Flashcards are often the way to go when it comes to teaching vocabulary. But, because teachers use them so often, it might get monotonous, or you might run out of ideas. Here are some ways to work with flashcards, have fun, and still achieve success with learners. (For ideas about teaching games, as well as for more flashcards, have a look at the article How to Teach With Games? Here Are 5 Ideas.
1. Flash 🔦
As the name suggests, what you do is flash the cards in front of your group of learners. Upon seeing what’s on the card, they have to guess the word.
If you work with a bigger group, your cards need to be bigger, too, so that everyone can see them.
Make sure everyone is watching before you start. Flashing the cards happens very fast, and focus is key.
If you don’t want everyone yelling, and jumping, ask them to raise their hands if they want to take a guess. Whoever raises their hand first goes first.
Whoever guesses the most words wins.
As an alternative, you can split your learners into groups or teams. When you flash the card, they take time to quietly discuss as a team what they think the word is. When ready, one team member raises their hand and takes a guess. If wrong, the other teams take over.
2. Match the cards/ Memory game 🃏
This activity is good for smaller groups of about six people around a table.
Decide on the number of cards depending on the age and abilities of your learners. Take six or eight pairs of matching cards (12-16 cards in total) and spread them on both sides of the table facing up. (You can skip this step and arrange the cards face-down.)
If you decide to have the cards face-up in the beginning, allow your learners to look at the cards for about ten seconds and memorize their places. Now, turn the cards face-down.
The students take turns flipping a card and finding the match among the rest of the cards. Each participant can turn two cards in a row if their first match is successful. If the cards don’t match, they turn the second one face-down again, and the next in line takes over. Each successfully matched pair brings a point. Whoever matches the most pairs of cards wins.
3. Find the card 🔎
Take about 20 cards with recently learned vocabulary. For best results, the cards must include images only, no text.
Spread them around the classroom, put them onto tables, or stick them to the wall or whatever you choose. The main idea is that the cards are placed face-up, and it is easy to see and find them.
Without looking in the direction of the card, you say, for example, “I see a tree!“ The others need to find the card with the tree on it. Whoever finds the card first collects it. The learner with the most cards/ points at the end wins. If they have the wrong card, they leave it where it belongs, and you move on to the next one. You can return to this card later on.
Optional: If someone picks the wrong card, they get a minus point and return it where it belongs. Ask, “What’s on that card?” and whoever guesses what’s on the card right away gets two points and collects the card.
To not end up in a very chaotic situation, ask your learners to raise their hands before deciding if they want to go for a card or not.
4. Match with the word 🦓
This time, spread image-only flashcards face up on top of a table. Give your learners the stack of the matching word-only flashcards, or place the stack on top of the table face-down. (Or vice versa, spread the word flashcards, and let them use the image-only cards).
Taking turns, they pick a card from the stack with words and then try to find the matching image card. If they can’t find the matching card the first time around, it’s time for the next in line to give it a try.
If successful, they collect the flashcards they were able to match and continue another round.
You decide if, after the second successful round, they get to try one more time or if someone else takes a turn.
Whoever collects the most pairs of matching flashcards wins.
5. Drill 💡
You can do this activity when working with more than one word per flashcard. It’s a good choice for related vocabulary and action verbs or short storytelling.
The images above provide two great opportunities to drill. Let’s say you have a stack of pictures of different rooms in the house. The student who gets the card explains what’s in the room, and the rest of the class can guess which room it is. Then, they take turns.
If you would like to make a point system, figure out how many items per card you expect your learners to list, and count the number of correct words they give you. Those who guess what room it is get one point as well.
6. Guess the word 🤔
Divide your learners into teams and situate them apart so that each team has its corner. Select one person from each group (a team leader), and show them the card. Explain what’s on the card but make sure no one else but the team leaders can hear. If you have enough copies of the cards, give each team member a card so they can use it for reference. They can’t show the card to their teams!
Now that they know what’s on the card (or have a card), they go back to their team stations and:
Either start giving clues about what’s on the card to the other members of the team, without mentioning the word itself,
The team members start asking the team leader Yes or No questions to learn more about what’s on the card and take a guess.
The team that guesses the most words wins. Each team needs to work quietly so that the other players in the room do not overhear.
If you want to make sure you do not run into the problem of teams overhearing each other, give each team leader a different card in the beginning.
Option 1: The team leader explains:
It lives in the sea.
It is big.
It is not a fish.
The rest try to guess the correct answer.
Option 2: The team members are given 1 clue by the team leader, for example, “It lives in the sea.”
Then, they start to ask yes or no questions:
Is it big?
Is it small?
Is is a fish?
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