If I had to pick only 1 teaching tool to bring into the classroom, it would be flashcards. Over the years I have drawn, printed, laminated, and used hundreds of flashcards. Versatile, durable, visual, and super affordable — flashcards are a must for every Early-Learner and ESL teacher.
- Kids go bananas for them! (2-12 years old) Pictures! With colors! Cute!!!! What’s not to love?
- Easy to use. This is an obvious one but it’s too true to leave out. Flashcards don’t take any set up time at all and can be used regardless of the class size, nationality, or age.
- Reusable and durable. Even with large classes of rowdy kids and, unlike worksheets, arts and craft items, or toys, flashcards can be used again and again without taking damage. That is, if you laminate them first 🙂
- Visual learning. This one is important for teaching ESL. Language barriers can often make teaching new lexis a chore but with flashcards, it’s easy for both you and students to be on the same page with what a word means.
- Versatile and great for games. Definitely one of the biggest advantages of flashcards! The list of games that can be played with a single set of flashcards are endless, but just to give you an idea of how fun flashcards can be, I’ve included some of my favorite flashcard games below.
- Easy intro to sight-reading. Flashcards don’t have to be only pictures. Try to include the written word above the picture or on the back of each card. This also lends well to games and adds an extra challenge for fast learners.
- Built-in review system. Revision is essential with young learners and should be incorporated into your lesson plan everyday. Flashcards provide a fun and fast way to review last week’s lesson or previously-taught words. Run through a quick 5 minute game or use one of the games below. If you can combine it together with a movement activity – double win!
- Expands into more language. A pineapple is not just a pineapple – it’s a green and yellow pineapple! With spikes! How does it taste? Sweet but a little sour! Where does it grow? On a tree? Gotcha! – pineapples grow on the ground, usually only in warm countries.
Resources/Websites for Free Flashcards
There are other good websites out there but this one will cover almost all your flashcard needs. They also offer handouts, different sizes, black and white version, great game ideas, worksheets, bingo cards, dice, board games, you name it… this website is TESOL heaven.
In case you need more options, these websites are also gems.
Even as a teacher, I have a hard time explaining a game through only words. Demonstration is always the best practice but impossible in this situation, however, if anything is unclear or the game isn’t working for you, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll happily answer any questions.
Stand / Sit
A fun and active game for the entire class. Tt stands on one end of the classroom facing the Ss who are standing (shortest in the front). Tt chests a flashcard quickly saying the word – if the word matches the picutre, Ss stay standing. If the word doesn’t match, all Ss must sit down FAST. Continue through the list of flashcards, eliminating any Ss who stand/sit at the wrong time.
This is a fun game that is fast-paced, active, suspenseful, and shows who knows the vocab and who doesn’t. Try to pick up the pace as you go, it works best if you hold the flashcards in a stack and just flip through.
This is super simple and fun. Divide the class into 2 teams for extra competitiveness, then quickly flash the Ss a quick glimpse of the card. No explanation or preparation necessary – just flip the flashcard fast and the first student to raise their hand and call out the word gets to hold the card. When you reach the end of the stack, have the Ss hold up their cards and announce the winning team.
Similar to Flipping Flashcards, except you sloowwwwly reveal the flashcard bit by bit using another card to cover. This will encourage the Ss to think, guess, and rack their brain for all their vocabulary while calling out their guesses. To make this more challenging, use a mix of catagories and slip a few untaught cards in the pile.
This a variation of charades that allows for large groups to participate at the same time, keeping everyone involved. Divide the class into 1-3 teams and bring 1 person from each team (we’ll call this person the ‘player’) to stand at the front of the class, facing their team. Instruct the students that there is strictly no speaking allowed (be very clear on this – demonstrate!), threaten to deduct points from any team caught cheating, they must demonstrate the word/sentence through actions only. Show the teams the vocabulary word or target sentence (note: this game is for reinforcement or revision – not for introducing new vocabulary) and have them act it out for their ‘player’ to guess. The ‘player’ calls out the word or sentence they think their team is demonstrating. The first ‘player’ to guess correctly, wins 1 point for their team. Optional: Bonus points may be awarded if the player can spell the word correctly.
Send the ‘player’ back to his seat and select a new one – try to give everyone the chance to be the player.
Slap / Snatch (10 students max – can also be played in teams)
Have the students sit in a circle, place the flashcards or words (I often just print and cut up the words) in the middle. Instruct the students to sit neatly with their hands on their knees. When you call out a word, each student tries to quickly snatch up the word spoken – slapping the word can work also to avoid disputes. Make it more interesting by calling out a random word not in the pile, you can also test the students’ listening skills by mispronouncing a word and seeing if they hear the difference.
The student holding the most words at the end of the game is the winner. Note: You can use sentences for more advanced students. This is a good way to intro vocab for a reading/listening exercise.
Scatter words or flashcards around the room. Divide the class into teams – all of them touching a wall or a whiteboard so they can’t cheat. Call out a word or sentence using one of the target words, the students scramble to find the word and bring it to you. The first to do so wins a point for their team. Play until all the words are found. Add up and declare the winner.
Test your students’ memory skills with this Students vrs. Teacher game. Line up all the flashcards on the board or the floor and give them a minute to memorize the flashcards. Then turn them all over, point to a certain one and ask ‘What is this?’ All the students must agree and call out the answer 3 times – listen for pronunciation and drill the word if necessary. Then reveal the card, if they students are correct, it is 1 point for them and the card is removed from the list. If they are wrong, turn the card over again and award yourself 1 point.
This game is good for team-building and encourages all the students to work together to ‘beat the teacher’. It also gives them extra incentive to memorize all the target words and pronounce them clearly.
To keep this post from getting too much longer, I’ll cut my list off here but please feel free to add your favorite flashcard games to the comments below. Thanks for taking the time to read this super lengthy piece and have fun using flashcards in your classroom!