Flashcards are picture cards and can be used on their own or with word cards.
They are great for introducing new vocabulary, memorising, revising and consolidating vocabulary and concepts, and for stimulating discussion.
They have the advantage of enabling you to turn a learning activity into a game.
Also the physical interaction with the cards can facilitate retention of the information by the learner.
Flashcards are very versatile and can be used effectively for EAL learners of all ages and language levels.
Types of flashcards
There are various different types of flashcard:
- pictures only
- pictures with words in first language
- pictures with words in English on front of the same card
- pictures with the English word on the back of the card
- picture-only cards with separate word-only cards.
You can use small sets for individual or group activities or larger sets for display or for whole class activities.
Practical ideas for using flashcards
- Top tip: think about the language you want the learners to use as they play
- To consider: would it help to have word cards in the learners’ first languages? See Using learners’ L1 ability
Flashcards can be made very easily using PowerPoint. Use a separate slide for each card and then print them out as two-to-a-page or six-to-a-page handouts, depending on the size of card required. They can be printed on card, or paper if you are going to laminate them, and then cut to form flashcards. Using PowerPoint creates a more professional finish as all the cards will be exactly the same size, and the images are more stable than they will be in a Word document.
Use a set of image and word cards to play pairs (also known as Pelmanism). You might want to get the learners to do a simple matching activity before you play, to consolidate understanding.
Learners sort the cards into categories/groups and explain their choices, their reasoning and the connections between the items. The items could sort into groups, a table, Venn diagram, or flow diagram for example. See Graphic organisers
Choose a grid size e.g. 3x3, 3x4, 4x4. Fill the grid with picture cards, word cards or a mixture. You could let the learners choose, or choose the cards for them. Put the remaining cards in a bag or pile and you or a learner selects in turn. The winner is the first player to complete a line/the whole grid. You might want to get the learners to do a simple matching activity before you play, to consolidate understanding. It is a good idea to model a relevant structure you would like the learners to say correctly in order to be allowed to put a card in the grid, e.g. ‘It’s a river’ / ‘They’re cliffs’, or ‘I like …’ / ‘I don’t like …’
Connect 4 is a bit like Bingo, but for two players, played on one board of 8x8. Players have a set of cards each, of different colours, and have to make a line of four.
With cards in two piles, players take it in turns to turn over a card. If the cards match, the player who shouts ‘snap’ (or the word/phrase you are trying to practise) first keeps the cards in the pile.
Odd one out
Sort the cards into groups, with one ‘odd one out’. Groups identify the ‘odd ones out’ and explain their reasoning.
Good for EAL, Good for All: Can I use Flashcards with the whole class?
Yes: Flashcards work well for everyone. Your EAL pupils can benefit from doing the activities with able English speakers and everyone can participate at their own level. All your learners can benefit from using flashcard activities.