Saturday, 28 September 2013


A flashcard is a laminated card with a picture of a vocabulary item. For example a picture of a cat. The teacher points to the picture and says, “Cat.” The student understands what the sound “cat” means and associates it with the picture. Flashcards usually have the picture with the word written underneath.

Ninety-nine percent of TEFL teaching for young learners involves flashcards (FCs). Even if you prefer to draw your own pictures on the whiteboard, you are still following the same basic principle. From lower levels (“cat”) to higher (“travel around the world”) flashcards are used. Often for higher levels the flashcard picture must be explained and concept checked before the repetition of the vocabulary item commences.

Students will have textbooks to fill in during class time, homework to do; and grammatical structures, spelling, free speaking practice and many other areas of the language learning will be taught within a lesson. This blog, however, aims to solely deal with the teaching of picture flashcards as vocabulary items. It is aimed at new TEFL teachers but can also serve as a handy reference for experienced language instructors in search of some fresh ideas.

The activities in this blog will be ordered so that they are progressively more challenging. Primary drills are used for the first time the students come into contact with the vocabulary (look, listen and repeat); then things become more student centred: we test how well they can remember the FCs (matching games), work on individual pronunciation, and finally the students are given the chance to use the new vocabulary in language context.

Although this blog is wholly concerned with different ways of teaching flashcards, there are techniques discussed that can be applied to other areas of language teaching.

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