There are many benefits to using flashcards in class. Use them to elicit, practice, or review vocabulary or grammar structures. Use them as a warm-up, filler, or review for a related lesson. You can even use them as a vocabulary or grammar lesson unto themselves. But how can we use flashcards in class? Get creative with the activities suggested below!
1. Memory (also called Concentration)
Print out one set of flashcard images and one set of flashcard words per group of four or more students. Lay out cards facedown in a grid. Students take turns flipping over two cards. If the word and image match, they can keep the pair and go again. If not, they flip them back over and another student takes a turn. At the end, the student with the most pairs wins.
2. Go Fish
Print out one set of flashcard images and one set of words per group of four to six students. Deal out five cards to each student. One student asks Do you have a ______? to one person in the group and tries to match the word or image of a card they have in their hand. If the student has the card, he or she must hand it over and it’s still the first student’s turn. If the student doesn’t have that card, he or she says Go fish. The first student must then take a card from the deck, and it’s the next student’s turn. The object is to collect word/image pairs and get rid of all the cards. At the end, the student with the most pairs wins.
3. Matching Game
Half of the students get an image flashcard, and half get a corresponding word flashcard. Students must find their match by giving clues that describe the image or word. (Example clues with animal cards: I have fur, I can swim, I live in the forest, etc.)
Divide the class into two teams. One student from team A comes to the board, picks a word flashcard, and draws the image on the board. The team has 30 seconds to guess—if they can name it, they get a point. At the end, the team with the most points wins.
You can make your own Bingo cards by cutting out 25 images and pasting them in random order into this Bingo template. Or, to save yourself a lot of prep time, choose the maximum flashcard print-per-page option of 16 images (scroll down for our how-to video for instructions on printing flashcards from our site). Switch the order every time you print, and print out enough so that each student has one. Hand out one Bingo card to each student. Call out the image names. Students should cross off the corresponding images on their cards. The first student to get a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal line yells Bingo! and is the winner. To make the game last longer, students must have two (or three, or four) lines before yelling Bingo!
6. Spelling Bee
Divide the class into two teams. Show a flashcard to one student from team A. If he or she can spell the word correctly, that team gets a point. At the end, the team with the most points wins!
7. Pronunciation Bee
Same as the spelling bee, but show a flashcard and have a student from one team try to pronounce it correctly.
Divide students into two teams. Print out flashcards from various categories and spread them out on a table or the floor (have 50 or 100 if possible). When you yell Go! all students must run to the area and find flashcards that fit into that category (e.g., clothes you wear in winter, things you can eat or drink, etc.). The team with the most correct flashcards wins. Play as many times as you'd like with different categories. You can reset the scores after each round, or have a cumulative total to determine the ultimate winning team.
9. Story Time
Play as a class or in small groups. Put students in a circle. Have one student draw a flashcard from a deck (prepare flashcards from one category that you've been practicing, or from various categories for fun). The student must make a sentence using the image on the card. Then next student must draw a card and continue the story. If you want to score this, allow students who use the image correctly in a sentence to keep the card. If they don't know the word or use it incorrectly, they must put the card back into the deck. The student with the most cards at the end is the winner.
10. Guess Who?
Tape one flashcard to the back of each student. Students then move about the class asking their classmates Yes/No questions until they can guess who or what they are. This activity works with many cateogories such as jobs, animals, food, tools, furniture, clothes, etc. (Example questions with animal cards: Do I have fur? Can I swim? Do I live in the forest? etc.)
ESL Library has more than 2,000 flashcards in 18 broad categories and many common subcategories. There are also many printing and customizing options so that you can generate exactly what you need for your learners. Here's a how-to video to check out (updated video coming soon).
For more activities, especially with specific sets of flashcards, see Flashcard Ideas on our blog.
If there's a flashcard set we don't have that you'd like to see, drop us a line! We're always developing new sets and love teacher requests.