Parents often ask how they can help their child review what they’ve been learning in class. One way to do this is by using flashcards. Flashcards are fun and versatile learning tools that can be used for a variety of games and ESL levels. Here are just a few of them.
Use 3 cards, or more for older, more capable children. Place the cards face up, and then turn them over and try to remember which card was where.
Timed memory game
Put the flashcards face up, and then turn them over. Set a timer and ask the student to find a particular card. If they choose the wrong one, they need to put it face down again and keep trying to find the card.
Noughts and crosses
Flashcards can be used to play some common pen and paper games, like tic tac toe. Place three lines of three cards face up. If you’re using alphabet cards, you can ask your child to say a word starting with one of the letters. If you’re using word cards, you can your child to read the word or use it in a sentence. When the child does this correctly, they can take the card or put a removable sticker on it.
Make a story or word
This is a fun way of playing with the English words, letters, and concepts your child knows well. Take some flashcards at random and place them face up on the floor. Ask your child to make a word, sentence or story with the words or letters on the cards.
Quickly hold up the card and then turn in face down so your child can’t see it. Ask your child to guess what is on the card. If they’re not able to, hold it up for a little longer and then turn it face down again. Keep playing until they can tell you what is on the card.
Hold up a card so only you can see it. Start saying things that are in the same category as what is on the card. For example, if the card says “B” you could say “banana”, “ball” and “bear”. If the card says “verbs” you could say “running”, “singing”, “raining”. Your child needs to guess what is on the card.
This is a fun game for energetic children. Hide some flashcards around the room and ask your student to find them. There are a few variations of this game. You could play “hot and cold” by telling your child they’re hot when they’re close to a card and cold when they’re far away from any cards. You could also hide some “trick” cards. Tell your child a word or sentence like “book” or “he read yesterday” and ask them to find the flashcards with those letters or words. But you’ll have hidden other cards with different words or letters on them, and your child needs to identify the correct ones.
Spell out a word except for one letter and the student needs to say which one is missing. To make this more challenging, take out more letters. You can also use this game for making sentences.
Odd one out
This game is a good way of practising grammar concepts, but it can also be using for identifying rhyming words or even words in your child’s favourite English story or poem. Place some cards face up and ask your child to identify which one is different. To make sure your child is learning, ask them to tell you why the card is different.
The good thing about this game is that you don’t need much space to play it, and it is something you can do while you’re waiting for a train or at a restaurant and trying to keep your children entertained while the food arrives. Give every player several cards and you each take turns putting them down, face up. When a child puts down a card that “matches” or is in the same word category, they say “snap!” and win the game.
Is it a….?
Young children often really enjoy this game. Hold up a flashcard and ask your child if it is something different. So you could hold up a “yellow” card and ask them if it is a sun, purple or an animal.
Find me a…
Give your child a set of flashcards and ask them to find particular cards, like the “R” or “ball” card. For more advanced learners, you can ask them to find you a word in a certain category, like a colour or a noun.
This is another good one for energetic students. Place the cards face up on the floor and play their favourite songs. Your child needs to walk, jump or dance around the room until you stop the music, and then they need to tell you what is on the nearest flashcard and a little bit more about it. For example, if the card says “M” your child could say “M mmmmm, mouth.” If the card says “green” your child could say “green, my favourite colour” or “green, like my school bag.”
There are many flashcard games you could play with your child to review what they’re learning in class.
Try a few of these and see which ones you both like!
Exaggeration? Of course, but it has certainly provided the framework for a rewarding and meaningful new life.
I had an active, varied career in public service, theatre directing, running theatre training courses and theatre management, international arts touring, with periods of running my own arts companies.
Then 14 years ago, I started to find it hard to move my legs if I walked more than a few steps. I shrugged it off for quite a long time because it didn’t become too debilitating. Until it did. One day I couldn’t use my right leg at all. It recovered after a few days, and the doc thought I might have had a stroke.
To cut a long story short, after a year of every kind of test you can think of, I was diagnosed with progressive multiple sclerosis. The hospital consultant wrote that I would not be fit for work again. Ever.
Being a trusting soul, I believed him, left my theatre management job in the UK, and ran away to live out my days in the Philippines (it’s warm and cheap there!)
