Flashcards Can Be Boring (Part II): The Mystery Box Makes Things More Fun!

Aaaaaaand we’re back on the topic of flashcards. As I’ve said before, they are most definitely useful when teaching, but I can’t tell you how many teachers I’ve seen that simply show the flashcards to the students over and over and have them repeat the associated vocabulary words endlessly. When you introduce vocabulary for the first time, this “no-fun” and calm approach is necessary so that students can absorb the information. But for review, using flashcards this way is just… ZzZzZzZzZzZz… A total bore!

So here’s a simple idea that could make things a little bit more fun.

What you’ll need: your flashcards (of course!), students (preferably 4 or more), a cardboard box big enough to put your flashcards in, and chairs.

Step 1: Teach the flashcard vocabulary first. Yes, you can use the “boring” way for this step.

Step 2: Have students make a circle. I usually just get them to stand or sit on the floor in a circle. However, depending on how many students you have and how much time they take to move chairs, you can have them make a circle with their chairs too. That way they can just sit in their chairs.

Step 3: In front of your students, put all of the flashcards you’ve just seen in the box and close the lid. Oooooh! So mysterious! The more you hype this part up, the better the students’ reactions will be.

Step 4: Have students pass the box around from student to student. Have them chant: “Pass, pass, pass” to help them keep the box moving. Once the box gets back to you, yell: “STOP!” and hold onto the box (this is to show students how the game is played). Without looking, slip your hand in, pull out a card, and say what’s on that card. That’s the point of the game: students need to pass the box until you yell stop. The student holding it when you yell stop needs to pull out a flashcard and say what’s on it.

Step 5: Continue to pass the box and yell stop at different intervals. Try to keep track of who has gone already, and yell “Stop!” strategically so that as many different students as possible can have a turn.

Step 6: Once you feel the students are tired of the game (10 minutes or so), get them back in their seats, or have them put their chairs back and continue with your lesson.

***Please note: to make this more fun, you can have students say the flashcards they choose in different voices. To do this, I yell: “STOP! Monster voice.” and the student with the box will have to say the word in his best monster voice. If you’re playing this way, it might be beneficial to preteach a few voices though, so that students know what you’re asking of them.***


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