Making Flashcards : A Question of Time

Many games and activities in the classroom require the use of flashcards, and even if you teach fairly small groups, making several sets of flashcards is extremely time consuming. How can you cut down as much as possible the time it takes to prepare them?

  • Firstly, don’t re-invent the wheel. It’s far quicker to use ready-prepared materials than to prepare your own – especially if this involves searching for pictures. Many websites now offer a selection of flashcards for the classroom. Some charge a small fee but others are completely free. Check out ESLhq,, and ESL
  • Secondly, you’ll save time in the long-term if you spend more time in the short-term. Don’t produce the cards for a “one-off” lesson but build up a stock of activities which you can use again and again. “Cutting corners” doesn’t make sense in the long run –if you use good card, make sure corners are well stuck down etc, the cards will last much longer. If you have the chance to laminate the cards, then that’s even better. Laminators are not incredibly expensive – suggest your school invests in one.
  • In any case, make sure your students know that they should never write or draw on flashcards unless explicitly asked to do so. I know some who’ve even managed to write on laminated cards.
  • Next, don’t feel you have to do it all yourself. Get together with any other teachers in the school who teach the same levels/age groups as you do, and arrange to pool materials. If there are three of you, and each prepares one activity, you’ll have three activities available but will only have had to take the time to prepare one.
  • Finally, once the cards are prepared, work out a good filing system. I usually put the cards themselves in a paper envelope on which is written what’s on the cards and the language points they practise; instructions for the activity or activities I use them for; the level, coursebook and unit I’ve used them with, etc. This envelope then goes into a plastic envelope which goes into a file in some sort of order – by level, by coursebook, by activity type etc – whatever fits best into your teaching situation. The important thing is that you can find them again even when you’ve forgotten all about making them.


Photo provided under Crative Commons Licence by Nemo's great uncle via flickr

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