I loved it for a while. It was a tropical paradise far removed from what I was used to in the UK. But after a year, I was bored. Every day was the same length and same temperature. The people I loved were just disembodied voices on a screen. I wanted to come home, and despite quite restricted movement, felt energised enough to find work for finance, meaning and fulfilment.
I threw myself into self-improvement, whilst taking a call centre job to pay the bills. I got qualified to offer bookkeeping services professionally. I got a foundation qualification in counselling. Bookkeeping and counselling seemed like things I could do from home. It didn’t take me long to find out that finance was not really my vocation, though!
I needed to be able to get to outside classes and practical sessions to qualify in counselling. Sadly, by this time, I was barely able to drive my adapted car or move around outside. So, I had to give the counselling idea up.
Knowing I would soon be stuck at home, I searched online for options I could train for and pursue entirely at home. Of course, I ‘bumped into’ online teaching during the research. I had obtained Part One PGCE to teach adults back in 2000 to teach on a vocational theatre training programme I had set up. I saw that that, plus my existing degree plus an online TEFL qualification, would be more than enough for most platforms. If it worked out, I could live and work in one room for as long as I could! I decided to give it a go.
I was absolutely terrified when I was waiting for my first student to come online. The student had responded to online listings. I fumbled my way through the first lesson but felt a great sense of achievement when I completed the learning objectives, and the student was grateful. So, I edged slowly, hour by hour, into the industry.
After a while, I found that the online teaching platforms offering students and materials made economic sense and, frankly, were easier. They quickly dominated my working hours – I restricted my teaching to working with adults, which suited my style better, and soon found I had a number of regular, grateful students attending, and a decent income. I’ve now taught around 8200 hours to adults online. China, Taiwan, and Japan have been the biggest markets, but I have also taught business and professional people in Spain, France, Finland, Italy, and Russia.
The most wonderful thing about this new life is that it provides a similar sense of fulfilment, joy, and reward that I had experienced in my work before disability. The gratitude and the development of the students, the effect of my influence and support on them, reminded me of the effects of some of my theatre directing and acting in my former life.
Now, I can sit in front of a camera, with head and shoulders giving no hint that everything below is pretty useless and contribute as usefully as I hope I did all those years before.
So, perhaps online teaching really did save my life!
The idea of being self-employed
It can seem scary to go from working for someone else to working for yourself. I always had this vision of self-employed teachers being some sort of driven Branson or Musk types who were in control of every part of their life; until I became self-employed myself. It wasn’t the complicated process I had imagined. It really was just a case of deciding it was better suited to me. Self-employed teaching was a great move. I haven’t looked back since.
Legal and taxes
I work in Spain and the idea of having to get my head round arcane tax laws and find which forms to fill in was anathema. So, like all the self-employed people I know, I hired a professional administrator. Pointless paperwork is one of Spain’s national pastimes. With someone to help, for a very reasonable fee, all that nightmare disappeared in one stroke. Once every three months all I have to do is send a copy of my invoices and receipts by email to my admin and they do all the rest.
Finding students is the name of the game for self-employed teachers. We can’t just turn up and expect students to be there. Social media is useful for getting the word out. So is LinkedIn. I have found that word of mouth from satisfied current or ex-students is the best publicity. If you can get a human resources department interested in your classes, you can build a very mutually beneficial relationship. Best of all, joining MyCoolClass lets you take advantage of its international reach and find a supportive community of other freelance teachers. You can read more about the other benefits of MyCoolClass here.
The Internet makes finding material much easier for teachers nowadays. I teach English and make use of the excellent materials produced by Nick Peachy. There are other well-priced material providers such as Teacher Pay Teachers and of course, you can make your own materials and sell them to other teachers too. That, again, is something MyCoolClass can help you with. The secret with materials, whatever you teach, is to be organized. If you can have everything in the same place in the cloud or on a pendrive you can save yourself a lot of time in the future. If you teach a language, make sure you have a good selection of activities for speaking, listening, reading, and writing.
Planning low seasons
Self-employed teaching is cyclical. September and January are, in Spain, boom times when people want to sign up for classes. But in July and August Spain is closed for business. With all these gorgeous beaches and delicious food, who can blame the Spanish if they forget their studies while the sun shines? Well, teachers need some rest and relaxation too! Use this time to recharge your batteries and organize yourself. MyCoolClass has a system which helps teachers take paid time off. No other online platform offers this. Maybe the ‘off-season’ is a good time to see what more value you can offer your clients. YouTube videos? Podcasts?
