“Alright, guys, where is the sun now?” Hands all around the circle shoot into the air, while others point to one of the flashcards we just turned face-down. “There! It’s there!” The little ones shout, unable to restrain from shouting out the answer.
We’re in the middle of a basic memory game I use for introducing new vocabulary. We’ve already looked at the words one by one, saying the words with happy voices, robot voices, and big voices. We’ve clapped out the beats in each word, and had a chance to find the word and turn it over. Now the cards are on the carpet, face-down, and the children have to remember where everything was.
A child comes forward, and turns over the card. “Is that a sun?” I ask the class. They answer as one, “Yes, it is!” Everyone is happy that their friend got it right. The next child comes up, looking for the cloud. “Is that the cloud?” I ask, and they answer, “No, it’s not!” I continue, “What is it?” “It’s rain!”
While the children are remembering their new vocabulary, they are placing them into short, simple question-and-answer structures. Next, they combine the cards with sentences. A child picks up a card, and says, “It’s sunny today,” or “It’s cloudy today.” This exercise allows a child to practice short sentences using vocabulary he feels comfortable with. After a card’s been used two or three times, I turn it over and they are no longer allowed to use that word. For now, at least.
As the children get more confident with their speaking, I challenge them to combine cards: flashcards with colors, numbers, and clothing litter the carpet, and children receive points for each correctly used card. The very young ones get a point for each correctly named card, while the older ones have to put the word in a sentence. And yes, the children may help each other, but only when the child in question asks for it.
We start with a warming-up: children seated next to each other get one or two minutes to practice using the words on the cards. The classroom starts buzzing as children point out cards to their neighbors, naming the words, helping each other with the correct pronunciation, and using them in simple sentences. In the meatime, I pull out a box of blocks, our scorecard for the duration of the game. I clap for silence, and ask who would like to give it a try. Various answers follow, and every correct answer earns another block on the tower. “There are two red shoes” counts for three points. “Hat,” from a four-year-old, adds another block to the tower. When a five-year-old gives a single word as an answer, I ask if he can put it in a sentence. Classmates give him hints, and he tries again. “It’s a hat,” earns another block on the tower.
Eventually, the tower gets quite high, and the stakes even higher: who can make the sentence that will cause the tower to fall over? When it finally does collapse, we count the blocks and decide whether or not we want to try to break our record.
Sometimes, I’ll put the cards in order, and ask the children what it says. “Two blue t-shirts,” they’ll read aloud. I mix up the cards, and ask what it says now. “T-shirts two blue,” they say. “Is that good?” I ask. They correct me, I fix the cards (silly me!), and we try again. This way, the children learn basic reading (left to right) and put words into short phrases.
What kinds of games do other teachers play with flashcards, I wonder?