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A flashcard or flash card is a card that is used as a learning aid. One writes a question on a
card and an answer overleaf. Flashcards can bear vocabulary, historical dates, formulas or any
subject matter that can be learned via a question and answer format. Flashcards are widely used
as a learning drill to aid memorization by way of spaced repetition. Computer-based versions of
such scheduling claim to drastically cut down on learning time in the form of downloadable
applications (Win flash, Super Memo, Mental Case and Mnemosyne) or online (Cram mage).
Leitner System
A widely used method to efficiently use flashcards was proposed by the German science
popularizer Sebastian Leitner in the 1970s. In his method, known as the Leitner system,
flashcards are sorted into groups according to how well you know each one in the Leitner's
learning box. This is how it works: you try to recall the solution written on a flashcard. If you
succeed, you send the card to the next group. However, if you fail, you send it back to the first
group. Each succeeding group has a longer period before you are required to revisit the cards.
For example, suppose you have 3 groups called Group 1, Group 2 and Group 3. The cards in
Group 1 are the ones that you often make mistakes with, and Group 3 contains the cards that
you know very well. You might choose to study the Group 1 cards once a day, Group 2 every 3
days, and the Group 3 cards every 5 days. If you look at a Group 1 card and get the correct
answer, you "promote" it to Group 2. A correct answer with a Group 2 card "promotes" that card
to Group 3. If you make a mistake with a Group 2 or Group 3 card, it gets "demoted" to Group 1,
which forces you to study that card more often.

The advantage of this method is that you can focus on the most difficult flashcards, which
remain in the first few groups. The result is, ideally, a reduction in the amount of study time
Similar ideas have been implemented into a number of computer-assisted language learning
titles. Much of this software makes use of so-called electronic flashcards.

A bulletin board (pin board, pin board or notice board in British English) is a place where
people can leave public messages, for example, to advertise things to buy or sell, announce
events, or provide information. Bulletin boards are often made of a material such as cork to
facilitate addition and removal of messages or it can be placed on the computer so people can
leave and erase messages for other people to read and see.
Bulletin boards are particularly prevalent at universities. Many sport dozens, if not hundreds or
thousands of public bulletin boards, used for everything from advertisements by extracurricular
groups and local shops to official notices. Dormitory corridors, well-trafficked hallways, lobbies,
and freestanding kiosks often have corkboards attached to facilitate the posting of notices. At
some universities, lampposts, bollards, trees, and walls often become impromptu posting sites in
areas where official boards are sparse in number.

Well-used bulletin board on the Infinite Corridor at MIT,
November 2004.
Using flash cards
These activities relate to the Think article - Using flash cards with young learners. In the article,
there are more activity examples.
Memory Activities
Memory Tester
• Place a selection of flash cards on the floor in a circle.
• Students have one minute to memorize the cards.
• In groups, they have two minutes to write as many of the names as they can remember.

Drilling Activities
a What?
• Students sit in a circle.
• You show a flash card to Student 1 and say, "This is a hamster."
• Student 1 looks at the flash card and asks you "a what?"
• The teacher replies "a hamster" and passes the flash card on.
• Student 1 passes the flash card on to Student 2 and says, "This is a hamster".
• Student 2 asks Student 1 "a what?" and Student 1 asks the teacher "a what?" the teacher
replies to Student 1 "a hamster" and Student 1 replies to Student 2 "a hamster" and so it
goes on until the flash card travels full circle.
• When the group has mastered it, 2 flash cards can go around the circle in opposite
directions. They will cross over mid circle.
• When students know the game, choose one of them to do the teacher's role.

