PRO’S CORNER: Flashcard Factory Builds Vocabulary Engagement in Classroom
Flashcard Factory promotes critical thinking skills and collaboration skills
By Lisa Hanson, NBCT. Hanson is a fourth-grade teacher at Northern Elementary in Scott County and is the 2022 KEA
Teacher of the Year.
Even though I have 23 years of experience in education, including four years teaching technology skills to students, I still find myself attending new technology professional development sessions every summer. The nice thing about technology is that it is always changing. Keeping up with it can be frustrating as well as very exciting.
I am always on the search for technology websites that have two criteria. First, does it engage students? If students are engaged, it will increase their attention and focus and make it less likely they will lose interest in the subject matter. It can also motivate them to practice higher-level critical thinking skills by promoting meaningful learning experiences. Second, is the website easy for teachers to understand? Our time is precious, and we don’t have a limitless amount to sit down and learn a new website on our own. Therefore, they must be easy for us to continue using it.
My school district recently held an Educational Technology Day. Of course, my interest was piqued at finding out some new ideas. It did not disappoint! I came away with many ideas, and the one I am excited about implementing is a feature of Pear Deck. I was instantly engaged, so I know my students will be, too. Let me introduce you to Flashcard Factory!
Flashcard Factory promotes critical thinking skills and collaboration skills. Students become more engaged with vocabulary by making it an active and social experience. They can work with a partner to come up with sentence examples and drawings that represent given vocabulary words. After a class group effort on the words, the teacher has the capability to print out the student-created flashcards or post them on Google Classroom (or similar platform) for students to use.
Why try it?
Building students’ vocabulary skills can improve both their verbal and written communication. When these communication skills are stronger for students, they can participate in more discourse with their peers and improve their reading comprehension. Flashcard Factory offers students a way to creatively think about words and to properly use them in sentences. Yes, there is a debate on whether flashcards can really help a child recall vocabulary. Regardless, this technology activity makes the words more meaningful for students. They take ownership of creating meanings to words and that alone can help improve their memory and usage of vocabulary terms.
How does it work?
If your school district has purchased Pear Deck, then all you need to do is go to peardeck.com and sign in with your Google credentials. If not, then I would consider purchasing a subscription. It is well worth it! Once you arrive to the main page, look for “Flashcard Factory” on the right-hand side of the screen.
You will then be prompted to build your vocabulary list…super simple! Pear Deck offers Merriam-Webster dictionary definitions for suggestions, you can type your own, or you can even import a pre-made list. Once completed, then click on “Play Flashcard Factory.” Students will sign in with a “join code” on their devices and will ultimately be grouped into the “Day Shift” or the “Night Shift” teams. These teams will compete, which adds to the engagement. Students are also placed with a partner. Teachers, you have the capability to reshuffle the names. (You know…sometimes you just must!) For an odd number of students, one student will play on their own.
From here, you can move the partners next to each other, so they can discuss their ideas, or you can keep the students apart for a more challenging experience. Students will either be prompted to draw a picture (using various colors) or write an example sentence when they are given a vocabulary word and definition. Once students submit their own drawing or sentence, then they can view their partner’s work. If the card looks complete, then a partner can submit the card. They will then be prompted with the next word.
How does the teacher control it?
First, set a time limit. This activity can take a very long time if you allow it, especially if you have several words. On your computer screen, you can see when an example has been submitted for each vocabulary word. Once the time is up (and/or you have an example for each card), then it’s “Quality Control” time. This is another very engaging part to this activity. The teacher can show each completed flashcard on the projected screen (students’ names are omitted). The class can vote on whether that card can be used or not in their final list. The cards get a big red or green “stamp” after it has been judged. Each team will get points for the number of cards that get approved. But don’t worry, teachers! If time is running short, then you can be the one who approves the cards. It doesn’t have to be a class activity.
Also, if you are running short on time, you can stop the “production” of the card making and continue the session later. However, any cards which have been submitted can no longer be edited.
Once the cards are completed, and you have an example for each vocabulary word, then click on the “Shipping Phase” button. You can then export the flashcards to Gimkit or make it into a PDF file for printing or for posting on a website for your students.
Just try It!
Teachers, I promise you the setup for this activity on Pear Deck is very minimal (I especially love this part about it). Your students will be actively engaged in learning more about their vocabulary words and will take great pride in their class creations.
Check out Flashcard Factory from Pear Deck this school year and watch your students become more fluent with their vocabulary!