Using flash cards

There are lots of ways to use flashcards. Here are just some of them.

Jo Budden

Memory activities
Example activity: 
Memory tester

  • Place a selection of flash cards on the floor in a circle.
  • Students have one minute to memorise the cards.
  • In groups, they have two minutes to write as many of the names as they can remember.

Drilling activities
Example activity: 
A what?

  • Students sit in a circle.
  • You show a flash card to Student 1 and say 'This is a hamster.'
  • Student 1 looks at the flash card and asks you, 'A what?'
  • The teacher replies 'A hamster' and passes the flash card on.
  • Student 1 passes the flash card on to Student 2 and says 'This is a hamster'.
  • Student 2 asks Student 1 'A what?', Student 1 asks the teacher 'A what?', and the teacher replies to Student 1 'A hamster', Student 1 replies to Student 2 'A hamster,' and so it goes on until the flash card travels full circle.
  • When the group has mastered it, two flash cards can go around the circle in opposite directions. They will cross over mid circle.
  • When students know the game, choose one of them to play the teacher's role.

Identification activities
Example activity: 
Fast Finger

  • Stick flash cards on the board or on the wall (for very little people who won't reach the board!) in a line.
  • Give a clue to indicate which flash card you are thinking of. When presenting a new lexical set for the first time, give the whole word, e.g. 'Say stop when the fast finger is above the cat'. When revising, or with higher levels, you can just give a clue, e.g. 'It's an animal that can't fly, but it can climb trees.'
  • Ask students to shout 'stop' when your finger is above the required flash card.
  • Then bounce your finger along in a random fashion to a silly tune until they shout 'stop' at the right time.
  • When they get the idea, ask a student to be the Fast Finger.
  • You can also use word cards instead of a finger. When the word is above the corresponding picture flash card students shout 'stop'.

TPR activities
Example activity: 

  • Students sit in two lines facing each other with legs out and feet touching.
  • Each facing pair is shown a flash card that they must remember. When you call out their card they stand up and run over the legs of the others, the ladder, around the back and back to their places.
  • The first one back wins a point for their line. If the students are very lively you can do it standing up to avoid trampled legs!
Language Level


Submitted by Sally Morgan on Sat, 04/27/2024 - 14:37

I m a beginner and found this very interesting. I have used flash cards in training and they really wok well

Thanks for the feedback Sally, and glad you found this useful!

TeachingEnglish team

Submitted by Theodelcia on Tue, 03/26/2024 - 11:59

An excellent way of introducing new words

Submitted by clementinedusi… on Mon, 03/04/2024 - 19:00

Flashcards helps learners understand easily as they make the lesson factual. Thank you!

Submitted by nyiramarie on Wed, 02/28/2024 - 19:34

Flash card can make a content more interractive , help learners to memorise the content quickly also it is learner centered.

Submitted by Fatima Adel on Thu, 02/29/2024 - 11:14

In reply to by nyiramarie

Flash cards are very useful for learners can help them to engage in active recall or process wherein students actively engage in learning by stimulating our memories and creating lasting connections to the material

Submitted by Balthazar on Mon, 03/04/2024 - 18:28

In reply to by Fatima Adel

This strategy is helpful in teaching and learning process. Active participation develops via using a variety of flash cards. Another benefit is that learners feel loved and cared for while interacting with their teacher sitting together in a circle.

Submitted by ObedB1 on Wed, 02/28/2024 - 08:47

Flash cards help learners not only to memorise but also to have a clear picture and meaning of what is being taught. Because they accommodate more than one different learning styles. So they help many learners to learn and think critically and become innovative

Submitted by Museveni on Tue, 02/27/2024 - 15:13

Using flash cards in teaching and learning process is very interesting and this can make learners to memorize, to criticize something that they see. In Rwanda we wish this system can be included in Rwandan teaching system

Submitted by Maria Carla Bulens on Sat, 02/24/2024 - 19:30

Thanks for the idea

Submitted by gukati on Wed, 12/27/2023 - 17:49

I really like the game "A what?" I will definitely with use it with year 1. I think I will introduce a basic structure with year 2 to have a more practice.

Submitted by Zubayer Hossain on Thu, 01/04/2024 - 20:46

In reply to by gukati

Flashcard process is very interesting for learners if teacher can make more applicable. This is only my point of view but year 2 will be better for them who want and need mainly.

