Flashcard Activities: ✅ Top 5 Ideas to Replace Incessant Drilling
For nearly a year, I have taught four to six-year-olds residing in the outskirts of Beijing. My students do not sit at desks. They instead sit side-by-side on a line of chairs, all of which face an interactive whiteboard complete with pre-designed flipcharts. As my students are still learning essential words for everyday English use, drills and flashcards are crucial within our lessons. However, drilling can quickly lose a young learner's interest. To remedy the monotony, I have used the following five activities: One-Step, Monster, Bomb; Hopscotch; Fly Swat Race; Tic-Tac-Toe; and Rock, Paper, Scissors Tournament. Each game proved to be an effective way to have young learners drill while keeping them engaged in the lesson.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Kyra H. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
1. One-Step, Monster, Bomb
I observed a local teacher at my center play One-Step, Monster, Bomb with her students, and I have since then used it with many of my classes. The premise is that the entire class stands at their chairs while the teacher stands at the other end of the room. The teacher holds flashcards containing the keywords, along with a flashcard of a bomb and a flashcard of a monster. The goal for the students is to reach the teacher. To do so, the students must say the correct keywords shown on the teacher's chosen flashcard. If correct, they may take one step. If the teacher shows the bomb flashcard, the students must say "Bomb!" and duck. Then they may stand again and resume their progress. However, if the teacher shows the monster flashcard, the students must rush back to their seats. This can be effective, as reaching the teacher does not become the students' main goal. The students anticipate the bomb and monster surprises. The suspense makes drilling more exciting, and I purposefully stall the next flashcard until everyone has said the keyword. As the following activities will show, an effective flashcard game has the students move and be competitive.
Though the hopscotch activity is based on the classic hopscotch game (a game that my Chinese students are also familiar with), I first learned of its adaptation for the Study phase through one of my company's lesson plans. After learning critical words from the flipchart, split the class into two teams. Draw two numbered hopscotches on the floor. In between, they lay down the flashcards containing either the keyword or picture. After picking a representative from each team, let a student roll a large die. The students then "race" each other to the correct number on their respective hopscotch and say the keyword. An alternative way to play is to have the students say each passing word as they hop along with their hopscotch. The teacher then gives the appropriate reward to each individual and team. The teacher must be sure to divide the groups fairly, where strong and weak students may work together, as is essential for the next activity, the Fly Swat Race.
3. Fly Swat Race
To play Fly Swat Race, the teacher first breaks the class into two teams. According to the class's overall behavior, either have the students line up against the adjacent walls or remain in their chairs. Use blue-tac to stick the flashcards sporadically on the whiteboard. (I like to draw fly wings and mouths around the cards.) Either show the picture of the keyword, or the word itself, depending on which receptive skill needs improvement. One student from each team joins the teacher opposite the flashcards. Give the two students fly swatters. Then, say the keyword or use a sentence or description that points to the flashcard. The students then race each other to the correct word. The first student who swats the "fly" and says the word wins a point for their team. Each participant receives their reward after each attempt. The activities mentioned thus far are best used for the Study phase. However, the next move may be used for Engage phase.
Unlike the other activities, I observed the tic-tac-toe flashcard game more within my school as an Engage activity. First, the teacher quickly reviews the keywords and their pictures with the whole class. Then, large tic-tac-toe is drawn on the board. Each space showcases a number and a flashcard of a keyword's picture. The course is divided into two teams, which are designated X's and O's, and then the teams work together to pick a number. To make sure each student has a chance to play, choose one student from the group to tell me the keyword. Their teammates may help if the child is struggling. The child is then allowed to go up to the board, remove the flashcard, and draw an X or an O. The teacher rewards everyone appropriately. Tic-tac-toe can be time-consuming depending on the students, which is why it may be designated to take up the entire Engage phase. However, the next activity moves fast and may be used as the study phase's final activity.
5. Rock, Paper, Scissors
Finally, a personal favorite flashcard activity: Rock, Paper, Scissors Tournament. Everyone competes as individuals. I recommend having a helper teacher (if available) to help check if the participants are saying the keywords. First, group two sets of three different flashcards. Stick one location on the left side of the board and the other set on the right side. To further guide the students, draw three squares underneath each flashcard and then draw two large circles in the center. The goal is to have two students say each keyword and then meet in the middle to play a single rock-paper-scissors game. The winner may switch sides to the other set of flashcards while a new student goes up. The cycle repeats until everyone has tried. The last student standing may even play against the teacher!
Are you ready to teach English abroad or online?
Drilling is still essential. However, continual drilling may bore a class of young learners. Flashcard activities like these may make learning more engaging and maybe even more memorable.
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