The flashcard stage of the session provides wonderful learning opportunities. It can be a lot of fun and very interactive. Below are some guidelines and ideas for making the most out of the flashcards.
Introducing the flashcards
Strike a pose!
Use the TPR (Total Physical Response) method when introducing the flashcards and, if possible, throughout the flashcard section of the session. The TPR method is simply associating a simple gesture with a word of vocabulary in a repetitive way.
For example, when introducing the word “witch”, you might put your hands in a triangle shape on your head. Doing the gesture when saying the word has been proven to be very effective in language retention and it also makes it a lot of fun!
One by one
Always introduce the flashcards one by one rather than showing all of them at once. This will help the students to better understand and retain each word.
For younger groups, particularly 3 year olds, you might decide only to use 3 or 4 flashcards if you feel that more would be too much for them to try to retain.
Repeat, repeat, repeat!
The general pressure of keeping the session going well can sometimes result in the teacher forgetting one very important thing – repeating. The students must get into the habit of repeating the target words and phrases as a group. It might not come naturally to them at first so you may have to gently insist on their repeating the words. Overtly praising one of the students who is repeating well is a great way to motivate the rest of the group.
It is essential to get your group speaking with one voice and repeating all together. Seeking individual repetitions will break the group dynamic and lose the collective attention you need.
Ensure you have some wall space and something to fix the flashcards to the wall with. Having the flashcards clearly visible at their eye level is a lot more beneficial than if you keep them in your hands where they can’t see all of the images or if you put them on the floor where it is difficult to see them and where they are very tempted to pick them up and play with them.
Flashcard game ideas
Teacher tip: Whichever type of flashcard games you choose, avoid getting into a game where everyone has to have a turn. The games shouldn’t last for more than 10 minutes and If you have a large group of students between 3 and 5 years old, it’s best not to let any one student have a turn. If you do, they will all insist very heavily on having a turn. If you let everyone have a turn, it will take forever and you will lose your group’s attention. If you only let a few have a turn, those left out will have difficulty understanding why and you might have a mini-riot on your hands! Letting a few students have a turn is a manageable approach from around 5 years old. (Using an attendance sheet, keep track of who has had a turn that week and make sure that different students have a chance the following week.)
Once you have introduced the flashcards and the group has repeated a few times, play at pointing to random flashcards to see whether they can remember and say the word. This can be done as a group or individually (hands up). You can make this really fun by speeding up the pointing so that they have to say the words quickly, one after the other. Another variation is asking a student, "Where is green?" or "Where is the pencil?" and they have to point to the correct card.
Ask the group to close their eyes while you hide one or two of the cards. When they open their eyes, they put their hands up if they have the answer. If your group dynamic allows it, the one who got the correct answer can come and replace you. They say “Close your eyes” to the rest of the class and then, after they have hidden a card “Open your eyes”, “What’s missing?”
This is not recommended for big groups of 3-5 year olds who still have difficulty understanding why everyone can’t have a turn. Apart from small groups of 3 or 4, it should always be the teacher who hides the card.
This game is suitable for small groups of up to 6 students. It should be a follow up game to a more intensive learning game as it is light on repetition and only designed to consolidate learning. You will need 2 sets of flashcards for this game. Turn all of the flash cards face down on the table or floor. Each student takes a turn to turn over 2 cards to try to find a pair. They must say the word on the cards that they turn over (which is sometimes challenging as they are absorbed in the game). If they get a pair, they keep it and so on until there are no cards left.
A great way to consolidate learning is to show the flashcards one by one saying “What’s this?”, the student who puts his hand up and guesses correctly gets to hold the card. Keep going until there are no cards left. Then ask “Who has the ____?” The student holding that card must recognize his word and hold the card up. Keep going, collecting the cards back as you go or follow on by asking other students to go and collect the cards. For example: “Please could you find the hat?” That student looks around to find the correct word, takes the card from the other student, brings it to the teacher and repeats the word again.
You can use this game to test your student’s memory! Gather the students and arrange them in a line or circle. Show a flashcard to the first student and have them say the word. If you’re working on shapes, for example, the first card could be a square. Then, show the next flashcard to the next student. Instead of simply saying that card only, that student needs to repeat the previous flashcards in order before saying the new one. This word list will build with each student’s turn until they can say all of the flashcards from memory.
Around the World
This is a great way to include some competition in your class. After the students have been introduced to the vocab, ask one student to stand by the desk of another student who remains seated. These two students (only) will now compete. Show them a FC and the first person to say the vocabulary word correctly wins that round. If the standing student wins, they go and stand next to the next student and they compete. If they keep winning and beat all the other students, then they have gone "around the world". Depending on the size of the class, you can also say they have gone around the world if they win 5 or 6 times in succession. "Please sit down...you're too good!" If the standing student loses, they sit down and the seated student stands next to the next student.
This game encourages memory and tip-toe quiet! Ask the students to agree on the 4 most difficult FCs that week and take those 4 cards, fixing them to the walls in the four corners of the room with sticky tack. Then explain the game to the kids. One student sits in a chair in the center-ish of the room with their eyes closed and ears open! The teacher counts to 5 while the other students choose a vocabulary word to stand near. They must tip-toe and be silent or else the student in the chair will know where they are! At 0, Teacher asks the student, without uncovering their eyes, to say a vocabulary word where they think some students are standing. "Strawberry!" Whoever is standing by strawberry is out and must sit down. The student sitting has 3 chances to eliminate all the other students. If they succeed, they win! If not, whoever is still playing wins.
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