December 09, 2014

Interviewing Affective Educators: Kylie Malinowska

This is a picture Kylie and I took together when
we were saying goodbye to our trainees in Konya. 
I had the privilege of meeting Kylie Malinowska last August when we both taught novice English teachers at the CTS course with SeltAcademy for two weeks in Konya, Turkey. 

During this time we talked a lot about teaching young learners and became good friends. Today I have the pleasure to interview Kylie here in this blog!

But first, who is Kylie? 

Kylie Malinowska is the Young Learner Advisor and Coordinator of the Certificate in Teaching Young Learners and Teenagers for IHWO (International House World Organisation). She is based in Prague where she also teaches and trains for IH Prague and Akcent College. She was one of the course writers for both of IHWO's YL training courses (the IH CYLT and the IH VYL) and has a regular YL column in the IH Journal

Juan: Let's start with the classic question to warm up. How have you become an English teacher of young learners? What keeps you  connecting with them and their learning?  

Kylie: Prior to getting into teaching I worked in the Health Care Industry. I loved my job but I was quite sick of sick people to put it bluntly. While I was living in Newcastle upon Tyne (UK) in a house with flatmates from all around the world (All TESOL students at either Newcaslte College or IH Newcastle), I used to give (memorable ahem) English lessons over coffee on a Saturday morning. One day, after mentioning it numerous Saturdays in a row, they all decided that I absolutely had to do the CELTA at IH Newcastle and become and English teacher and went and got the application form for me. 

Those flatmates changed my life. For the better. It would never have crossed my mind to become an English Teacher and certainly not for YL given I considered myself a dementia care specialist and my first degree was a double degree in Health Science and Gerontology (study of the aged). But….I loved it. I still do! My flatmates knew me better than I knew myself. I’ve done my time teaching ESP and BE etc etc and have taught all ages and levels, but I always come back to YL. I just love the energy they give me.

A psychic once told me it was time to work with younger people as they would give my soul energy instead of sucking it out of me. At the time I thought it was all a bit of a joke, but I really do feel like they feed me. Don’t get me wrong, teaching kids is exhausting, but they really give me a lot too. That little shining light in their eyes when they realize they have learnt something new and they are proud of themselves…that…that little sparkle. That gets me every time.

Juan: I love that spark Kylie. Who sparked your love for music ? 

Kylie: I’ve loved music and singing for as long as I can remember. My dad played guitar to us as children and we had sing-a-longs around his knee. My father’s father (whom I never met) was reportedly a wonderful singer. My Father’s Brother is in a band, as is his daughter, my cousin and I have an Aunt in a choir. As a child I was obsessed with Patsy Biscoe and actually had dreams of growing up to be a children’s entertainer. The ultimate goal was to be on ‘Play School’

While I was at High School my grades allowed me to also study at College one afternoon a wee so I gained a certificate in Early Childhood Development and planned to study Drama after I graduated, but that year the Centre for Dramatic Arts in Adelaide (my hometown) wasn’t accepting any applications so I enrolled in a Fine and Visual Arts course instead and joined a Youth Theatre group. A year later though I was a year older and my sensible parents had infiltrated my crazy brain and I found myself studying healthcare and working towards a steady income.

Juan: Kylie, you have grown up to be an entertainer. Do you play any musical instrument? Were you part of a choir? 

Kylie forgot to mention she
likes the drums too!
I used to play piano, flute and the recorder. But I’m really not very good. Mostly because I don’t practice. I feel music in my bones though and absolutely love listening to my musician husband jamming with his musician mates and singing and dancing with my own kids (2 yr old twins).

I’ve never been part of a choir (except for at school). I prefer to do my singing in the shower if not in class. I auditioned for and got into an a capella group here in Prague a number of years ago, but when crunch came to crunch I was too shy to perform in public and they were a professional group so I didn’t really last more than 5 minutes. I thoroughly enjoyed the rehearsals though.

Juan: I think you were the one who asked me some time ago if I thought that language learning and music were similar. In which ways would you say that learning a language and playing an instrument have similarities? 

Kylie: Jeremy Harmer has talked a lot about this over the years. How we practice certain movements until they are natural so that when we play our fingers automatically know where to go. My husband is a Jazz man. He particularly loves free jazz. He says to play free jazz you need to be able to play the basics perfectly first and then you need to be able to really feel the music and play from your heart. Practicing and producing language is similar. We help our students practice the basics so their lips know where to go and give them lots of exposure to get a ‘feel’ for English. Only I encourage my students to go freestyle whenever they feel ready.

