10 ways to use flashcards in your Spanish classroom this year

¡Hola profesores!  Whether you've worked with us before or this is you're first school year with Rockalingua, welcome back and we're happy to have you!  By now you’re probably getting back in the groove of being in the classroom full time and while your students are adjusting to your new routines we thought we’d do a blog post on one of our favorite resources: flashcards!  Flashcards are amazing because they are versatile and cater to many different learning styles, are colorful and eye-catching, can be used to introduce new material or work to practice the language you've already introduced, and they can be used in stages to provide the proper building blocks for learning the Spanish language without overwhelming your students. 



Drilling activities

One of the most important skills to practice when learning a language is the pronunciation. There are many traditional ways to drill pronunciation and vocabulary words. For this activity we’d like to make it more tactile by asking students to collect a card.  By making it tactile you’re giving your students an active role in their own learning process and combining different learning styles.  The students are physically interacting with the vocabulary and making a memorable connection.   The act of picking up the card works well for kinesthetic learners; while the images help the visual learners and hearing the word out loud adds the element of auditory learning.   One way you can do this is by putting the cards on the board and going over them one by one, practicing pronunciation. Once you’ve gone through each of the words, call a volunteer up to the front of the class.  Say a word and have the student take the card off of the board and give it to you.  If they don’t choose the correct card you can take a moment to go over the vocabulary words again before thanking that students and choosing another volunteer.  Choose students to come up to the board and collect the vocabulary cards until there are no more flashcards left on the board.  Once all of the cards have been taken off of the board you can put them back up (in the same order- you can test your students and see if they remember where each card was, or in a different order).  If you have a more able class you can hand the role of the teacher over to the students. 

Another drilling activity that calls on the students’ memorization abilities is to put the cards on the board and drill the words for pronunciation.  Once you’ve gone through each word remove one of the flashcards and continue with the students recalling the missing flashcard by memory.  Continue drilling and removing flashcards until there are no cards left.  When the board is empty have the students tell you what order to put the cards back up in, trying to replicate the original order. 


Touch and go (rock, paper, scissors game)

This activity can be used with younger or older students of varying levels.  Before beginning review the vocabulary words that you want to practice and put them on the board in a horizontal line.  It’s best if you can put 10+ cards on the board.  Divide the class up into two groups with a line on each side of the horizontal line.  These will be the teams.  The first student in each line will begin when you say go.  They must walk down the line touching the flashcards and saying the vocabulary words out loud until they run into each other.  When they meet they will play one round of rock, paper, scissors.  The student who wins will continue down the line touching the flashcards and saying the vocabulary words aloud while the student that loses will return to the back of the line.  The other students must pay attention because if the student in their line loses the next person must be ready to go down the line saying the words for the flashcards until they meet up with the winner and challenge them to a rock, paper, scissors match.  A point is awarded when a student makes it down the entire line to where the opposite team is standing in line.  In this game it’s easy for students to stop focusing on pronunciation and memory recall and skip straight to trying to say the words as fast as possible to get to the of the line so as the teacher it will be important for you to remind students that they must say each word out loud and clearly before moving on.  It would also be helpful to have a small whistle or noisemaker to call timeouts to clarify certain words or the pronunciation.  This game will get loud and is a great way to review or repeat words that you’ve already been working on in a fun and fast paced way.

Here's an example of ESL students playing the game.


Guess the card

This activity can be done in pairs and requires that each pair has a set of flashcards.  Have your students place the flashcards face up on their tables/desks so that they can both see them.  One of the students will choose a card (secretly!) and the other will guess which card it is.  Here you can prepare a dialogue that you’d like the students to follow to practice useful language as well as the vocabulary words you are working. 


Roll the dice

This activity comes from a post by Super Simple Learning with lots of different ideas for using flashcards with young learners.  Start by choosing six picture cards you would like to introduce and put them on the board.  Assign them a number rom 1-6, writing the numbers abo e the cards.  Divide the class into two and choose one student.  Give that student a large dice to roll.   The whole class must watch to see what the number is.  Students will then say the name of the flashcard with the same number as the dice.  You can begin this as a class warm-up or make it into a ame by assigning the team that says the answer first a point.  If none of the students know the vocabulary word, say it and have them repeat it.  Play until one team reaches a set amount of points.  To make it more difficult swap out the cards that they already know the answers to for other flashcards you want to practice or introduce. 


