How to Make Flashcard Drills Exciting

(Note: tips for adjusting this activity for a large class is at the end of the post.)

RaiseHandSometimes there is just no way to get around doing flashcard drills, but that is no reason why you can’t inject a little fun into the activity!

First of all, if you are not already using the 1-2-3 incentive technique then you’ll want to check that out first. That one little trick got my shy and easily distracted group of elementary kids literally begging for me to call on them. Honestly, it’s worth the look. Come back here when you’re done!

Now then, if you’re using 1-2-3 or some other incentive technique, then all you do is layer this game on top.

  1. First, gather your flashcards and put in one action card. For my 6-9 year olds I usually use a cute “devil” card, but you could use anything you have on hand.
  2. Mix the cards and fan them out face down and allow a student to choose a card. If it is a regular flashcard, then s/he must do the task (e.g. put a verb into the past tense).
  3. Repeat with the other students until someone gets the action card. That student technically “loses,” but rather than punish him/her, you award the point to the student who came immediately before that student. (This is a variation on my Sweet Potato game, if you are familiar with that.)

That’s it! It very simple, but my kids love it. It is especially helpful for the, shall we say, “less gifted” students because they can still earn points even if they aren’t the best in the class. It also keeps everyone focused because you never know when the action card is coming! I just did this activity today and I actually got groans from the class when we had to stop, if you can believe that!

BONUS TIP: When the action card comes up, the kids get excited and blurt out lots of their native language. This is a great chance to have your class say a word or phrase, like “that’s too bad” or “oh no.” Once they say it a few times they will use it pretty consistently, and why not sneak in a little extra English wherever you can?

FOR LARGE CLASSES: Divide your large class into 2-6 teams depending on the size of the class. More teams with fewer members per team seems to work better. It also helps to give the teams a simple name (a letter, number, color, fruit, etc.) Do the activity as described above, but have one member represent the team during each turn. The team members should rotate so that everyone has a chance to speak.

If you have tried this activity, let me know how it worked for you!


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