Submitted by SeharSattar on Mon, 12/25/2023 - 13:58

Flash cards pasted on subject board and let the students to find according to topic

Submitted by GulBaig on Mon, 12/25/2023 - 06:03

All are good activities. They are definitely fruitful.

Submitted by Mounira-Ayadi on Fri, 12/22/2023 - 13:44

1*Memory tester: It is a useful activity to help students memorize words. I will try to make it more challenging and competitive: the first group that writes all the names appropriately, will be the winner.
2*"A what?":It is a good activity to introduce the new vocabulary. It helps the students memorize the pictures and drill the words .Also, the students may use different sound pitches to say "A what?" which will be fun. I will use this activity with my classes except the overcrowded ones because of time.
3*Fast Finger: I will use this activity with my students for reviewing words in order to reinforce their understanding and to memorize them.
4*Ladders: I will try it with my students. They enjoy TPR activities which will help them learn and have fun.

Very good. I like all these activities and it is good to alternate them in order to make our students motivated and engaged in our lessons as some learners maybe helped by one activities while others may be helped by other ones.

Submitted by Arif Afridi on Tue, 12/19/2023 - 17:54

Can we use slides on screen instead of cards.

Submitted by Cath McLellan on Wed, 12/20/2023 - 06:50

In reply to by Arif Afridi

Hi Arif,

This would definitely work for the fast finger activity above but physical cards might be better for the others.


TeachingEnglish team

Submitted by Danh Thị Mỹ Hằng on Sat, 12/09/2023 - 15:47

Advantages: Children practice speaking a lot, which helps them remember sentences and words well.
Disadvantage: the game takes a long time if organized in a large group of about 30 students. Difficult to practice with sentence structures that have both questions and answers.
Fast fingers
Advantages: helps students react quickly, practice information connection skills, develops student capacity.
Disadvantages: the game mainly applies to consolidation and review activities.
Advantages: helps students remember, react quickly, and move quickly. Exercise both mentally and physically.
Disadvantages: when implementing the game, you should carefully instruct which direction row 1 runs and which direction row 2 runs to avoid children running in the same direction, causing collisions.

Submitted by Rahmanjanova Malika on Sat, 12/02/2023 - 11:20

I will try ''A what'' in my next classmate. Thank you for these activities.

Submitted by Cath McLellan on Mon, 12/04/2023 - 10:13

In reply to by Rahmanjanova Malika

Great Rahmanjanova Malika! Hope it goes well with your class!


TeachingEnglish team

Submitted by chicco.esse on Tue, 11/14/2023 - 03:59

I will try "A what" and "Memory tester" in my next class with children. Thanks for this good piece of advice about flashcards.

Submitted by Olena4kids on Thu, 11/02/2023 - 07:24

"A what?" is my students' favorite game. I assume that "Fast Fingers" will be a bit challenging.

Submitted by Rahina on Wed, 10/25/2023 - 07:05

Each game is engaging and fun. Learners will easily remember the teacher's objectives.

Submitted by Saso on Sat, 10/07/2023 - 13:42

I use matching game by asking students to read words in flashcards and match the with the pictures on the board.

Submitted by egal on Tue, 02/24/2015 - 11:43

Thank you so much for these activities: VAK learners will definitely learn! I will try "A what?" and "Fast fingers" with my young learners right this week.

Submitted by steveneufeld on Sun, 06/12/2011 - 09:48

While research does seem to indicate that flashcards can provide a useful strategy for learning vocabulary, there are still many teachers who favour the serendipity of learning words as and when the learner finds them interesting/attractive.


This article does suggest that the 'ah ha' moment of discovery when a learner connects to a word is critical. Not sure if this applies as much to L2 as it might to L1, or the role of McMurray's fastmapping theory.  Like all things, probably a balance is needed, with a definite role for corpus-informed approaches and data-driven learning, using resources like Tom Cobb's lextutor at

I think you are right. Anyway, what I have noticed in the teaching of vocabulary with cards is that most of the students, especially ´adults´ love this kind of activity. They enjoy a lot and get a lot of new words looking for the meaning of them in an English-English dictionary, besides they like to check synonyms and antonyms of these words therefore they can construct new sentences to improve their L2 language.

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