Mystery Bag

This activity is great for introducing new vocabulary words that the students might or might not be familiar with.  For this activity you’ll need a bag and the flashcard set you want to use.  Start by using a class chant, for example:


Tengo una bolsa, tiene una sorpresa, …?Qué está dentro de la bolsa?


You can create any chant you want using any words or clapping patterns.  Say it slowly while peeking in the bag to generate interest.  Once you’ve said the chant choose a students to guess what’s inside the bag.  Once they have guess you can peek inside the bag and if the guess is correct you can pull out the flashcard.  If it’s incorrect you can peek in and look around before saying no.  Repeat the chant and choose another student to make a guess.  If the words are new for the students and they won’t be able to guess them then every two or three guesses you can pull out one of the vocabulary cards and put it on the board.  The idea is to generate interest and make the activity memorable.   Once you’ve pulled out the words you can practice pronunciation before putting them back in the bag and repeating the process.  Once the words have been introduced you can use this activity as a review or a whole class warm-up.


Memory Test

This activity can be great for older students and in classes that you want to practice writing the vocabulary words.  Before beginning, make sure that you’ve chosen flashcards of words that your students have already been introduced to and want to practice.  It’s best if it’s just an image, but you could also do this with flashcards that have an image and the word on them.  If you’re in a traditional classroom set up you can put the cards on the board and give students one minute to memorize what they see.  If it’s possible you could take this activity away from the desks by sitting in a circle on the floor and putting the flashcards in the center of the circle.  Once the minute is up give them 1-2 minutes to write down all of the words they can remember.  You can have them write them down individually, in pairs, or even in small groups.  Want to make it competitive?  Award points to the group/individual who gets the most correct.   


Find your pair

You’ll need pairs of each of the flashcards that you want to use during this game.  Before you set your students lose you can take a moment to review the vocabulary words you will be practicing and any useful language you would like them to use during their interactions.  For example, would you like them to say hello and how are you before asking what card their classmate has or would you prefer that they just go straight for the card?  Tell the students that they can’t show their card to the other student, but instead must tell them what they have.  If the other student doesn’t know what that is they may ask to see it.  When they find their matching card they should sit down together.  Cards can be collected and redistributed to play other rounds. 


Stand in order

This activity can be used to practice sequencing for example when you’re working on the months of the year or the days of the week.  Give each student a flashcard and tell the class that they must line up in order.  You can also use it to practice other vocabulary by giving each student a flashcard and then reading off the order that you’d the students to get into.  You can decide how quickly or slowly you read the order, making it easier for beginners and harder for older students/higher levels. 


Who can find….?

For this activity you’ll need space for your students to move around and a set of laminated flashcards.  Have the students stand in the center of the room with the flashcards scattered around them.  You can take this time to practice action verbs (and get out some energy) by having them walk, jump, skip, etc.  You will be saying the name of one of the flashcards and they will have to search for it.  The student who finds it will then bring it to you and the students will wait until you tell them to search for another.  For example,


Busca un tigre.           


The children will look for a tiger and the one who finds it will pick it up and bring it to you.  Depending on the class you can have one of your students act as the role of teacher or you can be the teacher for the entirety of the activity. 


Retelling a story

Interactive story telling can be a great way to combine vocabulary with natural spoken language.  For young learners you can create a unit based around a story.  A good example is practicing the days of the week, food, and sequencing with the story La oruga muy hambrienta.  You can print flashcards for the days of the week and the different foods and have your students sort them while also retelling the story.  This can be done as a class as a story time activity, it can be hung on the wall to decorate the classroom and serve as further repetition and practice and it can be a great way to practice before completing an individual craft based on the story. 



Flashcards are one of the most versatile tools and can take the language off the whiteboard and add another dimension to it in ways that kids and teachers both love.  Whether you’re warming up, cooling down, introducing new material, repeating vocabulary words, reviewing the language or practicing, they can be incorporated into every lesson, which makes them the jack of all trades.  You can use our flashcards, create your own (online, with magazine clippings), or check out websites with free flashcards.  Look! We’re learning! has a wide range of free Spanish printable flashcards and includes different activities that you can combine them with (leaf identification and other seasonal themes) and Spanish kid stuff has free printable flashcards divided by categories and themes.   


Thanks for reading our twists on ways to use flashcards in your Spanish classroom.  We’d love for this blog to become a place where ideas can be shared, so if you use them in a different way, we’d love to hear about it below!  Happy teaching!

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