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Using Quizlet to
engage teens
Pete Clements looks at using digital flashcards.


’m always looking for ways to keep my introduced using flashcards is often basic flashcards, learning the vocabulary
teen classes motivated. This probably decontextualised, and that flashcards items through multiple-choice activities,
won’t surprise you, but some form of engage learners mainly in shallow- completing a test based on the study set,
technology usually helps! As part of encoding tasks (as Gianfranco Conti has spelling practice and playing matching
an action research project for my MA mentioned in recent blog posts). games. There is also a collaborative

course (through NILE ELT) I decided to game called Quizlet Live which can be
see whether use of the digital flashcard played during class time.
tool Quizlet motivated my teen classes to
Teens and motivation
undertake self-study. Did it? Yes and no ... When it comes to class time, my teens
are very motivated to study English.
The study
Their level is pretty good, they are quite The aims of my action research were the
About digital flashcards ... confident speakers and tend to find following:

The use of digital flashcard websites for their own ways to make tasks fun and
memorising vocabulary and revising engaging. I’m hardly fighting a losing nn integrate Quizlet into classroom

new concepts seems popular at present. battle – in fact they’re a dream to teach. practice for teen classes throughout
The mission page for one such site, They seem to enjoy my little teaching one term

Quizlet, states that ‘every month over experiments too, well, most of them (the
nn encourage and promote self-study
20 million active learners from 130 Cuisenaire rods are now collecting dust).
outside the classroom through use of
countries practice and master more than

Quizlet study sets

140 million study sets’, all of which are However, we do spend a fair bit of time
user-generated. in class going over old ground. Learners nn evaluate the affective benefits of
tend not to review much language in using Quizlet inside and outside the

Traditional paper flashcards have long their own time. Homework in the form classroom
been a fixture in ELT classrooms and of interactive tasks (I’ve tried plenty
have been reported as an effective of things) is conveniently forgotten. I also aimed to evaluate whether the
intentional learning tool for vocabulary Controlled practice homework from the Quizlet activities undertaken facilitate

acquisition According to Ashcroft workbook is normally being frantically higher-order thinking skills. While using

& Imrie (2014), studies suggest that completed at the start of class. That’s fair flashcards for vocabulary acquisition
flashcards allow for greater learner enough, I’d be unlikely to do that in my may have some drawbacks (as
autonomy, freedom, convenience, own time too as the exercises aren’t the mentioned), encouraging learners to
motivation, and are suited to most riveting! If only I could find some create their own flashcard sets seems like

metacognitive strategies such as spaced fun review activities that would engage a good way to deepen knowledge and
repetition. Digital flashcards, which can learners to undertake self-study ... promote higher-order skills including
be accessed by learners directly through application, analysis and evaluation.
apps and sites, surely offer even more
convenience to tech-savvy learners.
Quizlet is a digital flashcard tool with a
Recent studies have highlighted the range of interactive features. It allows I trained 23 learners (aged 12–17, level
positive impact of digital flashcards users to create their own study sets of A2+) to use Quizlet over ten weeks.
on learner engagement (Barr, 2016), concepts or vocabulary to practise, and Learners (across two classes) agreed
autonomy (Ashcroft & Imrie, ibid) to store these online. Users can learn and to download the Quizlet app and
and collaboration (Hung, 2015). Some review their study sets through a range study a series of ‘study sets’ I devised
critics have stressed that vocabulary of activities. These include reviewing for the class at relevant stages of the

n Volume 27 n Issue 2 59


ten-week period. Activities in class own study sets in preparation for a new The outline shows how I decided
included periods of self-study using unit of study. Quizlet should be used in each
various ‘Learn’ tools, and collaborative proceeding lesson, in response to
games using Quizlet ‘Play’ tools. Class The table below shows an outline of the learner needs. Admittedly, tasks such
time spent using Quizlet totalled classroom-based Quizlet activities used. as the creation of study sets were
approximately 20 minutes per lesson shoehorned into this process, though
with the exception of tasks for creating Although it was generally clear what not without their benefits.
study sets, which required additional Quizlet activities would be undertaken
learner training. The class were set during the term, there was no fixed
Quizlet-related homework (normally time frame for trialling particular tasks.
independent study of the sets) each For any technology to be successful in During the ten weeks, student progress
week, and a record was kept of student the classroom its implementation must was monitored using the ‘Class’

activity through the ‘Class’ function be principled – it wasn’t appropriate to function, along with viewing class
on Quizlet. Towards the end of term, schedule the use of Quizlet every week performance on activities for each

learners were tasked with creating their just because I was researching it! study set. The Class function keeps a
record of student activity on Quizlet

Time on – how often they use each Quizlet
Lesson Activities Purpose activity for each study set. It records
1 – Unit 1 20 nn Learner training Introduce tool, this data in an activity log which both
minutes nn Study practice with Set 1: familiarise learners teacher and student can access. The
appearances with tool features class performance tool reviews how

nn Homework – practice Set 1 well students are performing on various
2 – Unit 1 10 nn Review Set 1 as a ‘Smart Engage learners at the activities such as ‘Test’ and the ‘Play’
minutes Start’. Play collaborative start of class features. It shows items that the class
x2 Match task Establish the idea
as a whole are struggling to identify
nn Final 10 minutes – introduce of Quizlet as a class
Set 2: personality review routine during activities. This informed the
nn Homework: practice Set 2 Use Set 2 as a ‘priming review stages in class.
glossary’ for next topic

3 – Unit 1 10 nn Introduce Set 3: building Use Set 3 as a priming Aside from formative assessment
minutes confidence glossary for next topic based on the performance tool, I
nn Homework: practise Set 3

gathered informal class feedback on

4 – Unit 1 20 nn Learner training – Quizlet Introduce different using Quizlet (verbally). The main,

minutes Live collaborative game more formal evaluation of the tool

nn Play Sets 1–3 on Quizlet (based on other happened in week ten, when students
Live teacher feedback)
completed a questionnaire related to

5 – Unit 1 – nn No class time dedicated to One new set acts as the Quizlet tool.
Quizlet a priming glossary for
nn Homework: look at the two Unit 2; the other is
new sets uploaded in the a phrasal verb task Findings and discussion

class folder – preparation (identify the correct

for Unit 2 particle) adapted from Frequency of use
the book
6 – Unit 2 15 nn Play Quizlet Live with Sets 4 Engage learners at the

minutes and 5 as a Smart Start start of class


7 – Unit 2 Optional nn Students could review their Used to recall target

Quizlet sets for vocabulary language introduced
to include in an extended that formed part of
writing task the success criteria

for the task

8 – Unit 2 10 nn Impromptu Quizlet Live on Review
minutes request at the end of class
nn Homework: review study
sets in preparation for Unit Student feedback showed that around
1 and 2 review 70% of students across the two classes
9 – Unit 45 nn Learner training Collaborative task used the Quizlet app at home. This
2/3 minutes nn Create your own study sets result was supported by the activity
in preparation for Unit 3 logs on Quizlet. Use of the app at
home compared to during class
10 20 nn Student evaluation of Gather information for time varied. Responses suggest that
minutes the Quizlet tool both this research and students spend more time at home
Complete the questionnaire lessons next term
using the Learn function compared

60 n Volume 27 n Issue 2


to the digital flashcards. The Learn

function offers multiple-choice options
for a definition, so students might be
using this for more support.

The matching game was clearly the

most popular activity to use in class.
In practice, students often work with
a partner when using the Match
activity. Comments about the Quizlet
Live tool suggest students enjoy the
collaborative and game-based nature ‘a good choice to learn English and previous research findings), although this

of the Live activity: Chinese language’ has not been as frequent as expected.

‘Because we work in a team and try to Setting homework tasks certainly The Quizlet tool on its own does little
win the game. It’s very interesting for me.’ motivated more students to undertake to exploit higher-order thinking skills.

self-study. However, the app still didn’t However, there is potential for teachers
‘... because I think it’s challenging
have complete success in engaging to exploit the tool more in this way –
and fun.’
students outside of class – 25% of students something I hope to do next term.
‘... helps us remember words and we suggested they didn’t enjoy using the app
have to talk with other students.’ for homework and only 50% agreed that References

they complete Quizlet related tasks set Ashcroft RJ & Imrie AC (2014) Learning
Application to other learning by the teacher at home. According to the vocabulary with digital flashcards. In N Sonda
class data, use of the app at home for both & A Krause (Eds) JALT2013 Conference
No students stated that they had used
classes tailed off towards the final three Proceedings. Tokyo: JALT.
Quizlet prior to this study. With this in
weeks of term. Barr B (2016) Checking the effectiveness of
mind, it’s positive to find that 20% of
Quizlet as a vocabulary tool for learning. The
students have used the app for other Centre for ELF Journal 33–48.Tamagawa,Tokyo
Students found the task of making their

studies (English in their own schools,

own study sets mostly ‘interesting’, Hung HT (2015) Intentional vocabulary
Chinese). In addition, class data on
‘useful’, but fairly ‘easy’. With this in mind, learning using digital flashcards. English
Quizlet reveals that some students Language Teaching 8 (10).

it probably didn’t stretch them enough.

accessed user-generated study sets
While the task may seem to require Gianfranco Conti blog posts:

related to other subjects, such as

many higher-order skills, it should be 13 Commonly Made Mistakes in Modern
biology and psychology.
noted that the students, as ‘screenagers’ Language Instruction. Accessed via
or ‘digital natives’, are rather familiar https://gianfrancoconti.wordpress.

Game-based learning com/2017/07/15/13-commonly-made-

with simple form completion, image
Quizlet Live undoubtedly engaged selection, data input or Google searches mistakes-in-modern-language-instruction/
students and was often a requested that were needed to create the lists. In

activity even during break time. Assigning reaction to this, I prompted learners to Patterns First – Why You Should Ditch
students to random teams clearly had stretch their skills more, by summarising Word Lists, Traditional Grammar Rules and
… Your Textbook. Accessed via https://
benefits in building rapport and for dictionary definitions, editing their
friendly competition. As a result of using definitions, working in teams to ensure why-you-should-ditch-word-lists-and-

Quizlet Live, other review games such as collaboration, and experimenting with traditional-grammar-rules/ (21/05/2017).

Kahoot! had been trialled in class. word stress matching rather than word-
meaning tasks. The editing stage proved
the most challenging (which comes under
Attitudes to Quizlet
‘Applying’ in the Taxonomy). I will aim to

Nearly 70% of students across the two exploit this further next term by devising
classes felt that Quizlet helped them an editing task based on existing user-
learn English. There were a lot of positive generated sets.
remarks made when completing the
statement ‘In my opinion, Quizlet is ...’:
Conclusion Peter Clements is a teacher and
‘very useful for children’ Quizlet was a useful tool to integrate into materials writer currently based
in Bangkok. His interests include
classes. It engaged learners both inside technology-assisted language
‘a very useful app for learning vocabulary. and, to an extent, outside the classroom. learning and teacher development.
It’s like a dictionary in a better way, but I The tool promoted collaboration and He currently mentors trainees on the
think it’s good for practising only words engagement during class time, and Trinity DipTESOL, and blogs at www.
because it’s not very effective for learning’ prompted some self-study (supporting

n Volume 27 n Issue 2 61

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