It’s a games games games games games games TEFLtastic world for kids- Flashcard and drilling games

By the kind of happy coincidence that only happens once in a blog lifetime a reader has mentioned they are looking for some flashcard games (see Ana’s question below), a friend has asked me for some kids’ games for a workshop, and I happen to have all the ideas already written up for a book proposal I wrote a few years ago.

Flashcard and Drilling Games

One of the main reasons why parents and education authorities want children to start learning foreign languages early is so they can pick up correct pronunciation while their brains are still young. Especially at the younger ages, correction has little effect and children pick up correct pronunciation as they hear and use the language many times. The problem then is that children have short attention spans and can quickly become bored with doing the same thing again until they get it right. Some solutions to this are:
-Play a game that uses the same language over and over (controlled practice speaking games)
-Make the language they are using fun and memorable
-Give students a need for the language before you drill it
– Make the drilling varied and fun

In this post are some games to use the same language over and over in a fun way, make drilling fun, and use the visuals on flashcards to make the language memorable and stimulating. In every case, it is best to start explaining or playing the game before you start drilling so that students know why they need to know the language and its pronunciation. When you do drill, there are several ways of making the drilling effective and fun:
-Always use something such as a picture, object or colourful word card to prompt the drilling
-Move the prompt around
-Use actions and sounds to make the word and pronunciation memorable and fun

Prompts can include flashcards, plastic toys and real objects. Move the prompt to the beat of the word to show the number of syllables, moving it up to show the stressed syllable. Move it several times to make the students repeat the same word in rapid succession. Then move it quicker and quicker until they can’t keep up. Hold the prompt higher and higher to make the students shout louder and louder or at a higher and higher pitch, then lower and lower until they are whispering or using a deep booming voice. With two flashcards, shuffle them behind your back and the students shout out the one you flash each time or guess which hand. For students who respond better to sounds and actions than visual things, have the students mime actions to represent the object as they repeat the pronunciation and/ or say the word in a way that illustrates the meaning, e.g. a drawn out ‘sss’ sound at the beginning of ‘snake’ or a shivering pronunciation of ‘co-co-co-cold’.

More ideas for fun drilling and other controlled language games are given below. All of the games can be used to drill and practice full sentences as well as simple words. As you will see below, flashcards are a very flexible resource for drilling and all kinds of other stages. If you want to think of your own ideas for what to do with a set of flashcards, you can do almost anything with them that you can do with a normal pack of playing cards, and more. For example: shuffle and mix, deal, collect, memorize, do tricks, request more, add up, grab, arrange, stack, cut the pack, tell your fortune, hide and throw (darts) at.

Chain Drill Race
: Students get individual practise of language by saying it as they pass something quickly along the row
Aim: Controlled speaking practice
Ages: 3 to 12
Organisation: Sitting down or standing up team game
Time: 5 to 10 minutes
Possible language points: Grammar: any language, especially questions and answers, e.g. ‘What colour is it?’ ‘It’s (blue)’; ‘How many (bees) are there?’. Prepositions. Vocab: body parts, any vocabulary on flashcards.
Incidental language: ‘Here you are’ ‘Thank you’ ‘Pass the card’ ‘Change seats’ ‘First (team), second…’ ‘(Pass it) over your head’
Materials and preparation: You will need at least 4 flashcards or other things to pass. Arrange the students sitting down or standing up in rows.
-Pass a flashcard or object to a student at the front of the class, asking them a question, e.g. ‘What’s this?’.
-Ask the student to pass the card onto the person behind them, asking and answering the same question. Drill the whole class on the question and answer. Continue to the back of the row.
-Make the student at the back of the row run to the front of the class to pass the card back to the teacher with the same question and answer. If it is possible in your classroom, then have the student sit down at the front of the row and all the rest of the students shift back to make room.
-Check students all know which team they are in and understand the rules, then start each row off at the same time with the same question but different flashcards or objects. Give points to the first team(s) to finish each time.
-When the students get used to the game, vary it by telling them how to pass the cards, e.g. ‘(Pass the card) under your legs/ with your teeth’