Juan: I simply love these analogies related to language learning. Could you please tell us why you think young learners should learn languages through songs? 

Kylie really feels the multidimensionality of
songs is just perfect for learning languages. 
Kylie: Ha! Do you have space for 25,000 words or more? A better questions would be why not. I could list a multitude of reasons for using songs to teach English to YL and quote all sorts of supporting research and theories about memory and prosody and links between language and song and pre-literacy etc, but for me, I really feel the multidimensionality of songs is just perfect learning languages. Combined with the fact that (most) YL love songs. The only thing that really surprises me is why YL teachers don’t use songs more. Songs are so natural. All over the world mothers naturally sing lullabies to their children. 

And songs have been used since the dawn of time (as cliché as that sounds), amoung other things, to express complicated ideas, remember important events and pass down genealogies. I guarantee you every child starting English knows at least one English song. Even if it’s ‘ Happy Birthday’.

Juan: When do you use songs? How long do you have the same song? 

Kylie: It depends on the age group and the class. For a VYL class I might start the lesson with a Hello song. Sing a song revising something during circle time. Sing a song which includes the target vocab for the lesson (numerous times). Sing a song while playing a game e.g. sing a food song while they are running to find food flashcards to keep those who aren’t having a turn engaged. Sing a song while coloring. Sing a song while tidying up. Sing a good bye song. Some songs are used for a particular theme and only occasionally revisited, whilst others, ‘favourites’ get used all year long.

Juan: Staging can make a big difference when presenting and practicing a song, especially with young learners. What are the important steps in your opinion when staging a song with young learners?

Kylie: I suspect that one of the reasons teachers don’t utilise songs more in the YL classroom is that they aren’t quite sure how. Choosing the song and when to use the song is equally as important as the staging and set up. The song should be relevant with meaningful language which doesn’t stretch the YL too much. I like to use visuals and movement, so using flashcards and actions when setting up a song and to set it up slowly and intentionally. 

This song is such a classic!
For example if you wanted to teach ’5 little monkeys jumping on the bed’ I would introduce this song after the learners are already familiar with numbers 1-5, monkey, head, bed, doctor, mummy’ and if they weren’t I might use some flashcards and mime the story sequence first in a kind of listen and do type activity. Once I’m sure they understand the key vocab and they have some actions then we can see. Actions are important for VYL in particular as it not only helps them to meet the language, it also provides opportunities for involvement for all (which I feel is even more important than the language at this early stage).

Some teachers give up teaching a song because the learners ‘aren’t into it’ or ‘aren’t doing it properly’. I personally don’t mind if kids are singing ‘5 leeedle mmmmm jumping na na bed. Na na off na na na bed.’ As my goal is to get them to move their tongues around and experiment with the sounds of English rather than join the national choir.

Teachers also need to remember that if they stand at the front of the class with the CD blaring and lip syncing, they can’t expect the kids to be excited by the song. The teacher should know it well and be enthusiastic. They certainly shouldn’t worry about being out of tune (the kids won’t care) but they should now the words and loo happy about singing.

Juan: I find that many songs in coursebooks have been adapted so much to fit a curriculum that in the end they lose their grace. Would you agree with this view? When do you ever create songs with your students? 

Kylie: I don’t want to knock the coursebook writers, as they do a great job, but yeah. All too often kids just don’t dig the coursebook songs. Either it’s too obvious, too boring, or too dry or too easy or too difficult to remember the tune. For VYL I like to create my own songs to very familiar tunes e.g. to Frere Jacques. That way the cognitive demands are lower and they can concentrate on other things. For my 8-12 year olds I encourage them to be silly and play with the song. Make it ‘better’. 

E.g. One of my favourite songs is Boom Chicka Boom.  It’s got very simple meaningless lyrics which are sung over and over in different ‘styles’ e.g. happy style, crying style, zombie style, Gaga style, robot style. Sometimes I get my learners to make the songs in the coursebook  ‘better’ by creating their own ‘style’ for the song. 

One memorable lesson, I witnessed a 9 year-old turn the world’s most boring song into something spectacular when she performed it to the class ‘Michael Jackson style’ while the class joined in with the chorus ‘zombie style’. For me a song helps consolidate language and is a great opportunity to play around with the sounds and prosody and intonation and just have fun with it.