Identification Activities
Fast Finger
• Stick flash cards on the board or on the wall (for very little people who will not reach the
board!) in a line.
• Give a clue to indicate which flash card you are thinking of. When presenting a new lexical
set for the first time, give the whole word, e.g."Say stop when the fast finger is above the
cat". When revising, or with higher levels, you can just give a clue, e.g. "It's an animal that
can't fly, but it can climb trees."
• Ask students to shout STOP when your finger is above the required flash card.
• Then bounce your finger along in a random fashion to a silly tune until they shout STOP at
the right time.
• When they get the idea, ask a student to be the Fast Finger.
• You can also use the word cards instead of a finger. When the word is above the
corresponding pictorial flash card students shout STOP!

TPR activities
• Students sit in 2 lines facing each other with legs out and feet touching.
• Each facing pair is shown a flash card that they must remember. When you call out their
card, they stand up, run over the legs of the others, the ladder, around the back, and back
to their places.
• The first one back wins a point for their line. If the students are very lively, you can do it
standing up to avoid trampled legs!

Using flash cards with young learners
Flashcards are a simple, versatile, yet often under exploited resource. I would like to offer some
reasons for using flash cards and a selection of activities for use in the Young Learner classroom,
although some of the activities could also be used with fun-loving, lower level adult classes.

In this article, there is one example for each type of activity. If you follow this link - Flash card
activities - you will find more examples for each type of activity.
• Why use flash cards
• Where to get flash cards
• Activity types for using flash cards
• Memory activities
• Drilling activities
• Identification activities
• TPR activities

Why use flash cards?
Howard Gardener's multiple intelligence theory reminds teachers that there are many types of
learners within any one class. Gardener's research indicates that teachers should aim to appeal
to all the different learner types at some point during the course. It is particularly important to
appeal to visual learners, as a very high proportion of learners have this type of intelligence.
Flashcards can be bright and colorful and make a real impact on visual learners. Many of the
activities outlined below will also appeal to kinesthetic learners.
For children at reading age, flash cards can be used in conjunction with word cards. These are
simply cards that display the written word. Word cards should be introduced well after the
pictorial cards so as not to interfere with correct pronunciation.

Flashcards are a really handy resource to have and can be useful at every stage of the class.
They are a great way to present, practice and recycle vocabulary and when students become
familiar with the activities used in class, they can be given out to early-finishers to use in small
groups. I sometimes get the students to make their own sets of mini flash cards that can be
taken home for them to play with, with parents and siblings.

Where to get flash cards?
• Buy them - Some course books provide a supplementary pack of flash cards or they can
be bought in sets.
• Make them yourself - If you do not have access to professionally produced flash cards, do
not worry, it is really easy to make your own even if you're not very artistic. You can use
pictures from magazines, draw simple pictures or copy from the internet or clip art. The
most important thing is to make sure they are all of the same size, on card (different
colors for different sets) so you cannot see through them. If possible, you can laminate the
sets as you make them and they will last for years. The advantage of making your own,
apart from the fact that they are cheap and yours to keep, is that you can make sets for
your specific needs. You may like to make a set to use in conjunction with a storybook or
graded reader, or even to accompany project work.
• Students make them - I have recently begun to incorporate the production of flash cards
into the classroom. After introducing a new lexical set, using regalia or the course book,
ask students to produce the flash cards for you. Give each one an item to draw. They can
be mounted on card to make the set.

Activities for using flash cards
I have divided the activities into the following categories: Memory, drilling, identification and TPR
In this article, there is an example for each type of activity. If you follow this link - Flash card
activities - you will find more examples for each type of activity.

Memory Activities
• Memory Tester
o Place a selection of flash cards on the floor in a circle.
o Students have one minute to memorize the cards.
o In groups, they have two minutes to write as many of the names as they can
Drilling Activities
• Invisible Flashcards
o Stick 9 flash cards on the board and draw a grid around them.
o Use a pen or a pointer to drill the 9 words. Always point to the flash card you are
o Gradually remove the flash cards but continue to drill and point to the grid where
the flash card was.
o When the first card is removed and you point to the blank space, nod your head to
encourage children to say the word of the removed flash card.
o Students should remember and continue as if the flash cards were still there. They
seem to be amazed that they can remember the pictures.
o Depending on the age group, I then put the flash cards back in the right place on
the grid, asking the children where they go, or I ask students to come up and write
the word in the correct place on the grid.