Play Your Cards Right
Students try to remember or guess if the next card is bigger, smaller etc. than the previous one
Aim: Controlled speaking practice
Ages: 5 to 12
Organisation: Sit down whole class or team game
Time: 5 to 15 minutes
Possible language points: Grammar: comparative adjectives. Vocab: anything on flashcards as words and/ or pictures, adjectives
Incidental language: ‘Turn the (next) card (over)’, ‘Mix (the cards)’
Materials and preparation: You will need at least 8 flashcards, preferably large ones.
-Drill a set of 8 to 12 flashcards and put them somewhere the students can see them all in a row, e.g. on the whiteboard. Drill again as you turn them around so students can only see the backs.
-Reveal the first card. Point at the next card and say ‘(Is the next card) bigger or smaller?’ Reveal it to check students’ answers.
-Continue to the end of the row. If the class is wrong at any time, stop the game, shuffle the cards and go back to the start. If you wish, divide the class into teams.
-When the students are used to the game, have one student or team decide on the questions for the others, e.g. ‘(Is the next card) prettier or uglier?’

Happy Families
Students swap cards to get as many flashcards as possible from the same category
Aim: Controlled speaking practice
Ages: 6 to 12
Organisation: Sit down groupwork or team game
Time: 10 to 20 minutes
Possible language points: Grammar: ‘have’ or ‘have got’; ‘may’; ‘a’, ‘some’ and/ or ‘any’; ‘need’, ‘want’ or ‘would like’. Vocab: anything on flashcards as words and/ or pictures
Incidental language: ‘Shuffle’, ‘Deal’, ‘It’s your turn’, ‘Here you are’, ‘Thank you’
Materials and preparation: You need 12 to 30 flashcards divided into 3 or more categories, e.g. animals, transport and food. For groupwork, you need one set per group.
-Introduce/ revise the flashcards language and the ‘have’ structure by telling the whole class what category of cards you are holding (‘I have hot drinks’)and getting them to guess which cards you have and asking ‘Do you have (coffee)?’ to receive that card. Divide the class into around four teams. The team with the most cards in one category (e.g. four hot foods) wins.
-Take back the cards, shuffle and deal them to the teams. Teams take turns asking one other team the ‘have’ question to receive and collect cards of the same category, e.g. team A asks team C ‘Do you have any toys?’, ‘Yes we do’, ‘Do you have a doll?’, ‘No we don’t’. Play passes to the next team. Team B asks team A ‘Do you have any people?’ ‘Yes we do’ ‘Do you have a doctor’ ‘Yes we do. Here you are’ ‘Thank you’. Play passes on. Teams cannot ask for a card back that another team took from them.
-Stop the game after 5 minutes. The team with most cards in one category wins. This can be continued as a group game with 3 to 5 people and one pack of 12 or more cards per group.
-When they all understand the game you can add more language by only allowing students to swap cards. After finding the card they want, they must offer one in return- ‘Do you have…’’Yes…’ ‘Do you want (an apple)?’ If the answer is ‘yes’ they swap cards. If not, play passes on.

