ESL flashcard activities for kids

By Allan Sweeney

By Allan Sweeney

By Allan Sweeney

Flashcards bring colour and excitement to the ESL classroom, making learning more visual and fun for children.

ESL Flashcard activities for teaching English to kids

Flashcards can be an incredibly effective tool in the ESL classroom, and you can often do more with them than you think. Here are 22 ESL flashcard activity ideas that you can use with young learners.

If you want to inject even more fun into your classes using flashcards, check out our article on ESL flashcard games for kids.

ESL flashcard activities for kids

Flashcard vocabulary drill

Students reinforce their English vocabulary by repeatedly identifying and pronouncing words or phrases associated with images the teacher points to on the board.

Start by selecting a set of flashcards that you would like your students to learn. These could be related to a specific theme or topic you're teaching, such as animals, foods, verbs, or anything relevant to your lesson. Attach each flashcard to the board using magnets, ensuring all students can see the images clearly.

Begin the activity by pointing to a flashcard and saying the word or phrase associated with the image. Have the students repeat after you, ensuring they pronounce it correctly. Continue this process for each flashcard, moving at a pace that suits your students' learning speed.

After you have gone through all the flashcards, start the cycle again, but refrain from saying the word yourself this time. Instead, point to the flashcard and encourage the class to shout out the word or phrase associated with the image on the flashcard.

Continue this exercise until the students can confidently recall and pronounce the words or phrases without hesitation.

What's missing?

Students work on their vocabulary recall by identifying which flashcard the teacher has removed from the board.

This simple activity serves as an excellent follow-on activity to any flashcard vocabulary drill done on the whiteboard.

Keep the flashcards on the board from the previous exercise, and tell your students that they'll now be doing an activity where they need to identify the missing flashcard.

First, instruct all the students to close and cover their eyes. While they can't see, quietly remove one of the flashcards from the board. When you've done this, tell the students to open their eyes.

Now challenge the class to identify which flashcard has been removed. Continue this activity by repeating the process, removing a different flashcard from the board each time.

A quick flash

Students quickly recall and pronounce vocabulary from briefly displayed flashcards.

This activity serves as a great warmer to kick off the lesson and review vocabulary. 

Begin by selecting a set of flashcards featuring vocabulary that you've recently taught your students.

Stand at the front of the class so all the students can see you. Without fully displaying the card to the students, quickly flash one of the flashcards to the class. Ensure you do this quickly enough that they only glimpse the card.

After flashing the card, ask the students to repeat the word or phrase associated with the flashcard's image.

Repeat this activity with different flashcards, and increase the difficulty by flashing the card more quickly. This activity is fun for young learners and an effective way to revise recently studied vocabulary and keep it fresh in their minds.

Magic eyes

The students practise their vocabulary recall and pronunciation in a rhythmic drill as the teacher removes flashcards from the board.

We love this idea from Macmillan Spain, and you can check out the full video below for a demonstration, along with more fantastic activity ideas.

You'll need a series of flashcards, at most six, as this is the limit for a child's short-term memory.

Attach the flashcards to the board where all students can see them. Begin the activity by pointing to each flashcard in sequence and saying the word or phrase associated with the image in a rhythmic manner. Encourage the students to repeat after you, following the same rhythm.

Once the students are comfortable with this and can confidently repeat the words, it's time to up the challenge. Remove the first flashcard from the board and continue the drill with the remaining flashcards, ensuring that the students still say the word or phrase for the removed flashcard in its place in the drill.

Continue this process, removing one flashcard at a time until there are no flashcards left on the board. Even with all the flashcards removed, the students should still be able to maintain the rhythm and recite all the words or phrases from memory.

Flashcard spelling 

Students enhance their spelling skills and reinforce vocabulary by individually spelling out words from flashcards that the teacher displays on the board.

Select a flashcard from a recently studied set and attach it to the board where everyone can see it.

Below the flashcard, draw several blank spaces, one for each letter of the word on the flashcard. Make sure the spaces are large enough for students to write in clearly.

Start the activity by asking a volunteer to come to the board. Give them a marker and ask them to spell out the word from the flashcard by writing one letter in each space.

Once the student has correctly spelled the word, have the class read it together. Then, erase it from the board, and repeat the process with a new flashcard and a new volunteer.

Word to picture

Students strengthen their vocabulary and reading skills by finding the picture flashcard that matches a given word on the board.

You can attach a collection of picture flashcards to the bottom of the board or spread them out on a table. Make sure all the pictures are visible and within the students' reach.

Write a word from one of your flashcards on the board, ensuring it's large enough for all students to see.

Invite a student volunteer to come to the front of the class. Their task is to find the picture flashcard that matches the word you've written on the board. Once they've found the correct flashcard, they should hold it up for the class to determine if it's the right match.

After confirming the correct match, erase the word from the board and repeat the process with a new word and volunteer.

Slow reveal

Students practise their vocabulary recognition skills by guessing the word or phrase associated with an image that the teacher gradually uncovers.

Select a flashcard and cover it entirely with the blank piece of card. Hold it up in a way that all students can easily see it. Gradually slide the blank card down to slowly reveal the image on the flashcard, starting from the top.

The students' task is to guess the word or phrase associated with the image. As you reveal more of the picture, the students should start recognising elements of the image and make guesses.

Repeat this several times with vocabulary items that you want to review. This activity also works well as a warmer with younger students.

Lost voice

Students enhance their vocabulary and observational skills by guessing the word or phrase the teacher silently articulates through exaggerated mouth movements.

Attach a selection of flashcards to the board where all students can clearly see them.

Begin by introducing the flashcards to the class, ensuring that the students are familiar with the words or phrases associated with each image.

Select one flashcard and mime the action of saying the word or phrase without making any sound. Be sure to exaggerate your mouth movements to make it easier for the students to guess what you're miming.

The students' task is to guess which word or phrase you're silently articulating. 

Continue the activity with words or phrases from different flashcards. When the students are comfortable with this, ask volunteers to come to the front of the class to do some miming.


Students learn vocabulary by quickly locating and swatting the correct flashcard.

You'll need a soft mallet or a fly swatter that is safe for classroom use.

Start by laying out your flashcards on the floor in a space that's accessible to all students. Ensure the images on the flashcards are facing up and are clearly visible.

Choose a student to come up and give them the soft mallet or fly swatter. Once they're ready, call out a word or phrase corresponding to one of the flashcards on the floor.

The student's task is to quickly identify the correct flashcard, gently swat it, and repeat the word aloud. Once they've done this a few times, choose a new student and repeat the process.

Activities like this are a great way to involve the students physically in the learning process, making it an excellent choice for students who learn best through movement. Check out the video below by LAOWAI ESL to see it in action:

What am I describing?

In this activity, students practise active listening, comprehension, and vocabulary skills by identifying the flashcard the teacher describes.

Depending on your students' familiarity with the flashcards you choose, you might begin by introducing the flashcards to the class, ensuring that the students are familiar with the words or phrases associated with each image. Attach the flashcards to the board once you've gone through them.

Select one of the flashcards and describe it to the class without saying the exact word or phrase associated with it. For example, if the flashcard depicts an apple, you might say, "It's a round fruit, it can be red, green, or yellow, and it's often eaten as a snack."

Your students' task is to listen to your description and identify which flashcard you're describing.

Continue the activity by describing different flashcards. 

Odd one out

Students exercise their critical thinking and vocabulary skills by identifying the flashcard that doesn't belong with the others.

Choose three or four flashcards where three have something in common, and one is different. For example, you might choose flashcards depicting a cat, a dog, a bird, and a car, where the car is the "odd one out" because it's not an animal.

Attach the flashcards to the board and introduce each to the class, ensuring the students understand the words or phrases associated with each image.

The students have to identify which flashcard is the "odd one out" and explain why. 

Once a student has correctly identified the "odd one out" and provided a logical explanation, remove the flashcards from the board and start a new round with a different set of flashcards.

Flashcard stories

For this group writing activity, students will creatively incorporate a sequence of flashcards into a coherent short story.

Start by dividing your class into smaller groups of 3-5.

Select a sequence of flashcards, each depicting different words or phrases, and attach them to the whiteboard. The flashcards should be diverse enough to allow for a creative story.

Explain to the students that each group will have to create a short story that includes the words or phrases on the flashcards.

Give the groups some time to discuss and create their story. Encourage them to be creative and make sure they understand that the story must be coherent and logically incorporate each flashcard.

Once the groups are ready, have them present their stories to the class.

Interview chain

The students have to ask and answer questions about the images on a series of flashcards passed around in a circle.

For this activity, you'll need a set of flashcards related to the language structure you want to practise. For example, if you're studying hobbies and pastimes, you could use flashcards with images depicting different activities like playing video games, swimming, reading, etc.

Arrange your students into a circle, and start the activity by passing a flashcard to the student on your left. Ask a question related to the flashcard using the language structure you're practising, such as "Do you play video games?" if the flashcard shows an image of video gaming.

The student should answer the question, turn to the student on their left, show them the flashcard, and ask the same question. 

When the card has passed 2-3 students, introduce a new flashcard to the student on your left, asking a different question about the new flashcard. Continue this process, adding new flashcards every few turns until the deck is finished.


Students work in groups to organise flashcards into their respective groups.

For this activity, you will need multiple collections of flashcards printed in playing card size. These flashcards should include images from different categories such as animals, food, clothing, etc.

Start by dividing your class into small groups (3-5). Give each group a mixed set of flashcards and explain the task. The students will need to work together to sort the flashcards into their respective categories. If required, write these categories on the board as a reference.

Allow the groups sufficient time to discuss and sort their flashcards. While the students are working, move around the room to observe and provide assistance as necessary. Encourage the students to speak in English as they discuss where to place each card.

After the groups have finished sorting, have each group present their sorted flashcards to you. 

Create a study handout

Students are provided with a printed handout of a flashcard set to facilitate independent learning and reinforce vocabulary at home.

Print out your chosen set of ESL flashcards to prepare, referring to the printing instructions on creating student handouts. 

In class, distribute the handout to each student. Explain that this is a study guide for the flashcard set you'll be working with. You could review the images and words as a group to ensure the students understand each.

Encourage students to keep the handout in a safe place and to refer to it as they study and practice at home. Remind them that they can use the handout as a visual guide to reinforce their learning and to help them remember and use the new vocabulary.

This activity promotes independent study and helps students take ownership of their learning process.

Storytime circle

Students collaboratively construct a story, sentence by sentence, using flashcards as inspiration.

You'll need a deck of flashcards that your students are familiar with. Ensure you have enough flashcards for each student to have a turn.

Begin by arranging your students into a circle and place the flashcards in the centre, face down. Explain to them that they'll create a story together, one sentence at a time, using the flashcards as inspiration.

Allow each student to draw a card on their turn. Once a student has drawn a card, encourage them to make a sentence related to the image on the flashcard to add to the ongoing story.

As the teacher, it's your role to elicit and record the story on the board as it evolves, guiding the students and keeping the story coherent. Encourage the students to build upon the previous sentences while making sense in the context of the overall story. Continue the activity until each student has had a turn.

Once the story is complete, ask the students to copy it and draw a picture to accompany it. This can be a picture of a scene from the story or a series of images depicting the story's events.

Pass the parcel

Students pass around flashcards while music plays, and those holding a card when the music stops say the word aloud.

You'll need a set of ESL flashcards and a device to play music for this activity.

Start by arranging your students in a circle and distributing several flashcards among them. Make sure you have enough flashcards to engage most students at each pause.

Explain to the students that they will pass around the flashcards while the music plays, similar to the game 'pass the parcel'. When the music stops, the students holding a flashcard should hold it up and say the word aloud.

Begin playing music, signalling the students to pass the flashcards around the circle. At random intervals, stop the music. 

The students left holding flashcards should then say the word on their cards aloud when prompted.

Order! Order!

For this activity, students move around the classroom to music and, when the music stops, must arrange themselves alphabetically.

We use this idea in our 'How to teach the alphabet to kids' article, but we can easily adapt it to other topics. 

Begin by distributing a flashcard to each student. Ensure that each flashcard's associated word starts with a different letter.

Explain to the students that they will move around the room while the music plays. When the music stops, they should quickly arrange themselves into alphabetical order based on the initial letter of the word on their flashcard.

Start the music and allow the students to move freely. After a short period, stop the music. The students should then quickly arrange themselves in alphabetical order.

Once the students are arranged correctly, move down the line and ask each student a few simple questions about their flashcards. Tailor the questions to the current learning objectives, but some generic ones could include:

  • What is it?
  • How do you spell it?
  • What colour is it?

Rhyme time

Students work in groups to identify and arrange pairs of rhyming words from an unordered collection of flashcards.

You'll need to create a collection of flashcards with pairs of words that rhyme. Ensure you have enough flashcards for each group of students in your class.

Start by dividing the students into groups. The size of the groups will depend on your class size, but groups of 3-4 usually work well. Hand each group an unordered collection of flashcards.

Explain to the students that their task is to identify pairs of flashcards that rhyme and arrange them together. Ensure they understand what 'rhyming' means and provide a few examples to get them started.

Monitor the groups as they work, providing assistance and guidance as needed. Encourage the groups to communicate and collaborate, discussing the words on the flashcards and their pronunciations to identify rhymes.

Once all the groups have finished, go through the flashcards with the entire class, confirming the correct rhyming pairs and discussing any mistakes or difficulties. You can also take this opportunity to ask students to use the words in sentences or to talk about their meanings to reinforce vocabulary further.


Students work in groups to identify and pair antonyms from an unordered collection of flashcards.

You'll need to create a set of flashcards with pairs of antonyms, i.e. words with opposite meanings. Our free adjectives flashcard collection works very well for this activity. Ensure you have enough flashcards for each group, and follow our instructions to print these as playing cards.

Begin by dividing your students into small groups, ideally of 3-4 students. Give each an unordered collection of flashcards.

Explain to the students that their task is to identify pairs of flashcards that are antonyms and arrange them together. Make sure they understand what 'antonym' means. You can provide a few examples to help clarify this concept.

Allow the groups to work, offering guidance and support as necessary. Encourage them to discuss the words on their flashcards, talking through their meanings to identify pairs of antonyms.

Once all groups have finished, gather the class and review the antonyms. Confirm the correct pairs, address any mistakes, and answer any questions that arose during the activity. You can also encourage the students to use the antonym pairs in sentences or discuss their meanings further.

Show and tell

For this activity, students randomly choose a flashcard and prepare a short presentation.

Start by spreading the flashcards face down on a table or desk and inviting each student to choose one. Let them know they'll prepare a short presentation on the topic or object depicted on their flashcard.

Before they start preparing their presentations, give a quick demonstration presentation using one of the flashcards as an example. This will help the students understand what's expected in their presentations. Make sure to make it relevant to their age and level and that it implies the structure and language they should use. For example:

  • "Today I'm going to talk about ____"
  • "One interesting thing about ____ is ____ "
  • "That is the end of my presentation on _____, thank you for listening."

Once you have demonstrated, give the students time to prepare their presentations. Encourage them to use the phrases and language structures on the board.

As the students present, monitor their use of language, pronunciation, and the content of their presentations. Provide constructive feedback and corrections once they've finished.

True or false

The teacher describes a flashcard, and students decide if the description is true or false.

Start by explaining the activity to your students. You're going to hold up a flashcard and describe it. The description could be accurate (true) or inaccurate (false), and their task is to decide which.

Hold up the first flashcard so that all the students can see it. Describe the flashcard, ensuring that your description is either completely accurate or contains at least one inaccuracy. For example, if your flashcard depicts a cat, a false description could be, "This animal likes to play fetch."

Once you've given your description, ask the students if it was true or false. If you go around the class, each student can respond individually. If you're doing it as a group, the students can respond collectively. You can also make the activity more physically interactive by asking the students to show their answers by giving a thumbs up for true and a thumbs down for false.

After students have given their answers, reveal if the description was true or false, providing the correct description if it was wrong. Repeat the process with different flashcards.

Check out our flashcard library

The TEFLHandbook has more than 1100 printable ESL flashcards across 60+ categories. There are also detailed printing instructions on creating exactly what you need, whether it's vocabulary handouts for your students to study, or playing cards for some of the activity ideas in this article.

About TEFLHandbook

We're here to help you plan and teach your best English class.

We've put together a collection of ESL lesson plans and a mobile app that will reduce your planning time and improve the way you teach.

Learn more about our story here.
ESL Lesson Plans

Adult Beginner
Beginner +
Elementary +
Upper Intermediate

Recent posts

Allan Sweeney

Allan is the Co-Founder & Lead Developer on the TEFL Handbook project. He spends his time building software and creating resources that support English teaching. You can learn more about his goals for the project here.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

A library of ESL lesson plans for teachers.

Access the entire TEFLHandbook library

Significantly reduce your planning time and improve the way you present and teach English grammar.

Access the entire TEFLHandbook library

Significantly reduce your planning time and improve the way you present and teach English grammar.

A library of ESL lesson plans for teachers.