This activity highlights the impact of visual aids. It really proves that the images 'stick' in
students' minds.

Identification Activities
• Reveal the word
o Cover the flash card or word card with a piece of card and slowly reveal it.
o Students guess which one it is.
o Once the card is shown, chorally drill the word with the group using different
intonation and silly voices to keep it fun. Vary the volume too, whisper and shout
the words. Children will automatically copy your voice.
o Alternatively, flip the card over very quickly so the children just get a quick glimpse.
o Repeat until they have guessed the word.

TPR activities
• Point or race to the flash cards
o Stick flash cards around the class.
o Say one of them and students point or race to it.
o Students can then give the instructions to classmates.
o You can extend this by saying, "hop to the cat" or even "if you have blonde hair,
swim to the fish" etc.
o You can also incorporate flash cards into a game of Simon Says. "Simon says, jump
to the T-shirt" etc.
Young learners and the phonemic chart

The main aim of this article is for teachers to help their students become more knowledgeable
and interested in learning the sounds of English and to help them see how it can facilitate
autonomous learning with self-study
English language learning material and dictionaries. I hope that if we start educating learners
from a young age they will be more comfortable the phonemic script and see the benefits of it
when they are older and more self-aware learners.
• Why use the chart?
• Background to the activities
• The phoneme race
• Make your own wall charts
• Chinese whispers
• Using dictionaries
• Going shopping

Why use the chart?
First of all let's take a look at why we should use the phonemic chart at all in class. I have spoken
to many teachers who say they shy away from using the chart. Perhaps they are unfamiliar with
the sounds and symbols, or they see it as too difficult for their students to learn. Alternatively,
they might have come up against student resistance to using the symbols in class doing
pronunciation work. I hope that this article will help us to see how
it can be incredibly beneficial for teachers and students to become more familiar with the sounds
and give them some ideas of how they can become more confident (teachers and students)
about using the phonemic chart.
Here are some of the reasons I can see for using the phonemic chart in
pronunciation work:
• It provides a standard from which to teach and learn pronunciation.
• It enables the students to better use their dictionaries.
• It gives the teacher a fast and effective tool for teaching pronunciation and for correcting
• Once accustomed to it the students can use it in their notes to help learn the correct
pronunciation of new vocabulary. Often without proper drilling etc, it can be difficult for
students to remember the correct pronunciation as the spelling of English can be
• If, as a teacher, you feel you are still learning about pronunciation or want to learn about
the phonetic chart then doing activities is one of the best ways of doing this.
• As Jennifer Jenkins suggests in her article, teachers can be selective about the sounds they
help their learners to focus on. Learners should be made aware of the importance of
pronunciation and of which sounds help them to become more comprehensible in the
English-speaking world.

Background to the activities
although the following activities are aimed mainly at young learners many would be ideal for
adult groups. Adults also enjoy kinesthetic activities, and many of the ones described in this
article are just that!
The ideas are for the most part are discrete item approach activities- isolating sounds. I have
also included an activity, which shows how we can incorporate pronunciation work into more
communicative activities.
Now for the fun part. Here are 10 ideas for teaching pronunciation using the phonetic alphabet.

The phoneme race
This is useful for introducing students to new phonemes and revising recently learnt sounds.
• Put six or so symbols on the board.
• Write words on cards big enough to be seen when stuck on the board. Five for each sound
is enough.
• Drill the sounds. Be imaginative with your voice if doing it with young learners. They will
remember it better if they are having fun.
• Put the students in teams. One-person form each team races to the teacher and is given a
card. They return to the group and decide which phoneme is used in the word from the
board. They write the phoneme on the back of the card and run back to the teacher. If the
symbol is correct, the student is given another card. They must keep the cards and try to
accumulate as many as possible. The winning team is the one with the most cards at the
• Give the students blue tack and ask them to stick the symbols to the board. Then do
another drilling session.
• Then, in the teams, the students choose two symbols and race to make a sentence for
each that includes three of the words from that symbol. The sentence must make some
• Then you can reward the most imaginative sentences.