Students listen and touch the right card to get points
Aim: Listening practice, for individual words or for general comprehension of a description
Ages: 3 to 12
Organisation: Whole class sitting down or running round game
Time: 5 to 15 minutes
Possible language points: Any vocabulary on flashcards, adjectives and phonics. (Variations) Body parts.
Incidental language: ‘Touch a/ the…’, ‘Put your hands (on)…’, ‘Minus one point’ (Variations) ‘Stop’ ‘Move (more) quickly/ slowly’, ‘(Slap) now’, ‘One more try please’
Materials and preparation: One set of at least 10 flashcards
-Flashcards are scattered around the table or around the room. The students race to be first to slap their palms down on the flashcard the teacher says (or describes, draws or writes on the board). The first student to slap the card is given a point. Any disagreements can be decided by ‘paper scissors stone’.
-If students are slapping the cards without thinking or even before you start speaking, get students to put their hands on their heads, noses, etc. between each go. You can also take points away from students if they slap the wrong card (particularly useful when there are only one or two cards left).
Variation 1: Robot Arm Slap
The teacher swings their arm back and forth over a row of cards and the students say ‘Stop’ when the teacher’s arm is over the right card. The teacher then drops their arm onto the card their finger is over at the time.
Variation 2: Tricky slap
To make touching the cards more difficult and therefore give the students more thinking time, you can get them to touch the card with something other than their hands. This could be other body parts (‘Touch the card with your nose’), long objects (‘… with the chopsticks’), toys (‘Push your toy car onto the (apple)’). This variation is good for evening things up between the students who are academic and know the language and those who are better at physical stuff.
Variation3: Moving flashcard slap
In the first version the teacher drags 2 or more flashcards along the table. The student(s) must slap the right card before it comes off the end of the table. This is good with prompts where students slowly gain more and more clues to which card you are naming as you speak, e.g. by saying the word letter by letter or phonic by phonic, or by saying a whole sentence with the flashcard word in it (‘There are some cars’). In the second variation you hold up 2 or 3 flashcards, then throw them around the room as you shout out the name of the one you want students to slap or grab.

The students try to guess the card the teacher is holding
Aim: Vocabulary practice- accurate pronunciation. (Variations) Reading.
Ages: 3 to 12
Organisation: Whole class sitting down game
Time: 5 to 15 minutes
Possible language points: Any vocabulary on flashcards. Adjectives and phonics. (Variations) Days, months, numbers etc.
Incidental language: ‘Move the card up/ down/ left/ right (please)’, ‘Slower please’, ‘One more clue please’.
Materials and preparation: One set of at least 10 flashcards. For variations, 1 cut-up and stapled photocopy of Worksheet 00 or 00 with suitable words or pictures put on and un-cut photocopies for the students to make their own
-Hold up a flashcard so that students can’t see what is on it and give them chances to guess what it is by partially revealing it or giving hints, e.g. slowly reveal the card by pulling away another card from in front, flash the card quickly in front of the students then a little slower each time, put the card somewhere students can’t see it (e.g. flat on the floor) then slowly bring it somewhere more accessible, or describe the card.
-Drill, then give one point to the first student who shouted out the correct word or target sentence with that word (e.g. It is a dog) with good pronunciation. If you are not sure who was first, give points for the best, loudest, quickest etc. during the drilling stage. As well as shouting out the name, students can tell you the first letter, mime, run and touch the thing in the classroom etc. If no one knows the card, move onto the next and come back to it later.
-Continue the game, but with students asking for more help with suitable incidental language.
-If one student keeps on winning, keep them distracted by throwing the cards towards them rather than giving them to them. Alternatively, get the student who won the card to place it somewhere round the room (‘Put it on the door’) for a later running around game.

Variation 1: The revealer
Rather than putting another card in front of the card students are guessing to hide it, you can make a ‘revealer’ like the ones on Worksheets 00 and 00. Students tell you which part of the revealer they want pulled back next by the number, letter, picture or word on that segment. Students can also make their own revealers.
Variation 2: Reveal nothing
Alternatively, you could tell them nothing at all and still make them guess. When the students already know a topic or a pack of flashcards well, you can just let them know the category and get them to shout out guesses on which one you are holding. For more of a frantic stock exchange floor feeling, give them cards if they shout out any of the cards you are holding, then describe the last couple of cards left.

