Flashcards as a tool ESL teaching

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As a trainee or novice ESL teacher, you will no doubt be keen to liven up your ESL lessons by the use of various classroom tools: one simple and enjoyable classroom tool is flashcards.

Flashcards are small cards that contain information on both sides: the front may have letters of the alphabet, pictures, or simply vocabulary. The rear of the card will usually contain the name, definition or explanation of what is shown on the front. Here are some suggestions about how the novice ESL teacher can use this tool in the classroom: obviously, the level of the material displayed on the flashcard should be commensurate with the CEFR level of the ESL students. Flashcards are a very entertaining way of learning vocabulary. If the ESL teacher is using them as part of a classroom lesson, they should be made large enough so that they can be clearly seen from the back of the classroom: A4 size would be a good size to use. When making the flashcards, look for pictures in magazines or on the internet: some sites allow you to make your own flashcards for free: visit   http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2009/07/10-places-to-make-and-find-flashcards.html#.U68OHZQ_Bp4 and take your pick. You can then present your flashcards on a large screen linked to your computer/laptop. Make about thirty picture flashcards and on the back of each card write the name of what is shown on the front: now get the students to name the objects shown in the pictures. When making your flashcards – test the students using classified vocabulary, e.g. means of transport, occupations, emotions, etc. Flashcards can also be used for learning antonyms and synonyms: about fifty flashcards will be required. You will need two cards for each ‘word – synonym’ pair, e.g. ‘angry – infuriated’ and similarly for the twenty-five ‘word – antonym’ pairs. Place all the words on one half of a large table and the antonyms/synonyms on the other half. Pick up a card and ask the students to select the corresponding antonym/synonym. The ESL students can also be encouraged to make their own flashcards as a homework assignment: it should first be agreed what classified vocabulary each student is going to focus on – this will avoid duplication, for example, one student might make animal flashcards, another furniture flashcards, etc.  Ten flashcards is a reasonable number: the students could then test each other in class. Flashcards can also be utilized for teaching the alphabet and general pronunciation: words printed on the flashcard should also have stress marks to show where the words should be stressed. The words should also be grouped into meaningful groups for pronunciation practice, e.g. specific consonant clusters or vowel combinations. With a little imagination – flashcards can be a great lesson tool.

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