Self-employed teaching helps you evolve an opportunity radar. It’s a change of attitude. From being a passive receiver of work, you now go out to hunt it down. Today’s ceiling is tomorrow’s floor. It is so much more invigorating than working to make somebody else rich. You get to make all the decisions and you decide on the type of business you want to run. Will you be a super-sleek digital based business English provider? Or will you take a more human-to-human approach? Will you promise to help people pass their official exams or concentrate on a niche like English for hotels.
When I became self-employed, I was working as a consultant for a publisher. One day the department head tried to impose a timetable on me. I pointed out that she couldn’t do that.
“I’m your boss,” she said.
“No,” I replied, “You’re my client.
In addition to curricula and interesting lesson materials, many teachers like to plan effective reward systems for our online classes. Rewards can improve motivation and enjoyment, which can make a significant difference over a course of lessons. A reward system also helps us to establish our teaching style. Preschool teachers might like to give their students’ an apple on an apple tree several times in one class, while teachers who specialise in a grammar concept might prefer to give their students a certificate for each concept they master. Here are five types of reward systems to consider using in your online classes.
Picture based reward systems in online classes
This could be as simple as a sticker chart, or it could be more complex. Maybe your picture consists of a fruit bowl, and your student gets a different piece of fruit every time they do something well. Or you could have a picture with a pathway that a princess or knight needs to move along to reach a castle. You can do this digitally by creating a picture on a website like Canva or you can draw or print out a picture and use blue-tac or a magnetic whiteboard to add and move additions as your student earns a reward.
The good thing about these reward systems is that getting one reward encourages the student to try for another. Getting a banana for your fruit bowl is wonderful but it will make you want to add the pear and grapes, at least. For younger or less motivated students, you could also say what they need to do to get their next reward. This is a good system for students who find the lesson a little long and need it to be divided into short term sections with clear goals.
Use Stickers in online classes
This classic reward system can be replicated online with digital stickers. There is less choice available with digital stickers, but it is a simple system that doesn’t require much planning or structure. If the student does well, they get a sticker, making this a great system for teachers who don’t have time to plan a more complex reward system and for students who might struggle to understand a more complicated system.
The good thing about stickers is that most children are familiar with the system. Your student is likely to get stickers at school or at home for good work and behaviour, so this method will be consistent with what they know. This can encourage good behaviour and hard work in online classes because it shows that the same rules apply in an online classroom as in a physical classroom.
Extra time at the end of class for games, drawing or reading can be a good way of motivating students to stay focused. This is a very adaptable reward system, and you can adjust it to how your student is feeling today as well as their general interests. It also doesn’t require much planning from the teacher. You can simply allot five minutes of each class to a fun activity.
The best thing about this method is that it is often additional English practice. If your student gets to draw a picture or do a dance as a reward, you can discuss it with them. If they prefer to play games, then you can practice the lesson’s vocabulary or something you have already covered.
Certificates are a more long-term reward that can be given to students who have mastered a concept or skill, completed a course, or maintained good behaviour over several weeks. You can download certificate templates or make certificates yourself.
The good thing about certificates is that recognise achievements that take longer than a lesson to achieve. They can also be a useful way for teachers to keep track of the skills that each student has mastered and what they still need to learn. Teachers who like this reward could create a certificate for each skill they teach to help keep themselves and their students on track during their months or even years of time with a particular student.
Offering students prizes for good work and behaviour can be a great way of motivating them. Prizes can be anything from a “no homework” card the student can use whenever they want to a free ebook. You could give your students a prize after they’ve achieved a specific thing, won a certain number of points or shown themselves to be the best in a group class at something. If you teach one-to-one online classes and think competition can be beneficial for students, you could offer a prize to the student who is the best at something or achieves the most points. An alternative would be to give raffle tickets as prizes to get a chance of winning a free class or an ebook.
A good thing about prizes is that they can double as end of course gifts, seasonal gifts, and additional help with your students’ learning. Many teachers with long term students like to give gifts at the end of several months or years of instructing a student, whether that’s an ebook or an exam guide. It can help improve a student’s confidence if they can see that this gift was given to them because of their hard work.
Here are some useful websites that might help you plan your reward systems: