when you enter your delivery address, it changes its language settings accordingly. However, there is a drop down list in the upper right corner which allows you to change the language back to English. It looks like this (in Japan, at least):  日本語. Click it, and your problem should be solved. Creating your own paypal account can permanently sidestep this problem.

Q: As my credit card is registered overseas, selecting a Japanese delivery address is proving troublesome.

A: If it helps, just enter your overseas address, and leave a note in the shipping comments for us, or send us an email, and we will make sure your cards are sent to the right location.

Q: Can I pay by furikomi (bank payment), or COD?

A:We no longer offer these payment options. However, englishbooks.jp, and Foreign Buyers Club do! So visit their website, if that is how you'd prefer to pay!