Home-made tools for language practice I.- Flashcards

As a language teacher I used a lot of card activities with my students to explain, identify, show or play things with them. It worked even with adults, but it’s a hit with kids. They are colourful, fun to look at, nice to chew them or fold them (well, at least from E.’s point of view).

You can find a lot of ready-made flashcards on the net, for example, here. You just print them and can start using them. You can also find videos showing flashcards. I found them rather disappointing. A lot of them have strange visuals, or they use the American variation of the word I wouldn’t use. But the most horrible experience is when the words are pronounce by a machine. It’s scary. Plus, I don’t want to make E. sit in front of the computer a lot.

I decided to make my own cards; it’s more personal in this way, and sometimes E. could see when I prepared them, and became even more interested. And we can take with us if we want.

Of course I’ve read a lot about the method which was developed by Glen Doman and his flashcards, but I found it too much pressure on me. So I took it easy 🙂

What I do is similar to the Doman technique, but maybe not so thorough. I make flashcards about the topics E. is interested in. And the way I show them to her is not so systematic and not so fast. I’m not changing the cards so often as we play a lot with them and it’s not only about showing her the cards.

So here is an example. When she was 8 months old, I was just showing her the cards and say what she could see in the picture. Later, on I mooed when the cow turned up and also showed the MAKATON sign for the cow. Then when she was around 10-11 months old I started to add extra information as well (“The cow gives us milk” – and showed the picture, showed the signs for cow and milk). When E. became 1 year old we started to name the colours as well (“Look – the cow is white and brown. It gives us milk” – I showed the signs – What colour is the milk? – and I answered: – “White”. Now, at the age of 14 months, E. answers “white” and she moos as soon as she hears the word “cow”.)

Sometimes I tell her a story or connect the cards to something that happened to us, or anything connected to real life. She loves those cards the most which she experienced in her own life (E.g.: body parts are great as she can identify them on me or on herself, what’s more, the cards make her interactive; she asks D. to show his belly button. Among the flowers she adores the dandelion clock as we blew a lot of them when they bloomed in the park, but there are the fruits she can touch and taste like a banana or an apple).

I started with animals. As we don’t have a colour printer I found some colouring pages on the net and selected some basic (later some more) animals, printed them and coloured them myself. (Quite time-consuming). Luckily I got a laminator from D. for Christmas, so I glued the coloured animals on colour paper and laminated each. It was a great idea as at the beginning E. chewed, folded and threw them away, so they really needed to be tough. Different topics have different background colours.

Animals

I thought at that time I won’t make other cards but animals since she wanted nothing else but animals. We made noises that the animals made, named their colours, stated what they like eating, where they live, or sang a song about them etc.
 

 

Then she got a basket of soft vegetables (from IKEA) and I was “forced” to make some vegetable cards. (We play matching games with the soft vegetables and the cards). The same thing happened when we bought the wooden fruit box.
 
Fruit and vegetables


While we were walking in the park I realised we needed some flower cards, too. I just haven’t had the energy and willpower to make tree cards, but I will one day. The flower cards are more ‘professional’ as they are photos printed in colour.

Flowers

I don’t want E. to learn reading yet, so I didn’t bother making word cards connected to the pictures. Except for the flower cards. And the reason for it is that I have difficulty remembering the names of the flowers so it is also a learning process for me. The names are on the back. Sometimes she wants to look at the words, so I show her. But I’m NOT teaching her to read.

Then the body parts came influenced by the Helen Doron songs and rhymes. At the moment we are looking at them when E. is sitting on the potty, as we can point at different body parts when she is half naked (belly button is her favourite). After making the body part cards, the time came when a box was necessary for keeping the cards in one place (that is next to the potty most of the time). So long time ago I saw a pinterest post about how to make a box for kids out of a Vanish plastic bottle. I made it and the cards can fit in it well.

Body parts

I also made musical instruments, but she has just started to become interested in them. We are going to begin using them later on.

Musical instruments

Below you can see the present collection of our cards. They are far from being ready. I’m continuously making new cards to each group.
Certainly there are more groups to come (everyday objects, furniture, baby stuff, means of transport, rooms, playground toys, tools, kitchenware etc).

The collection
 
Let’s sum up what to play with cards?
 
1. Show then and say the name of the thing in the card
 
2. Matching cards and toys (toy animals, toy fruit or real ones can work well too)
 
3. Grouping (body parts on the head or fruit and vegetables in 2 groups, or according to colours in case of flowers)

4. Story telling (E.g.: chose few animals and vegetables and flowers, and build a story around them – the rabbit eats the carrot and hops into the field to smell flowers where he meets his best friend, the mouse, who is running away from the cat, because the mouse tried to drink the cat’s milk)

 
5. Link the cards with sign language
 
6. Face down (put out 3-4 cards facing down and the child can turn them one by one, then name/show/point at the thing on the card – sounds boring but E. loves this too)
 
7. Sing a song (I put out some cards, e.g.: the lamb, the ladybird and the spider – I sing a song about one of the animals – Incy Wincy Spider and either E. picks up the card I1m singing about or we act out the song; the same with The Ladybird song or Ba-Ba Black Sheep song)
 
8. Odd one out (I show 3 or 4 cards of the same kind, but one is different – 3 farm animals and a wild one, or 3 yellow flowers and one red etc. –  then I ask, for instance, “Is the pig a wild animal?” – “No, it’s not a wild animal.” “Is the horse a wild animal?” -“No, it’s not a wild animal.” “Is the cow a wild animal?” – “No, it’s not a wild animal.”-“Is the lion a wild animal?” – “Yes, it is!” So the pig, the horse and the cow are farm animals.)
 
There must be much more games to play, just let your (and your child’s) imagination fly.
 

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