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How to Use Flashcards to Introduce New Words

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Published:
Sep 29, 2021

Whether you’re teaching A1 or Business level English, different individuals will prefer different approaches to learning new words. In terms of accessibility and versatility, flashcards provide teachers with a plethora of opportunities to convey new words and phrases. 

Flashcards represent cards with written questions on one side and answers to those questions on the other. According to published academic research, 37% of sample students used flashcards to study, citing help with memorization (60.5%) and ease of learning (22.8%) as reasons.

This means that you can use flashcards to teach, test students, and otherwise communicate new concepts to those coming to terms with the English language. Let’s take a look at the value behind flashcards, as well as how you can effectively utilize them to teach better going forward.

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Why Should You Use Flashcards?

Before we dive into flashcards any further, let’s briefly touch on their core values. Mainly, why should you use flashcards instead of simply relying on published literature? 

The appeal of flashcards is in their inherent low cost and flexibility regarding introducing new words. All you need is a few pieces of paper and some color markers to take full advantage of flashcards. Thus, some main benefits of using them in teaching are:

  • Gamification and interaction during the learning process
  • Identification of new words with different colors, shapes, and images
  • Active memorization of new concepts through visual and auditory reception
  • Ability to introduce everything from simple nouns to more complex tenses
  • The easily sharable and DIY nature of flashcards allows students to make their own cards

How to Use Flashcards to Introduce New Words

Using Flashcards to Introduce New Words

Don’t Rush the Process – Introduce Flashcards

Even though flashcards are flexible and offer plenty of freedom to adapt them to your teaching style, you should still systematically introduce new words. Don’t overwhelm your student with too many words or complete sentences just yet – teach them about flashcards as a concept before that. 

You should aim for a situation where students are encouraged to make their own flashcards for practice and day-to-day reference. To do so properly, start by talking about flashcards, refer to writing tools such as Subjecto or Drops, and what they can do for your learning process.

Combine Words with Corresponding Visuals

The best way to convey new words to your students via flashcards is to also rely on visuals to do so. This is why you shouldn’t limit yourself solely to written information since it would defeat the purpose of using flashcards to learn. You can introduce Drops as a means to enrich flashcards with appealing and engaging visuals, which will make them easier to memorize for your students. 

Visuals that correspond with the word you are teaching can greatly enhance your student’s ability to memorize new concepts. Whether it’s something as simple as an animal or as complex as a body part or high-value number, visuals of the said word can help tremendously.

Help your Students with Word Pronunciation

Using flashcards during your online teaching can serve as a great way to teach students about pronunciation. You can help them memorize how different vowels factor into the pronunciation and spelling of different words through deliberately annunciated visual elements. 

This is an incredibly simple but effective strategy that you can use to teach non-native speakers about the English language and its structure through association. Use the opportunity of speaking directly to your students to practice pronunciation on the spot and give them homework on how to do so personally.

Send Flashcards for Revising via Email

Speaking of practice, flashcards can easily be created via tools such as Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop and sent to students around the world. These flashcards can be exported as PDFs, and you can instruct your students to print them for future reference. You can also assign Topics or Categories to students in Drops

The flashcards you create can be distributed to your students on a lesson-by-lesson basis, or whenever you create a set of themed flashcards. 

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Go Over Previous Flashcards Periodically

To make the most out of your flashcards, you should go over previous words periodically to ensure that your students learned them properly. You can take 5-10 minutes at the beginning of each lesson to quickly go over the most problematic words your student has faced so far. The Drops Dojo feature helps your student do just this.

With Drops, you can use the SRS review feature in the Drops Dojo to go over words that are due for review. This is both a good memorization exercise and a way to ensure that students are prepared for upcoming words and concepts. Don’t simply teach individual lessons and then never address them again – use your flashcards to go over past materials quickly and efficiently.

Combine Flashcards with Different Test Types

You can also use flashcards in tandem with various testing formats to gauge your student’s progress more objectively. Some of the test types you can use to do so include:

  • Quizzes about recently taught words
  • Mind maps with previously learned words
  • Sentence structure exercises with random flashcard words
  • Verbal questions with specific flashcard words as answers

The choice of test will depend on the student’s proficiency level and age, so make sure to gauge their overall skill level properly beforehand. Be sure to give your student approval and support for a job well done, as well as objective feedback on what they should still work on.

Flashcard Writing and Teaching Mistakes to Keep in Mind

Lastly, it’s worth pointing out that you can unintentionally make it harder for your student to learn a language through the improper use of flashcards. Always keep your student’s general knowledge level and perspective in mind when writing new words onto flashcards for teaching purposes. Some of the mistakes you should avoid making include:

  • Too much information on a single flashcard (visual and informational clutter)
  • Only you make the flashcards (encourage the student to make their own cards)
  • Going over too many flashcards in a single session (space your flashcards out)
  • Using flashcards randomly and without purpose (use them for important words and concepts)
  • Not keeping a digital repository of flashcards (don’t use only paper cards, use digital tools liberally)

In Conclusion

Flashcards can be a great addition to your teaching arsenal, whether you teach beginners or business-level English to your students. They offer an amazing way of introducing new words to students of various skill levels and are extremely easy to make. 

Use every tool at your disposal to provide your students with adequate learning mechanisms, Drops included. Challenge your students to make their own flashcards for reference and practice, and you will be surprised at the levels of creativity they will exhibit. After all, learning is an active, long-term process – you will learn from your students as much as they learn from you.

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