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Musical Flashcards

February 22, 2014

Well I have been a pretty lame blogger lately, but I have a good excuse--I'm pregnant! With my 2yo and my 9mo, I've been spending nap time actually napping instead of blogging...but can you blame me?? I'm out of my first trimester, now, though, so I'm going to try to put my newly restored energy to good use for world language teachers everywhere!

So for my first original post in months, I'd like to share an adaptation of this idea that I found on Pinterest. I am going to call it "Musical Flashcards", and it is a [moderately] fun twist on traditional drill-and-kill flashcards. Kids will be up and moving, there is some competition (but not too much), and there are many opportunities for you--the teacher--to provide comprehensible input to your students by discussing their answers to your questions in each round. It would be a fun game to review or refresh vocabulary that is needed to understand a chapter in a novel that you will soon read, and it would also work well for P.A.T. since it's a fun game that still promotes language acquisition. (P.A.T. stands for Preferred Activity Time--see Bryce Hedstrom's blog for an explanation and ideas, and see game/PAT ideas that I have posted here.)

Here's how you play:


Write a bunch of vocabulary structures that you have studied in class on 1/2 sheets of paper or large index cards. If you'd like, you can click here to download the set that I created to match my curriculum map. It includes a pretty PDF and a messy but editable Word doc--and it's free!) Laminate the cards to make them last! If you are hand-writing the structures on the cards,  write the words in marker as large as possible so that they are very easy to read. Make sure that you have enough unique cards for each student in your class to have one. Also, try to include a range of 'difficulty levels'--some structures that everyone knows, some that most students know, and a few that you've presented but many students will not have yet acquired. You can vary forms and tenses, too!


  1. Start with the exact same number of vocabulary structure cards as you have students.
  2. Scatter the cards around the classroom on the floor OR arrange chairs as if you were going to play musical chairs, and simply place one card on each chair.
  3. Play music and have students walk around the room (if the cards are scattered on the floor) or around the chairs that are set up (if the cards are on chairs).
  4. When the music stops, students try to find a word that they know and either sit or stand on it. All students will be able to find a card, but some might be forced to sit or stand on a word that they don't know.
  5. To eliminate students and work your way down to a 'winner', each student must answer a question about their word. They can answer orally, one at a time, or they could write their answer on individual whiteboards (which could be placed around the room with each card). Here are some ideas for questions to ask, and you can ask the same question every round or ask the more challenging questions as the numbers dwindle: (1) What does your word/phrase mean in English? (2) What is a TL synonym of your word? (3) What is a TL antonym of your word? (4) Use your word in a sentence in the TL (5) Define your word in the TL using circumlocution. Ask the same question to every student within a round--for example, have all students translate their structures into English.
  6. Take this opportunity to extend their answers into meaningful, personalized discussion! If a student has the word "quiere ser" (wants to be) and must provide the translation, you could ask the follow-up question, "¿Y qué quieres ser tú en el futuro?" (and what do you want to be in the future?). Remember, any class activity can be a source of comprehensible input, furthering your students' language acquisition in a meaningful way!
  7. Any student that answers his/her question incorrectly is eliminated. Eliminated students should take the card that eliminated them to their seats and use resources in the classroom to figure out the correct answer to the question that they missed (the correct translation, use it correctly in a sentence, etc.). Once they have done that, they should pay attention to game play and keep a running, written list of the vocabulary structures that other students in the class miss. For each structure that a classmate misses, the eliminated students should write down the/a correct answer to the question that was asked. ALTERNATIVELY, you could give students the opportunity to get back into the game by reflecting a missed question to the eliminated students and allowing them to re-enter the game if respond correctly.
  8. The game ends when one student remains OR when all remaining students can respond to questions about each remaining structure correctly.

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