Make your own wall charts
• Put the symbols you want to learn on the board and drill them.
• Then ask students to match flash cards with each symbol. For example, /i:/ can be
matched with a picture of cheese.
• Then ask the children to draw the symbol and the picture on the top of a large piece of
colored card. These cards are then stuck to the wall for the next class.
• In the next class, the children are put into colored teams. Each team is given ten words on
cards, which they have to stick to the posters. Play some fun music to do this! Give them a
time limit.
• Then, check how many they got correct. (Try to use words they are familiar with, or words
you want to revise.) The winners are those with most correct.
• Every few classes you can revise this, repeat it and add to it. So you end up with a
comprehensive and colorful wall display all created by them. Much more interesting than a
published phonemic chart for young learners.

Chinese whispers.
Again, this is for revising individual sounds.
• The teacher sits the learners in a circle and shows a student a symbol, also whispering it in
their ear.
• The sound is passed around the class. If the sound is correct at the end for the symbol, the
students get a point, if not the teacher gets a point.

Using dictionaries,
This should be done with students who are familiar with the script and is suitable more for
teenagers and adults.
• Choose five words from the dictionary and write them in phonetic script.
• Ask the students in pairs to write down what they think the word is.
• Then get the students to swap papers with a different group and ask them to look up the
word to see if they were correct.
• The winners are the group with most correct.
• Then they can make a new list of five words for the other group to repeat the activity with.
• This can be combined with a revision of vocabulary from the course book they are using.
The students look up words in the dictionary from the book and transcribe them for the
other group to guess.

Going shopping
This is a communicative activity which incorporates some sounds you have been doing in class
into a shopping list activity where the students have to practice dialogues buying certain items
like cheese, meat, /i:/, and crisps, milk /I/.
• Students can be put into two groups of shop owners and customers with a budget to make
it more 'authentic'.
• Then they have a certain time to buy all the items they can on the list.
• For the shop owners, give them flash cards of food items or pieces of card with the food
and prices on them.
• Afterwards they can decide the cheapest and most expensive shops as a class.

Learning styles and teaching

Your students will be more successful if you match your teaching style to their learning styles.
• What is a learning style?
• Where do learning styles come from?
• Why should teachers know about learning styles?
• What types of learning styles are there?
• What teaching methods and activities suit different learning styles?

What is a learning style?
Ellis (1985) described a learning style as the more or less consistent way in which a person
perceives, conceptualizes, organizes and recalls information.

Where do learning styles come from?
Your students' learning styles will be influenced by their genetic make-up, their previous learning
experiences, their culture and the society they live in.

Why should teachers know about learning styles?
Sue Davidoff and Owen van den Berg (1990) suggest four steps: plan, teach / act, observe and
reflect. Here are some guidelines for each step.
• Students learn better and more quickly if the teaching methods used match their
preferred learning styles.
• As learning improves, so too does self esteem. This has a further positive effect on
• Students who have become bored with learning may become interested once again.
• The student-teacher relationship can improve because the student is more successful and
is more interested in learning.