Students race to blow the right card to the right place
Aim: Listening comprehension
Ages: 4 to 12
Organisation: Team game with team representatives taking turns
Time: 5 to 15 minutes
Possible language points: Any vocabulary on flashcards. Grammar: ‘this’ and ‘that’ etc.
Incidental language: ‘Blow’, ‘(Blow) left/ right’, ‘Blow harder’, ‘Nearly there’, ‘Well done’
Materials and preparation: You need one set of at least 12 flashcards, with identical flashcards for each group, and a surface to blow them on, such as a smooth table or floor. You will need to experiment on this surface, but the game might be easier if the flashcards are on thin card.
-Demonstrate blowing a card across the surface you have chosen. Let a few more volunteers try with the class encouraging them with the incidental language.
-Designate parts of the surface as representing different things, e.g. off the far end of the table is ‘That is’ and off the near end of the table is ‘This is’. Any language from Stations can be practiced with this game. Give an example sentence, e.g. ‘That is an apple’, and start blowing the wrong way until the class correct you.
-Spilt the class into at least 3 teams and take volunteers from each team. Put two or three cards per student onto the table and call out a sentence. Students try to blow the right card to the right point. Give points to the first team(s) to finish.
-If having all the students blowing together doesn’t work, let them take turns and time them to see who is quickest.

Split the pack
Students try to split a pack of cards to find a particular card
Aim: Reading and speaking practice
Ages: 6 to 12
Organisation: Team game or groupwork sitting down game
Time: 5 to 10 minutes
Possible language points: Any vocabulary on flashcards especially those with a given order, e.g. the alphabet, days, months. (Variations) Superlative adjectives.
Incidental language: ‘Split (the pack)’, ‘I’m the winner’, ‘This is the best’.
Materials and preparation: One set of at least 20 flashcards with different information on either side, e.g. a picture on one side and words on the other or words on one side and first letters or word shapes on the other. For groupwork, 1 pack of at least 20 cards per group
-With a set of flashcards that the students half know, hold the pack towards one student and demonstrate splitting the pack. Ask the student to say which card they can see the difficult side of (e.g. the word rather than the picture).
-Continue round the class. This works well with cards that have a sequence and so students can try to split the pack at a card they think they know.
I-f this game is too easy, ask students to split the pack at a card the class nominates.
Variation- Split the pack challenge: This time the students try to find the best card, e.g. the longest word. Each time they split the pack, ask them to tell you which card they have revealed before looking at the other side of the card to check. As the game progresses, the first student to split the pack can decide which thing will be considered best after they choose their card, e.g. ‘The biggest animal is the winner’.

Flashcard Leapfrog
Students try to reach the end of a sequence of cards first by jumping over as many cards as they can
Aim: Controlled speaking practice, reading
Ages: 5 to 12
Organisation: Team game with students taking turns, or groupwork
Time: 5 to 15 minutes
Possible language points: Any vocabulary on flashcards, especially ones that have an order such as days, months, numbers, alphabet.
Incidental language: ‘Throw (the bean bag)’ ‘Back to the start’ ‘Change (player)’ ‘Which card (is/ do you want next)?’
Materials and preparation: One set of at least 10 flashcards. Something to land on the flashcards with, e.g. erasers, beanbags, soft puppets, tiddlywinks, toy cars.
-Line up a set of flashcards on a table or the floor, drilling as you put them down.
-Demonstrate the activity to the class. Students must get to the end of the sequence of flashcards by leapfrogging in as few steps as possible. Throw, push or flick an object onto the second or third card and have the class ask you a question about it, e.g. ‘What is it?’ If you are right you can stay on that square. Play passes to the next person. When it is your turn again, try to get your object on as far away a card as you are confident of landing on. If you fail to land on any card, you go back to the beginning. If you do land on a square, you answer the question again. The first person to land on the last card and answer the question correctly wins the game.
-Divide the class into teams and take one volunteer from each team. Each time, let the whole team decide which square their player should try to land on. Every time a team has to go back to the beginning, they change their player.

This entry was posted in Adjectives, Drilling games, ELT publishing, Flashcard games, Phonics, Prepositions, Teaching numbers, Teaching young learners, TEFL, TEFL games, TESOL. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to It’s a games games games games games games TEFLtastic world for kids- Flashcard and drilling games

  1. kith7 says:

    Nice games! My students’ favourite one is what I call police and robbers. Lay down any flashcards, of any category on the floor, place two teams in two rows facing each other (one team is police the other one is robbers), students’ task is to catch a card first e.g. when I say catch/slap a rubber two SS facing each other compete to do it, a faster student keeps the flashcard, later next two students do the same thing etc. Team with more flashcards wins.

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