For teenagers, the cover versions of songs in coursebooks can be laughable. I rarely ask teens to sing in class unless it is at summer camp and they’ve chosen to sing. Instead I like to get them to do a discourse analysis and discuss the language in the song or even rhyming patterns etc. Songs don’t have to be about singing. They are great for language work, listening activities, routines. I could go on….

Juan: I have noticed that some children and teens do not like to sing and to expose themselves in front of their peers. How do you involve these learners? 

Hey guys, we have just found one more puppeteacher!
Kylie: I think you’ll love my answer to this, Juan. I use puppets! And if I have no puppets we draw them on our finger tips. I also encourage them to imitate English speakers they know e.g. the teacher, a celebrity or maybe their mum. It can be just as embarrassing to ‘sound’ English as it is to make mistakes. Distancing with the aid of a puppet can be really helpful.

Juan: I have watched classes in which children sang and danced, but had no clue about what they were saying. What are some other traps that teachers of young language learners should be careful with? 

Kylie: It depends on the age and the aims of the activity. Sometimes I will spend time working on enunciating sounds and words and other times I just want the kids to have fun or play around with the intonation. Sometimes you just want to build their confidence via a ‘performance’. However, I am a realist, so I would choose a song that parents will be able to understand if it’s for an end of year performance in front of parents who are paying their fees. 

I think a trap a teacher can fall into is to do a song just for the sake of it. Sometimes teachers think of a song as an added extra for something ‘fun’ without really considering the potential learning outcomes. I try to keep learning or developmental goals in my mind when doing songs as well as fun so I don’t lose sight of the ‘learning’. I don’t mean to say I expect perfect production, I just mean I have a clear aim. Even if that aim is simple or non-linguistic in nature.

Kylie with her students at the end of a Summer Camp. 
Juan: You work hard with your students and you notice they have mastered a specific song. What happens then? 

Kylie: Any number of things. My VYL seem to master the colours songs from OUP’s Cookie and Friends quite quickly so I use this song for routines e.g. if we are lining up to go outside and waiting for a child who is taking a long time we might sing this song to avoid losing the line. I also use this song as a timer when they are colouring in a colour dictation. When the song stops. Pens down! 

Often the kids will let me know what song they want to know and when. I love singing the Cookie and Friends ‘Weather Song’ when putting on coats etc getting ready to go out or home, but sometimes the kids want to sing another English song and I’m fine with that. They normally choose the ones they master and it’s confidence building for them to sing it over and over and I like to encourage that.

Juan: What are your plans for the future? Thinking of recording something? 

Kylie: Well I’m quite busy now with my MA research, but I am actually working on a little book project, but that’s a bit hush for now. You’ll have to wait until it comes out. I’d love to create some youtube videos to add to the vast amount already out there but don’t own a video camera or sound equipment. One day. Maybe.

When I first met my husband I used to call him my Wiggle, because he looked like one of the Wiggles, and we have a little fantasy idea about creating a kids band (with his musician mates) and touring preschools. It would certainly be lots of fun!

Juan: Please leave us with a final musical message. 

Kylie: Other teachers might be reading this and think “she must have the voice of Mariah Carey to be doing so much singing”. Ha! I most certainly don’t. I’m just a regular girl who likes to have fun with English and Learning. For anyone wanting to introduce more songs and singing into their classroom, the most important thing is to be enthusiastic and have fun with it. Then you can consider other things like getting the language right, having an aim, staging etc. Use actions and simple, repetitive and meaningful language. Don’t give up. Have fun!

Thanks for interviewing me, Juan. Love and cuddles to Buddy.

Juan: My great pleasure, Kylie! Buddy says he misses you too! 

I invite everybody to know more about Kylie's work by paying her blog a visit. 

What is your take away after this interview? 
What ideas resonate with what you do with your students? 

Send you all a big hug from Tokyo!

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Thank you!

November 18, 2014

Puppeteering again at Hanazono Kindergarten!

Hanazono Kindergarten in Gifu, Japan

Some moments in life have really touched me with sheer joy.  One of these precious memories certainly was telling stories and puppeteering at the two Hanazono Kindergartens in Gifu last year. These performances were truly a challenge for me as my audience was composed of more than three hundred Japanese young language learners aged from three to five. All at the same time! 