What types of learning styles are there?
There are many ways of looking at learning styles. Here are some of the classification systems
that researchers have developed.
• The four modalities
(originates from the work of Dr's Bandler, R. and Grinder, J. in the Field of Neuron-
Linguistic Programming)
Students may prefer a visual (seeing), auditory (hearing), kinesthetic (moving) or tactile
(touching) way of learning.
o Those who prefer a visual learning style...
 ...look at the teacher's face intently
 looking at wall displays, books etc.
 ...often recognize words by sight
 ...use lists to organize their thoughts
 ...recall information by remembering how it was set out on a page
o Those who prefer an auditory learning style...
 the teacher to provide verbal instructions
 dialogues, discussions and plays
 ...solve problems by talking about them
 ...use rhythm and sound as memory aids
o Those who prefer a kinesthetic learning style...
 ...learn best when they are involved or active
 ...find it difficult to sit still for long periods
 ...use movement as a memory aid
o Those who prefer a tactile way of learning...
 ...use writing and drawing as memory aids
 ...learn well in hands-on activities like projects and demonstrations

• Field-independent vs. Field-dependent
o Field-independent students
 They can easily separate important from a complex or confusing background.
They tend to rely on themselves and their own thought-system when solving
problems. They are not so skilled in interpersonal relationships.

o Field-dependent students
 They find it more difficult to see the parts in a compels completely.
 They rely on others' ideas when solving problems and are good at
interpersonal relationships.
• Left-brain dominated vs. right-brain dominated
o Students who are left-brain dominated...
 ...are intellectual
 ...process information in a linear way
 ...tend to be objective
 ...prefer established, certain information
 ...rely on language in thinking and remembering

o Those who are right brain dominated...
 ...are intuitive
 ...process information in a holistic way
 ...tend to be subjective
 ...prefer elusive, uncertain information
 ...rely on drawing and manipulating to help them think and learn

• McCarthy's four learning styles
McCarthy (1980) described students as innovative learners, analytic learners, common
sense learners or dynamic learners
o Innovative learners...
 ...look for personal meaning while learning
 ...draw on their values while learning
 ...enjoy social interaction
 ... are cooperative
 ...want to make the world a better place
o Analytic learners...
 ...want to develop intellectually while learning
 ...draw on facts while learning
 ...are patient and reflective
 ...want to know " important things" and to add to the world's knowledge
o Common sense learners...
 ...want to find solutions
 ... value things if they are useful
 ...are kinesthetic
 ...are practical and straightforward
 ... want to make things happen
o Dynamic learners...
 ...look for hidden possibilities
 ...judge things by gut reactions
 ...synthesize information from different sources
 ...are enthusiastic and adventurous

What teaching methods and activities suit different learning styles?
• The Four Modalities
o Visual
 Use many visuals in the classroom. For example, wall displays posters,
regalia, flash cards, graphic organizers etc.
o Auditory
 Use audio tapes and videos, storytelling, songs, jazz chants, memorization
and drills
 Allow learners to work in pairs and small groups regularly.
o Kinesthetic
 Use physical activities, competitions, board games, role-plays etc.
 Intersperse activities which require students to sit quietly with activities that
allow them to move around and be active
o Tactile
 Use board and card games, demonstrations, projects, role-plays etc.
 Use while-listening and reading activities. For example, ask students to fill in
a table while listening to a talk, or to label a diagram while reading

• Field-independent vs. field-dependent
o Field-independent
 Let students work on some activities on their own
o Field-dependent
 Let students work on some activities in pairs and small groups

• Left-brain vs. right-brain dominated
o Left-brain dominated
 Give verbal instructions and explanations
 Set some closed tasks to which students can discover the "right" answer

o Right-brained dominated
 Write instructions as well as giving them verbally
 Demonstrate what you would like students to do
 Give students clear guidelines, a structure, for tasks
 Set some open-ended tasks for which there is no "right" answer
 Use regalia and other things that students can manipulate while learning
 Sometimes allow students to respond by drawing

• McCarthy's four learning styles
o Innovative learners
 Use cooperative learning activities and activities in which students must
make value judgments
 Ask students to discuss their opinions and beliefs
o Analytic learners
 Teach students the facts
o Common sense learners
 Use problem-solving activities
o Dynamic learners
 Ask students about their feelings
 Use a variety of challenging activities

If you vary the activities that you use in your lessons, you are sure to cater for learners with
different learning styles at least some of the time.