Why should I teach ESL Flash Card Games?

Studies have shown that using ESL Flash Card games in the classroom can increase retention by more than 100%. This is because their colourful images triggers the Active Recall response where students can recall target information freely with no supporting context. As the teacher will hold up a flash card the student will actively recall the answer from the backside. There are many ways you can use flashcards in classroom. Use them to elicit, practice, or review vocabulary or grammar structures. Use them as a warm-up, filler, or review for a related lesson. You can even use them as a vocabulary or grammar lesson in themselves.

How can we use Flash Cards games to teach English?

There are many interesting games you can play to teach grammar and vocabulary to ESL students. First of all you will need to prepare a set of cards with a certain topic like Noun Flashcards, Verbs Flash Cards or Fruit and Vegetable flash cards. Then you will present to the class. You show the card, read the whole word, then sound out the word. Then ask students to repeat the word. Go through the set of cards a few times. The goal is to get to the point where students can recall and say each word out loud as you flash a card. Repetition is the key and this may take several lessons for all students to recall all words entirely.

What are some quick and easy ESL Flash Card Games?


You sit students in a circle to play Fruit Salad.

Memory Flashcard Game

For this game, you print out one set of flashcard images and one set of flashcard words, depending on students English level. Lay out cards facedown in a grid. Students take turns flipping over two cards. If the word and image match, they can keep the pair and go again. If not, they flip them back over and another student takes a turn. At the end, the student with the most pairs wins.

Slam Flashcard Game

This game is very interactive. Place the flashcards on the floor face up. Students can stand in a circle around the cards. The teacher will call out a word, example “Where’s the apple?” and students will find the apple card and “slam” their hand on the card. The student could say “here’s the apple” or just
apple” depending on their English level. This games can be played on a few ways depending on how you want to manage the class. You could put the students into groups to avoid students colliding and create a team spirit. You could create 4 mini circles to allow ore students to play at once and avoid colliding. It’s a really fun and easy game to play.


Fruit Salad or Animal Farm Flashcard game

Step 1: You will need flashcards of different kinds fruit. It depends on how many students you have, but you will need a few pairs of each card. Example if there were 10 students you could have 3 bananas, 3 apples and 4 grapes cards prepared.

Step 2: Ask students to move into a circle. Hand out the flash cards, one per student. A fun way to reinforce their vocabulary is to flash one card at a time and give the card to the student who says it first.

Step 3: The aim of the game is to get students to recognise their fruit and answer a question


“Do you like apples” or “Do you like bananas?” etc to their teacher. So, the teacher will choose and say
apples”. The students with apple cards must then say, “Do you like apples?”. The teacher will reply either yes or no. If the teacher says, “Yes I do”, the apples will run and change places. If the teacher says “ no I don’t” the apples just stay in their place. Once all the different fruit have had a turn or a few turns of saying “Do you like __________?” “Yes, I do” or “No I don’t” The teacher can introduce “Fruit salad”. When the teacher says “fruit salad “ it means the students can run and switch places. This can be fun, funny and a little crazy. So, you will need to manage the class if they are bumping into each other . You can vary it have them tiptoe or walk softly to mix it up and manage the potential bumping.

If you wanted to play this game again but using different vocabulary that’s totally possible too. All you do is hand out the cards of the topic you wish to play, example animals. The students could act out their animal and change places. For example if you say dogs, student could bark and switch places. The same for cats and monkeys or whatever animal you share. Then to get the whole class moving you could say “Animal Farm” or “Jungle” depending on the animal type. It’s so fun and so easy.If you son’t want to use animla noises, then as the same a question “Are you a dog” “Yes I am” No I’, Not.

Final thoughts:

Every classroom will thrive with a set of Flash Cards, enjoy the process and witness your students improved retention of vocabulary.


16 thoughts on “Top Three ESL Flashcard Games- How Can Flashcards improve TEFL learning.”

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