Word cards

2 Feb

Earl Stevick once said that if you want to forget something, put it in a list. A student’s word list should be considered as an initial tool, but manipulating this tool in various ways can aid memorization enormously. For many years, many teachers have been using, or encouraging their students to use, word cards. Research (Nation, 2001: 296-316) suggests that between 30 and 100 words can be learnt in one self-study hour using word cards. How?

The approach is simple. Students should prepare word cards from their word list. On one side of the card, they should write the target item (along, perhaps, with additional information such as collocations, examples, frequency information,  part of speech, pronunciation, etc.); on the other, they should write the translation (and any other information that may be useful, such as a picture).

Paul Nation (2008, p.106) suggests the following procedure. Learners should go through their pack of cards, looking at each English word, trying to remember the translation. If they cannot remember the meaning, they should check the back of the card. Words that are easy to remember should be put at the bottom of the pack; words cards that are harder should be stuck in the middle of the pack somewhere. After going through the pack once or twice, it should be put away and returned to about half an hour later. Students should return to their pack at regular intervals: later that day, the following day, a couple of days later, a week later … The pack should be periodically shuffled. Words that remain problematic should be transferred to a new pack, and the same procedure applied. Once students are happy with a set of words, they should flip the pack over and repeat the process by looking first at the words in their own language.

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One Response to “Word cards”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Talking Tech 1: Lingro | hughdellar - May 17, 2013

    […] Philip Kerr has written well about using vocabulary cards to revise language you’ve encountered and I think this can be very very useful. Now, obviously, there’s no real reason why this couldn’t be done using technology. […]

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