My #1 Ridiculously-Effective Vocab Flash Card Game for ELLs

Duration: 5-10 minutes

Type: Small Groups of 3-4

What You Will Need for this ESL Flash Card Game


  • 1 Set of Flash Cards for Every 3-4 Students
  • Reference Sheet for Students Who Are Struggling
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Overview of the ESL Flash Card Game


In groups of 3-4, one student holds the flash cards up one by one while the other students in the group race to say the word first. The student who says the word first, gets the flash card. The student with the most flash cards when there are no more gets to be the next caller. 

How to Play the ESL Flash Card Game


  1. Print off enough flash card sets for the unit you are teaching to give every 3-4 students a set of flash cards.
  2. In groups of 3-4, one student holds the flash cards up one at a time while the others race to say that word first. The person who says it quickest, gets the card.
  3. The person with the most cards wins and becomes the next “flash-card holder”.
  4. Observe to see how students are participating. If there is a student who is giving up because the other students in his or her group are too much faster every time, then re-adjust the groups. 
  5. If students are struggling to remember the words, then you can spend some more time as a group practicing them before playing this game.
  6. Paths to Fluency Members: Check out this article for how to practice vocabulary together as a group.

Benefits of This ESL Flash Card Game


  • Groups of 3-4 keep everyone very involved.
  • Students moderate the activity themselves. The teacher is freed up to go around and work with individual students.
  • Stronger students end up being the “flash card holder” more often which lets weaker students practice the words more.
  • Students become more fluent with the words, having recalled them from memory so many times.

Have you tried this activity? How did it go? Leave your comments below!

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