Flashcards serve as an effective learning tool for kindergarten students when used appropriately. While some schools in China may provide TEFL teachers with resources, others don’t, and committed TEFL teachers will need to spend some office hours into making colourful flashcards for their lesson plans. Feeling daunted? Help is at hand, here’s some useful tips on making a super pack of flashcards!
Use very clear images
‘What’s that supposed to be?’ You may ask yourself when you inevitably come across a bad flashcard floating around the ‘English resources’ department. Unfortunately, it’s a given that as a TEFL teacher you will come across some terrible flashcards, and the bad ones are usually those who use people and are trying to describe emotion or action. Some flashcards also hold cultural context that may difficult for children to understand, for example my students do not wear aprons during class so were confused to see an apron on a flashcard.
Hand drawn flashcards are difficult and time consuming to make, so it is often best to find images on the Internet. Be wary of copyright, especially as the school may end up promoting your hand-made flashcards along with your name, to parents and other would-be teachers. (More about that later)
High quality and free for commercial use photos can be found at Pexels.com and Pixabay.com respectfully. You could also take your own photos, especially as children love to see images of their local area which brings in wonderful prompts for free-flow conversation in class.
Another quick note – If you are using text, be sure to make it as clear and easy to read as possible and use a large font. Some parents may not realise their child is short sighted, and some may not be able to afford glasses for their students.
Flashcards should be bright, eyecatching and colourful, don’t accept anything less. Consider how colourful children’s cartoons are, and the outer-packets of sweets (to catch the children’s eye, so they beg their parents to buy them!). Children use many resources in their brains to recognise flashcards, and this will include certainly include colour.
Protect your cards from the elements and your students. Your school is very likely to be able to help you with this, and should be pleased that you are creating your own resources for class. Laminated cards can be used over and over again without the need to worry and also look great. (You may also be able to take them with you to your next TEFL opportunity!)
For young kindergarten children, letters might appear boring, especially on flashcards. I recommend using bold and easy to recognise objects on alphabet flashcards. For example, for ‘Aa’ you can use a bright apple. Some of your students will be more advantaged than others, and by also including the written word ‘Apple’ underneath you may be helping students maintain their lead and gain confidence in recognising the shape of words. This will also help students learn how to pronounce ‘Aa’.
Most of the professional flashcards I have come across will use capital and lowercase letters for their alphabet packs. I recommend doing so, as your students are likely receiving extra classes outside of school and the teachers may only use lowercase or capital letters in their classes. It also will help students link the letters together appropriately.
Make sure your flashcards are relevant to your curriculum. You get bonus points if your flashcards are relevant for multiple lessons, which will make your time more efficient as a professional TEFL teacher. My flashcards are sometimes double sided, which helps when you are learning about opposites (cold and hot) or comparisons (apple and ant both begin with A). Sometimes, students will be very eager to try and look at the other side of your flashcard, so consider the nature of your class. On the plus side, curiosity increases focus!
Explore different teaching methods
Consider other uses of flashcards instead of just reciting them. Use them as prompts for conversation and questions, ask them if they could demonstrate the flashcard, make the appropriate noise or ask them if they like what they see. You can use arts and crafts, for example you could ask students to copy what they see with pen and paper, this works especially well if you wish to show student the alphabet. You can also use multimedia in class, for example you could show students the flashcards, ask them to identify them, and what animal they would like to see and show a video of the requested animal as a reward.
Don’t overuse them
No matter how amazing your flashcards are, if you use them too often in your classes students will become bored. What’s worse, they will associate your use of flashcards with boring lessons, and this is a hard bias to break once it’s developed. I use my flashcards on average around once a week, but may use them twice in a row if we are learning some complex key words and phrases. This routine helps keep flashcards exciting and students look forward to seeing them. Students gain joy when they recognise flashcards they have seen and gone through before – but only if they haven’t seen them in a while.
What benefit does a student gain from announcing the correct word from the flashcard? At my current kindergarten, we have a token system which allows students to purchase a prize every week. It works well, but rest assured you don’t need to be so fancy. You could use praise students when they give you a correct answer and talk a little about the flashcard, asking questions to students about their thoughts. You could use fun actions alongside them such as ‘snapping your hands’ like a crocodile on the relevant flashcard, or asking students to make the relevant noise. When my students are confident, I also let my students guess what might be coming next, and we often like to have a competition to see who can say the flashcard prompt the fastest.
Make your flashcards appealing
Finally, learn about your students. For example, if you are a kindergarten TEFL teacher in China, learning about Ultraman is absolutely essential. Students become delighted when their favourite things are woven into flashcards. Think: Superheroes, animals, food. If you theme your classes, you can encourage students to develop new favourites. My students loved desert week and loved memorising my desert themed cards. I have very short video clips of all the animals in my handmade desert flashcard pack, and we have also done various arts and crafts classes using the animals too. This allows the students to have several connections to link up their experiences with correctly recalling the flashcard, making the flashcard more effective in the long run!