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Using Flashcards in Teaching EFL Teenagers and Adults

Using Flashcards in Teaching EFL Teenagers and Adults | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Flashcards are a simple, versatile, yet often underexploited resource, and they are instrumental in eliciting more obscure words. They are a great way to present, practice, and recycle vocabulary and some grammar structures.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Fatoş T. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

Benefits to Use Flashcards

Flashcards can also be bright and colorful and make a real impact on visual learners. It is essential to appeal to visual learners, as a very high proportion of learners have this type of intelligence.

When putting together flashcard sets, teachers should use the most transparent, most straightforward images they can find. The cards can be either double-sided or single-sided according to the purpose of the activity. Creating multiple sets of cards is also a good idea.

Lesson Planning with Flashcards

The focus of the lesson plan can be on just about anything from vocabulary to grammar points. Having the students work in groups with the flashcards is an excellent way to enhance problem-solving and get them practicing using English. Supplementing with flashcards to use in activities will help freshen up any stale or dull lessons.

They can be used during every teaching phase like engage, study, or activate, but mostly they are preferred to help engage the students and elicit or explain the meaning of a word in the commit phase of teaching. During this phase, they can also be used to present and practice grammar structures.

Whereas they are primarily used in the classes with young learners, they can also be fun-loving teenagers and adult classes. However, because they are a convenient resource, they can help at every stage of the course and in courses of different levels and ages.

Ideas on Using Flashcards in the Classroom

What the teacher needs to do first is simply flashcards in front of students. One necessary condition is to make sure they are watching. Their full attention is required since the teacher will flash a card in front of them very quickly. The teacher shows the card, and the students have to name what's on it. He or she slowly speeds it up and starts adding more cards.


Flashcards are always a great way to boost students' vocabulary. For example, one way to teach language is to have the students pair up and give each pair a stack of vocabulary cards. Depending on how many cards the teacher has for each group, they set the time to about one or two minutes. They can have the students write the names of the image or concept on the back of each card, but the teacher should make sure the word is not visible from the front. Then, as quickly as possible, the teacher has the students work together showing the image while their partner is trying to guess the word in English. When the timer is up, the teacher stops everyone, has them count how many cards they think correctly, then has the teams switch. He or she can give this activity a competitive edge by offering prizes for the team with the most significant amount of valid cards at the end of the time.

Group Work

Another way to use flashcards is pairing. The teacher decides on the number of the cards depending on the abilities of his or her students. He or she has, for example, six pairs of 2 cards with the same image spread on the floor facing up. The teacher can line them up in rows of 3 or 4. He or she has the students look carefully at the card for about 20 seconds and memorize the cards' places. Students then take turns to flip the cards in pairs. The one who scans all the pairs first wins.


Finding the card is an alternative idea to use flashcards. The teacher takes about 20 cards with recently learned vocabulary. He or she spreads them around the classroom and has a student name a card they see. The other students need to find the card. The student with the most cards at the end wins. Matching with the word is very similar to finding the card activity. This time students should check card images with cards where the comments are written.

To use flashcards in the classes with beginner-level teenagers and adults, the teacher can divide them into two groups. He or she can choose to drill vocabulary of phrases students have just learned. For example, a picture of a girl. The student who is first in line asks: "What is John wearing?" The student behind answers: "John is wearing a red hat, a blue jacket, and brown shoes," then turns back and asks the same question to the student behind. The team that finishes first wins.

Besides, guessing the word is an efficient way while using flashcards. One example way to apply it starts with dividing the students into teams. One student of each group can see the card. He or she needs to explain to the rest what the word is. The team that guesses most words wins.

Alternative way also includes dividing the students into teams. One student of each group sees the card. This time, the rest of the students are asking questions to guess it.

With teenagers and adults, sometimes getting them active and talking can be a challenge. Another activity teachers can have with adults is to print out two of each flashcard and give each student one card. The teacher should make sure there is an even number of students. Students must then describe the image or concept on their card and find their mate while walking around the classroom.

Grammar Boost

Flashcards can be used to teach more intricate grammar concepts, too. One such activity revolves around teaching count and non-count nouns. The teacher breaks the students into groups and gives each a stack of flashcards with various objects. The students must correctly categorize the images into count and non-count nouns. To extend the lesson, the teacher can have students write sentences using the nouns or even perform a brief skit using the objects available to them on their flashcards.

In classes with teenagers or adults, flashcard activities are a great way to get a good discussion going between the students. One activity the teacher can try in his or her class is recipe building. The teacher divides the students into small groups and gives them each a stack of flashcards with food images on them. These images will be the ingredients. The students should work together to come up with a recipe using the pictures provided. This can be a good activity for when the teacher is working on imperatives (cut the onion, peel the tomatoes, etc.), connectors of sequence (first, next, then, last, etc.), or simply following directions. In the final phase, the students must present their recipes to the class, working on the proper pronunciation of the images shown on their flashcards.

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In conclusion, according to the activities in which flashcards are used for teenager and adult classes, it can be said that the use of flashcards is highly beneficial and they can be used with many different levels and ages depending on the purpose of the lesson.

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