Using Flashcards With Young Learners

When introducing vocabulary to young learners, it’s great to use real items that capture children’s attention. However, it’s not always possible or realistic for teachers to use real items in the classroom. Flashcards can be a great way to introduce new vocabulary so that learners have a very clear understanding of the word or concept.
When using flashcards or picture cards to introduce vocabulary in the classroom, try to create some suspense or mystery about the cards. Students are more receptive to learning when they are curious. Rather than just flipping through the cards and having students repeat the words, incorporate the cards into activities. This will help students be more invested and more likely to remember the words.

Reinforce the vocabulary words in other parts of your lesson, such as in a storytime book, a worksheet or a song. Have the students help you create meaningful gestures for the words that you can use while singing together.
Here are a few simple ideas for introducing and reviewing language using flashcards.
Mystery Box
One of the simplest ways to engage students' interest is to introduce new items with a Mystery Box. You can give hints about what's inside and have students guess. Read more about how to make your own Mystery Box.
Eraser Races
Go through the picture cards that you are planning to introduce in class. Identify the cards you think students are most likely to be familiar with. Place two of these cards on the floor at the front of the classroom. Divide the class into two teams and have them line up. Give the two students at the front of the lines one eraser each. When the teacher calls out one of the cards, the two students race to put their erasers on the correct card. The first student to do so wins a point for his team. Repeat several times, and then add a third card. Play with three cards for several turns, and then add a fourth card, a fifth card, and then a sixth card and so on. When you begin with cards the students are a little familiar with, it allows you to slowly introduce some of the more challenging vocabulary. If you are introducing vocabulary that no students in the class know, give hints with your voice. For example, if you have a ghost card and a ballerina card, say "ghost" in a spooky voice, so the students will have an idea of which card it is.
Pass The Card
The students and the teacher sit in a circle. The teacher starts by passing a picture card to the student on his left, saying, "This is a horse." The student takes the card and passes it to the next student, saying, "This is a horse." The card is passed around the circle. When the card returns to the teacher, the teacher puts that card aside and introduces a new picture card in the same manner. When the students have learned a few picture cards, the teacher has several options: a) wait until a card has reached the halfway mark, then introduce a second card going in the same direction; b) introduce cards at the same time going in opposite directions; or c) send 3-4 cards around the circle in the same directions with little pause between each. Tip: four cards is probably the maximum number of cards to work with at one time.
Roll The Dice
Choose six picture cards you would like to introduce and place them on the whiteboard with magnets. Give each card a number from 1-6, writing the numbers above the cards with your whiteboard marker. Divide the class into two teams. Give one student, any student, a big dice to roll. The whole class watches to see what number comes up. The first student to say the name of the vocabulary card with the same number as the dice wins a point for her team. If nobody knows the vocabulary card, introduce it and have the students repeat it. They'll try hard to remember so they can answer it correctly the next time. Play until one team reaches a set amount of points. If it becomes easy, begin replacing the cards on the board with new cards.
Guess The Picture
Take two sheets of paper the same size as the picture cards. Cut several small holes randomly spaced in one sheet. In the second sheet, cut larger holes in the same spots, so that the holes from both sheets of paper line up. Cover a flashcard with the large-holed sheet, and then place the small-holed sheet on top of that. When you look at the picture, you will only be able to see small parts where the holes are. Can you guess what the picture is? No? Slowly remove the large-holed sheet, revealing the picture bit-by-bit.
What's Missing, Teacher?
Place three familiar cards face up in a row. Turn around and ask the students to turn one card over. You return and try to name the card. Turn the card face up again, and let the students add a card to the pile. Turn around again, and the students turn one card over. Return and name the card. Gradually add more cards to the mix. Tip: Have the students turn over only one card at a time. After a few rounds, change places. The students turn around and the teacher turns a card over.
Jumping Cards
Choose 8-10 picture cards and hang them in a row on the board. Have students stand. Everyone stamps their feet left, right, left, right, left, right in a comfortable beat. Start chanting the names of the cards. After two or three rounds, turn one card over. Repeat the chant, but when you reach the card that has been turned over, everybody jumps. Turn over another card and start the chant again. You will jump two times now. Continue turning over cards until all but one of the cards have been turned over. Increase the pace or the number of cards if the students want a bigger challenge!
Ready to try these activities for yourself? 
Check out our free Flashcards page to download flashcards to accompany many of the songs from our CD series.


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