Young female college students meet in a local coffee shop to study for an exam together. They are reviewing note cards and books.

Words on cards: not just for beginners, not just for kids

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Putting words on cards for students to practise is easy enough, yet it’s a valuable resource for any language classroom, for any language-level, for any age. To have a word – or a phrase –  in isolation, not cluttered by any surrounding text, really focuses our attention on it. Think of signs, logos, etc. Activities that allow learners to touch the cards and move them according to form and meaning also appeal to students with a more tactile learning style.

Because they are out of context, having words on cards is better suited for practice activities after the words’ meanings have been presented and understanding of them checked, but there is still a large number of activities they can be used for, especially for collaborative spelling and pronunciation mastery.  Why not make a set of 24 cards featuring the words you want your students to focus on and try out the range of activities below? Alternatively, you can use the Spelling Practice Cards already created for A1– and A2-level students.  These have been informed by Cambridge University Press’s exclusive Corpus research so that they cover the words we know learners are most likely to find challenging to spell. Increase your students’ chances of success by regularly focusing on these.
Six great ideas for using your Spelling Practice Cards in the classroom:

1. Look, say, cover and write

Show the class cards one by one and drill the word’s pronunciation. Then hide the word and ask students to write it. Check spellings one by one too. This activity helps consolidate the relationship between the written and spoken word, and doing it as a class is more engaging than doing it in isolation.

2. Missing letters

Prepare 10-12 cards with complete words on the front, and the same word on the back with some missing letters, e.g. vowels. Divide the class into small teams. Show all teams the front of the card with the complete word for a few seconds and drill its pronunciation. Turn the card over and show the teams the word with letters missing. The team discusses how to spell the word correctly and writes it down. Repeat for the other cards.  Review correct spellings. The team with the most points wins.

3. Syllable groups

Drill the pronunciation of the words. Choose one word and ask how many syllables it has as an example. Divide the class into two teams and give them 12 cards each.  Ask them to say the words to each other and divide them into groups according to how many syllables they have. For lower levels, this may be words with two or three syllables, but for higher levels, you could include words with more syllables, or even focus on word stress. This activity again helps consolidate the relationship between the written and spoken word, and aids spelling.

4. Creative sentences

Divide the class into small teams. Give each team 3 cards at random.  Ask them to make a logical sentence that includes these words.  To review, ask a representative from each team to write their sentence on the board. Ensure the target words are spelled correctly.

5. Kim’s game

Stick at least 8 cards on the board.  Drill the words’ pronunciation with the class.  Divide students into pairs. Ask students to look away and then take one card off the board.  Ask pairs to agree together which one has been taken. Ask the class for the missing word and its spelling.  Points are only awarded for correctly spelled words. Continue by replacing the word and removing some of the others, maybe progressing to removing two at a time.

6. Same letters, new words

Divide the class into small teams.  Choose a longer word, e.g. comfortable. Set a time limit and ask the class to make as many new words as possible using its letters, e.g. car, table, form, fact. The winning team for each round is the one with the most words. This activity helps students become even more familiar with the original words’ letters and their order.
Unlock Second Edition will be published in January 2019. You can find more information and resources on the Unlock web hub.