Butterflies in my stomach. 
Guess what? I loved it! 

Buddy and I felt super loved before, during, and after both of our presentations. We were welcomed with lots of warmth and excitement by every single person we met at school. Children shouted hellos, teachers served us tea, and our pictures were in the hall. Buddy and I were kindly introduced to the kids, children enjoyed the kamishibai stories, and everybody laughed a lot with our puppeteering. After the show children sang and danced a marvellous thank you song, I got the most amazing medal, and had some delicious cake. We truly felt as kindergarten pop stars!  

As I planned to come back to Japan, I hoped to be able to return to Hanazono to have a similar experience again. As you have probably guessed, fame is highly addictive. 

But would I have the same feelings? 
Could I run the risk of losing that great memory that I had experienced there? 

It was even better! 

Taking the classic photo before my second show at Hanazono Kindergarten in Gifu, Japan in 2014.

I felt much more confident as I knew the children, the school, and had been successful in the past. Many children  remembered Buddy and I guess me too. The difference was that this year I had the whole fifty minutes with Buddy instead of alternating telling kamishibai stories with some puppeteering sketches as I did last year. This represented a real challenge as I could run out of time or maybe lose the momentum with the kids. 

This year children were to teach Buddy how to sing the songs they know in English. I also chose three sketches that I knew children would love. These were Buddy farting and pooping in his potty, teasing him with a huge inflatable hammer, and having Buddy flying over the kids with a balloon. With these three powerful acts I was ready! 

Children greeted us joyfully, laughed loudly at our jokes, and participated giving lots of commands. Everything went well and Buddy and I have now double Hanazono memories!                                                                                                                                                                                                    I gained lots of practice and confidence in my puppeteering skills with large groups and I feel now very empowered to get even better at it. ( Puppeteering can also be highly addictive, beware!)                                                                                                                           
I plan to invest in my professional development as a puppeteer to be able to come up with a much more elaborate experience for children all over the world. Buddy is also very excited about all this! 

Last year we got a medal from the children and this year it was the same. 
Can you notice any difference? 

Here you can watch a clip that I have prepared for you with some of the best moments of these two performances. Enjoy it!

I would like to thank Mark Kulek who has made these magic moments possible not once, but twice. Mark is the founder and director of Gifu Kids which is a lovely school for kids in Gifu as the name says it all. Mark has also had the privilege of teaching these lovely children at both Hanazono Kindergartens for the last eight years. 

Mark is now a friend who I admire both personally and professionally. 

What are your best memories with young language learners? 
Have you ever had similar challenges to mine that you simply loved? 

Send you a big puppet hug,

Uribe Sensei

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Thank you! 

November 17, 2014

Puppeteering interviews with Queenie Tan!

During last Young Learners' Day at TESOL France I had the great pleasure to meet  Queenie Tan and her assistant Jennifer.  Queenie is a well-known author, podcaster, and early childhood educator who lives in Hong Kong and has dedicated herself to educating parents and teachers on how they can become more affective and effective parents and teachers. She has a website and there you can learn more about her books, listen to her podcasts and interviews and much more.

Queenie, Buddy the Frog, and Jennifer in Paris. 
Buddy and I were not interviewed once, but twice in Queenie's show! But how did that happen?

Well, Queenie first interviewed us on how teachers can teach using puppets and then many of the parents that follow her parenting channel liked our interview so much, that they asked us to come to Queenie's parenting channel to talk about how parents can have quality time with their children living imagination and creativity with puppets.

In the first interview Buddy and I shared how teachers can get started in puppeteering and how language development, emotional intelligence, and proactive discipline can be fostered through puppeteering.

Here you can listen to our first interview with Queenie Tan! (audio only)

In the second interview the three of us talked about how parents can use puppets to play with therir children and therefore create memorable moments.

Check here our second interview with Queenie Tan!

Wish you great puppet moments with your children and students!

Which part did you like the most?
Do you have any question that you would like to ask me or Buddy the Frog?

Send you a big puppet-hug directly from Japan!


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Thank you!

Check also this video with more puppeteering hints!

September 21, 2014

A rewarding and touching experience in Konya, Turkey

I had the unique privilege of living and learning with a lively group of Algerian teachers when I gave the CTS (Certificate in Teaching Skills) course with SeltAcademy during the last two weeks of August 2014 in Konya, Turkey. 

Check my guest post on SeltAcademy's blog sharing this amazing experience. 

Posing for a group picture one afternoon after we had a session in the garden. 

Celebrating the sense of accomplishment after having completed the course. 



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Thank you! 

September 18, 2014

Fifty country riddles for the young at heart

I was recently in Konya, Turkey with a great team of teacher educators from SELT Academy giving an initial teacher training program to Algerian teachers who are going to teach in Turkish schools. I have already shared the alphabet riddles we enjoyed during our a  30-minute van ride to school. Today I share another topic we really had a great time creating and challenging each other: country riddles!

1. What country might break? China.

2. What country is in a rush? RUSH-ia 

3. Which country wants more food? HUNGRY. 

4. Which country hurts? S-PAIN.

5. Which country is oily? GREASE.  

6. Which country is spicy? CHILI.

7. Which country is not hot? CHILLY.

8. Which country can melt? ICE-land. 

9. Which country likes to sing? SING- apore

10. Which country goes well with toast? JAM - aica.

11. Which country can you eat? Turkey. 

12. Which country is the name of a woman? Georgia. 

13. Which country is bossy? BOSS-nia. 

14. Which country helps you to cook? Ja-PAN.

15. Which country has a color in its name? GREEN-land.

16. Which country went to the past? I- RAN.

17. Which country is going to the future? GONNA (Ghana).

18. Which country has gone crazy? MAD-agascar.

19. Which country is what teachers do at night after tests? THEN MARK. 

20. Which country is real? Israel. 

21. Which country is heavy to carry? E-STONE-ia. 

22. Which country has a bird in its name? CROW-atia. 

23. Which country always wins in chess? TCHECK. 

24. Which country likes zombies? Zambia. 

25. Which country likes basketball? Jordan. 

26. Which country is made of metal? CAN-ada.

27. Which country is white? PALE-stine.

28. Which country gives you a good tan? TAN-zania.

29. Which country goes well with cheese? Ba-HAM-as.

30. Which country has a friend in its name? Ne-PAL. 

31. Which country wanted to be an Italian city? ROME-nia. 

32. Which country is really loud? BANG-ladesh. 

33. Which country used to be oh, boy? Oh,MAN. 

34. Which country needs some fresh air? MOLD-ovia.

35. Which country likes to go to cassinos? Ti-BET.

36. Which country likes to play ball? BALL-ivia. 

37. Which country is scary? BOO-lgaria. 

38. Which country has more than one man? Ye-MEN. 

39. Which country has lots of poles? POLE-and.

40. Which country is calling Tee? HEY-tee.

41. Which country has a man's name in its name? TIM-or.

42. Which country is used to lift heavy objects? U-CRANE. 

43. Which country has to do with Tom Cruise's daughter? SURi-name. 

44. Which country has paradise in its name? Sw-EDEN. 

45. Which country has women's underwear in its name? BRA-zil. 

46. Which country has lots of fish? FIN-land. 

47.Which country is square on all sides? CUBE-a. 

48. Which country makes a lot of noise? BELL-gium. 

49. Which two countries have a part of our body in their names? ARM-enia and CHIN-a. 

50. Which two countries have the same name in Portuguese and in English? Peru and Turkey. 

Can you think of any other country riddle? 
Which was the best? And the worst? 

Send you funny hugs,


Do you know why I am very polite in my blog ? Because I was born in Ar-GENT-ina.
Ok, I know this was a bad one! 

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Thank you

September 13, 2014

50 affective ways to use flashcards with young learners!

"A picture is worth a thousand words."

Flashcards, Flashcards. How can we live without them? What can we say about them?

I bet every single language teacher around the world has at least a set of flashcards. Some like me, certainly have a collection. I would say that teachers love flashcards because they are visual, clear, objective, and holdable. They can also be used in many different and creative ways.

I have compiled here 50 affective and effective ways in which flashcards can be used to foster engaging and significant language learning in your classes. Enjoy!

1. Say how you like it: here students get a card, say the flashcard as they like them, and pass it to the next student. You can model by saying words such as ice cream with a yummy intonation and snake with a scary one. The very nice thing is that students may have multiple and different opinions about the things in the flashcards and they can show their likes and dislikes just by how they say it. This might be a great opportunity to present them the language they need to express themselves. This is definitely one of my favourite ways of working with flashcards and because of this I have chosen it to be the first of this list!

2. Slowly uncover the picture: this is a classic. Slowly uncover the picture for students to guess what you have. You can uncover the picture from different sides or even have an envelope with a hole in which students see just a part of it. You can do it as during language presentation or when you are activating language students have already seen. If they have seen the pictures already, they will give you the answer in miliseconds!

3. Slowly uncover the word: similar to uncover the picture, but here you use cards that only have words. What I like to do here is to have students brainstorm all the words they can say that use the letter or letters that I am showing. The more letters I show, the more obvious the word gets. Some variations include showing just a little bit of the top or bottom of the word. Put the word upside down to get them crazy and excited!

4. Whisper and guess: here I get a card and either whisper it or just move my mouth and students have to guess it. Once they get the game, they can mingle doing it to their peers as a way of activating language previously presented. When they guess the word, they can exchange cards

5. Say it only if it's right: the teacher shows the flashcards and calls out a word. If the word is what the teacher is holding, students say the word. Once they get it, you can demonstrate it with one student and have students playing the game with each other.

6. Say it if you like it: similar to the last activity, but here the teacher calls out the words and students repeat it only it they like them. It's really interesting to listen to the number of people each card gets. Some of them get nobody!

Two possible answers allow
 children to choose their favourite.

7.  Apple or pear?: this is a very easy activity for students who are beginners. Each student is given two flashcards and they make simple questions just by saying the names of the cards such as "apple or pear?". Once a student answers one of the options, she/he gets that card. Students take turns to make sure that everybody stays with two cards. Then students change pairs and continue practising the vocabulary items.

8. Mime: teacher shows a card, says it, and everybody mimes it. Then teacher gets a card, mimes it, and everybody has to guess it. Students do it to each other and exchange cards before changing pairs.

9. Circle of process: this is another classic. The teacher puts a sentence such as "I went to the market and bought ______ ". Students sit in a circle and are given a card each which they are not to show others. The first student in the circle says the sentence, shows his/her card and completes the sentence saying the word represented in his/her card. The second student then says the sentence completing with the word the first person has said, and then show his/her card before saying his/her part. If a student does not remember a word, the student can show the card. A variation can be done with the whole class saying it instead of the next student in the circle.

10. Spell and guess it: here you spell a word and students guess what you have. Here it helps if you have flashcards with word and picture or only with the word to make sure that they are spelling words correctly.

11. Draw it and write it: give students a sheet of paper with a word written on top and invite students to draw the word. Then tell students to fold the top part of the sheet and bluetac these on the board. Get other students to come and write the words below the pictures students have drawn. Other students can come to the board and tick/ make corrections on how words have been written. The very nice thing about this activity is that you can use the flashcards they have created for all the other activities we have here!
Drawing bingo works on
their listening skills. 

12. Listen and clap: distribute one card per child and tell them that you will tell a story and then every time they listen to their word they have to clap. Make sure you have a list of the words or that you write the story before hand in order to make sure that each word is said several times.

13. Drawing bingo: give students a 4x4 or 5x5 matrix and spread flashcards on the floor. Demonstrate how they can draw the flashcards they like in any way on their bingo cards. Once they have done it, you can tell a story showing the cards you say and students cross their drawings when you say them. A variation is to have students also write the words instead of just drawing them.

14. Make a sentence with the word: you pick a flashcard and say some sentences using this word to model different possibilities. You can then give each student one card for them to say a sentence to a peer. After saying their sentence students exchange cards.  Circulate in the classroom and get some of their sentences to be worked on the board.

15. Ranking: you can show how much you like the things you have in the flashcards by making a list. Then ask students to make their lists either drawing or writing and then to share these with their peers. You can here again pre-teach some language they might need when commenting on their colleague's list. A very nice variation is for students to say how much they think other students in class rank  things and then check their predictions.

Would it be hard for you to
discover you are a lemon? 
16. Discover what I am: here you hold a card and students have to discover what it is. You can have yes/no questions on the board to help students with the questions. Once they get how the game works, you can have them doing it in pairs. A great variation is to get peg a card to the back of each student and they have to discover what they have on their back by asking others while mingling.

17. Complete the words in the story: here the teacher tells a story and leaves gaps for students to complete using the flashcards. Example: Once there was a (students pick a card) that was happy going home when suddenly one (students pick a card) appeared. They started talking about life and then the first card said it had lost its (students pick a card). A variation for more advanced students is for them to make a story in pairs to be completed by their peers. Great fun!

18. Make a story: there are many ways in which students can make a story with flashcards. One way is having students tell only one story with a sentence at a time when the card is turned up, another is giving students 4 cards each and they can choose how they continue the story, and a third is you give pairs 6 cards and together they create their story which is then presented to the whole group.

Would you exchange a butterfly for an apple?
19. Exchange:  each student receives a card and then you ask one of them if he would like to exchange his card for yours. Give one or two reasons and then listen to his/hers. If both agree, exchange cards. Students mingle and consider the exchanges. Here again having language they might need on the board is essential.

20. Insert it in the conversation: students are supposed to carry a normal conversation and when they see the flashcard they insert the word linking it to the last topic they were talking. Let's say students are talking about dogs, you show the egg card, and then they comment that dogs do not like eating eggs, etc. I got this one from a television show.

21. Shop: this is a another classic one that children simply love. Students set up a shop and they have to sell what they have. You can have shops with fruits, animals, objects, or even with parts of the house and actions How do you sell swimming or watching tv? Make sure you model first and have language they will need on the board.

22. Talk to it: what would you tell a butterfly if it could listen to you? what about to your bed, your tap, or to a spoon? This is the chance students always have wanted to express themselves in creative ways. It can be done orally or with cards spread around the room and students write their creative sentences on sheets of paper. Students can then vote on the best sentence.

23. Interview the flashcard: how does a car feel to be a car? What are the things it likes doing? What are its worries? Here one student is the thing in the flashcard and the other or others ask him questions. You can have students come up with the questions before raffling the cards. Great fun!

24. Watermelon: every sentence that you say has to contain that thing you have in the flashcard. If you have a watermelon, you say:  "How watermelon are you?",  the other person says "I'm watermelon fine" and the conversation goes on. The winner is the one that always remembers to insert the word in the sentence. Go changing the words. Just a silly and funny one for those moments in which you have still time left.

What did the flower tell the gate?
25. One flashcard talks to the other: students become their flashcards and have to start a conversation. We have then for example a flower talking to a house. What does it say? Maybe it says "I would like to know what is inside of you, but I will die if you talk me out of the ground. " and the house can answer " but I can put you in a vase and you will be in the living room where we get a lot of sun."

Cards can even talk about a third card saying what the like about it and what they think should be different. Gossiping flashcards in other words!

26. For and against: what are all the advantages of the flashcards? What are all the disadvantages? You can have half the class supporting one position and the other half the contrary. Each pair can have a card they are talking about.
Example: + Eggs are delicious. They can be cooked in many different ways. They are not expensive. - Eggs break easily. They get rotten. They are messy.

27. Putting things inside a house: where would you put the things you have in a house? Make a big house using the board or different parts of the classroom. Students can put the elephant in the kitchen to help with the cooking and cow in the garden to receive people that are arriving, etc. Millions of possibilities. You can have students using a specific structure such as "What if we had", "I suggest having", or any other you are covering.

When was the last time you saw an elephant? 
28. Last time I saw: the name says it all. Students talk about the last time they interacted or used that thing. You can ask students to use WH questions. You could have the following: When was the last time you saw an elephant? Who were you with when you saw it? What did you feel when you saw it?

You can again here the questions already written and students only have to ask them. Answers are hilarious!

29. Domino: students play domino and to place the card they have to say something that both cards have in common. Students can talk about size, color, price, what they are used for, etc. How would you find a similarity between a brush and a ball? Both start with B, maybe?

30. Venn Diagram: using two hollahoops you can create a venn diagram just like the one on the picture on the left. You can give the categories and they sort out the cards or they create different categories and others have to guess "the secret" of their diagram.

It can be done both with cards with pictures or words.

31. Alliteration: students try to match adjectives that start with the first letter of the word. You can have a funny friendly flower, a gourgeous gigantic gate, a docile dog, etc.

What are other uses for a soccer ball? 
32. Other uses: what can a soccer ball we used for besides playing soccer? We can use it a dog toy, as a door stopper, as decoration, etc.

33. Present: what would you do if somebody gave you an apple on your birthday? What about a butterfly? Play with students the reactions they would have and how they have sometimes only to accept and thank. I usually play with family members saying for example: your mother gave you an apple, your sister a butterfly, your cousin a dog. You can also reverse it and ask what they would like to give each other in the classroom and why.

34. Make me say it: Students get 3 cards each which can not show these to their peers. Their objective is to make the other person say that word. Let's say a student has ball, he/she can ask the other "what do you need to play soccer?".

35. Hangman: students can use the cards that have written words to play hangman when they are still learning how to write the words. Words can be spread on the floor to make it easier.

36. Mini auto-biography: here the student shares his/her lifestory with the thing in the flashcard. I have learned this activity many years ago from Mario Rinvolucri at Pilgrims.

37. Family tree: build a family tree with the flashcards that you have. Who would be the father? Why? What about the mother? If they have children, who are these children? Why?

38. Describe and draw: here you can model by describing a flashcard with details while students draw it.  Help students make questions about it while drawing. After they finished drawing they can compare their creation with the flashcard. Then you can have students in pairs with  one student describing the flashcard and the other drawing. Then they check when they are finished and the one who described draws another flashcard.

39. Imagine and check: Ask students to close their eyes and imagine the flashcards you are going to say. Then show them and they tell you or each other how they saw each one of the words and how different they are from the flashcard you have. It works best if you use flashcards with real pictures instead of cartoons. Great for comparatives!

40. Have a sketch with them: you act out that you enter you house, pat the dog, have an apple, and watch some television while taking off your socks. You have just used five flashcards in a very funny way. You can even say the words in a monologue like: It's good to be back home. Hey Rex, what a lovely dog you are! Good there is still one apple left. Time for the game to start on tv, let me take off these socks! But make sure you do the actions entering the house flashcard, patting the dog flashcard, biting the apple flashcard and so on. Students can do sketches even having a dialogue with two or three people in which they have a situation in which the cards appear.

41. Brainstorm collocations: here students brainstorm all the collocations we can have with a certain flashcard. Let's think of some that go together with book: big, small, hardcover, heavy, light, old, new, etc. The focus here is not on working with the words on the flashcards, but really on how they can be used.

42. Forbidden words: have six cards in front of students and they are to have a conversation, but they can not say the words in the flashcards that have been displayed. You can go increasing the number of words of having different stations with different words.

43. Write it as it is: here students write the words according to what they mean. If they are writing cat, they will put whiskers in the C and create a tail. If it is the sea, they can create many waves repeating the word sea many times. If it is sun, they have rays around it. A variation is writing the words according to their size. Ant would be really tiny and elephant would be huge!

44. Odd one out: students choose four cards and create a code in which one of them does not belong. Other students have to guess it.

45. Year without it: how would your life be if you had to live one year without eating eggs? What about being with a dog? Not eating cake? You got the idea. This was inspired by those people that love making promises to suffer not eating something they really enjoy.

46. An entire day: similar to the last one, but the opposites. How would it be it you had to do what is in the flashcard for a whole day? Could you eat cake for a whole day? What about being with a dog? Smelling flowers is something you could handle? Here you can pre-teach language that they might need to express their emotional reactions.

47. Going to a desert island: which of these flashcards would you take to a desert island? You probably have heard or even played this classic game in which players have to justify their choices. Here students choose five cards and have to discuss with other students why their cards are important. pre-teach language that they might need in the discussion and demonstrate it with a student.

48. Biggest problem: what is the biggest problem a dog can have? Maybe it is not liking bones and everybody brings it a bone. Or maybe a dog can meow instead of barking. Students can use their creativity thinking about surreal problems for the flashcards.

49. Emotional thermometer: students choose a flashcard according to how they are feeling or how they have liked the class. A student can choose a dog because because he/she liked the class and because it was lively. A cake can be chosen because an activity was sweet. Students have to be a little bit older to understand the concept of making analogies. You certainly have to model it and explain it to your learners.

50. Matching couples: If the flashcards were couples which matches would we have? Maybe a tap goes with a bucket, a dog with a cat, fork with a spoon. Ok, you are probably thinking these are easy ones, but the real challenge happens when the matches are not that straight forward. Would a book match a house? What about a dog? Not really. A variation is to have to pile and a bachelor, then four cards are open and the best contestant marries the bachelor. Too crazy? Give it a try and tell me!

Wow! What a marathon of flashcard activities. It surely took me more than a month to get this post ready for you!

Do you use flashcards in any different way?
Write it in the comment and I will include your idea here!

Send you a big flashcard hug,


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