So, you're a teacher or parent who's fresh off the boat and someone has suggested that buying flashcards might help you grab your young learners' attention during English classes. You went out and bought a set and... now what?
Sometimes, especially at the beginning of the school year when I show my students the first set of flashcards, during the first classes, they become very excited and there's always someone who literally begs to hold them. I usually let them because I 'm always curious to see how they'll use the cards. As children usually tend to repeat what they've learnt with their school teacher, sometimes they come out with cool ideas I can reuse, but, unfortunately, when it comes to flashcards, they just sit quietly and start to slowly show one card at a time, asking 'What's this?'. If you are in a classroom with the desks organised in rows without much space for moving around, I imagine that's the most obvious way to use flash cards. Even so, I think it's worth exploring some more drilling games you could use to make the most of your flashcard sets in order to grab your students' attention and speed up their learning process.
So here's list of flash cards games for children who can't read yet:
Choose the flashcards you're going to use and hold them so that the children can't see what's on them. Pick one card and turn it around very fast, so that students only have enough time to take a peek at it before you turn it back round. Ask what it was on the card and if nobody answers, show them the flashcard again, but a little more slowly than the first time. Repeat until somebody gives the right answer. Once shown how to proceed, you could also call on some of your students and let them be the ones to turn the cards round quickly.
Obviously this game is the opposite concept to the one above. Choose the flashcards you're going to use and hold them so that children can't see what's on them. Pick one card and turn it round very slowly so that the kids will have to pay a lot of attention to be the first to guess what's represented on the card. Again, once shown how to proceed, you could also call on some of your students and let them do the trick.
Point to…! or Walk to…!
Walk around the classroom sticking a set of flashcards to the walls round the classroom. Get the children say the names as you stick them up, then say 'point to the rabbit!' or any other item shown on the cards. The children listen and point to the correct flashcard as fast as they can.
"The Walk to…!" - version allows the children to stand up and go over to the card. However, in order to avoid a crowd of 24 kids pushing and pulling (and screaming and crying :o) ) to touch (and possibly destroying it) the only one card in the room which shows what you've just called out, I'd definitely suggest using at least 3 copies of the same set of cards, spread out all over the classroom.
Stick a set of flashcards on the board. Have the children say the names as you do it. Then say 'Close your eyes!' and once their eyes are closed, take one card off the board. At that point say 'Open your eyes! What's missing?' and let the children guess the name of the missing card. The funniest part of this game is that the second time you say 'Close your eyes', the children will start to cheat. Pretending to be a little upset and surprised (yes, just like a clown), call out the name of each cheating little monkey and tell them to reeeeaaaally close their eyes this time. You'll see how easy it is sometimes to make a child really happy.
Stick 8-10 flashcards on the board, eliciting the names. Give your students 1 minute, or less, to look in silence and try to memorize the flashcards. Then remove all the cards from the board and finally ask them to say the names they can remember. While they're telling you the right answers, repeat the names of the items and stick the cards back up on the board, in the same order they're being called out by the kids.
Sit in a circle with the children and with your set of cards. Pass the first card, e.g. cheese, and ask a question 'Do you like cheese?' encourage them to answer 'Yes I do/ No, I don't'. After answering, the child asks the same question while passing the flashcard to the next child and so on round the circle.
This game is quite flexible because you can choose different questions depending on what you're currently studying, or you can change the questions for statements, e.g. 'I like cheese' or I don't like cheese' , I would like…, I can…, I have got…, etc.
Another option is to have every single child holds a different card, while the first child says ' I like cheese', holding the card which shows the cheese so that everybody can see it. The second child, who is holding the card with, let's say, the lettuce then says: 'I like cheese and lettuce'. The third child, who's holding the card showing ham, says: 'I like cheese, lettuce and ham'. Keep playing until the last child in the circle has mentioned all the cards.
WARNING! Always expect some mess the first time you introduce a new game to young learners, because, as they say, practice makes perfect and children need a lot of it. This way, the second time will be a little tidier and quieter and the more you practice and adjust the game to your students needs and characteristics, the smoother the game will go.
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