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What are electronic flashcards in PowerPoint?

Microsoft PowerPoint is presentation software for creating slide shows, which can be displayed to the whole class
via a data projector. On each slide you can insert text, Clip Art, digital photos, scanned images, animations, sound
files/effects, backgrounds, video clips, speech bubbles and hyperlinks to other documents or web pages. These
multimedia features facilitate a more inclusive approach when introducing new language, as you can appeal to a
broader range of learning styles simultaneously. With so much visual and contextual support, you can conduct a
series of activities entirely in the target language, even with very mixed ability classes.
Traditional flashcards tend to display a picture on one side and text on the other, so pupils can become familiar
with the pronunciation before seeing the written word. The flashcards can then be used to practise and test the
new vocabulary learned. They are usually only A4 or A3 size and are often black and white or two-colour.

Creating electronic flashcards

Creating electronic flashcards in PowerPoint is much more flexible. You can display a picture (Insert > Picture) on
a slide and teach the pronunciation of that item of vocabulary. When pupils are ready, you can click for the text to
appear alongside the picture (Slide Show > Custom Animation). This immediate association of picture with text can
help many pupils to internalise the new vocabulary. You can even associate gender with a word through the use of
font colour, such as blue for masculine nouns and red for feminine.

A PowerPoint presentation of electronic flashcards can then be re-used to practise the new vocabulary. A picture is
displayed and pupils are challenged to say the target language out loud. Correct answers are then rewarded when
you click for the text to appear, providing pupils with yet another opportunity to associate the written word with its
meaning. This type of questioning also takes the focus away from the teacher, as you can operate the entire
presentation with your computer mouse, standing away from the screen.

The predetermined order of slides offers an alternative approach to practising new vocabulary, as you can
challenge pupils to tell you in the target language what picture comes next. However, you can easily change the
order of slides by dragging them to new positions in Slide Sorter View (View > Slide Sorter). You can then ask
pupils to predict which item might come next, which heightens the challenge and gets them thinking about all the
vocabulary at once rather than making the single word-meaning link.

Look out for animated Clip Art images, which can be used very effectively to represent verb vocabulary. Microsoft
Office Online (http://office.microsoft.com/clipart) allows you to focus your search on such Animations. If the new
vocabulary consists of phrases used in conversation, you can use images of people and speech bubbles to
represent the new language more visually. Speech bubbles in PowerPoint are AutoShapes called Call-outs and
they behave like text boxes use the AutoShapes short-cut on the Drawing Toolbar (View > Toolbars > Drawing).
Look for the yellow diamond at the tip of the mouthpiece, which you can drag to point to your speakers mouth.

You may also want to record a model of pronunciation for each item of new vocabulary, so that pupils can revise
from the presentation saved onto the network or school website. You can do this using Windows Sound Recorder
and a microphone, saving your voice recording as a .wav file for insertion into your presentation (Insert > Movies
and Sounds). Alternatively, you can record directly into a slide (Insert > Object > Wave Sound). You can choose
whether a sound file is heard automatically or appears as a sound icon for clicking on as many times as desired. A
PowerPoint presentation with such pronunciation support can be very useful for non-specialist colleagues too.
Where you are working with more advanced students, you may choose to play video or audio clips, which feature a
new item of vocabulary used in context (Insert > Movies and Sounds).

The careful use of sound effects to accompany text or picture animation (Slide Show > Custom Animation) can
also help to underpin meaning and reward pupils for getting to the correct answer, but these should not be over-
used as they can become a distraction. Consider the use of applause on the last slide of a presentation where
pupils are asked to recall all new vocabulary items in quick succession, for example; or use vehicle sounds to
introduce the vocabulary for means of transport. You will find simple sound effects available within PowerPoint, but
more specific sound files can be sourced from a CD ROM or website such as www.findsounds.com/. Be aware that
both sound files and pictures can carry copyright restrictions, so make sure you have permission to use them in the
way you wish. Becta Schools (http://schools.becta.org.uk/index.php?section=te&rid=4360) offers guidance on
copyright issues.
Using electronic flashcards

Electronic flashcards offer practical benefits too. Each slide will be projected onto a wall or interactive whiteboard to
a size easily large enough for all pupils to see. You can set a pastel colour as your background to improve visibility
further, or use yellow text on a black background as some people prefer. You can select a suitable font and
increase the font size further if you have pupils with visual impairment. You can even use background colour and
font colour to represent concepts, such as gender or parts of speech, as long as a consistent colour policy is
agreed across the languages department! The ICT4LT website (http://www.ict4lt.org/en/en_mod3-2.htm -
typefaces) has useful and simple advice on the use of colour and choice of font.

Where you have an interactive whiteboard, you can invite pupils to take turns being teacher and controlling the
mouse click, which can have a positive impact on classroom dynamics. The whole class can be involved in offering
answers to their peer, who must then justify his or her decision to go with a given suggestion. The class can then
analyse why an answer was correct or incorrect. As you develop PowerPoint skills, you will find ways of designing
multiple-choice activities using different types of hyperlinks, increasing the level of physical interaction with the

A significant disadvantage of electronic flashcards is that they cannot be passed around the classroom and
handled by pupils. However, the presentation slides can be printed out and laminated, which essentially allows you
to customise your own flashcards. Furthermore, you can easily create templates using the same images for card
games, such as pelmanism and snap.

Sharing resources

Many presentations introducing vocabulary will be suitable for sharing with colleagues, as once the design and
images have been created, the text can be added or changed to another language very quickly indeed. Do share
appropriate resources with colleagues nationally via the Teacher Resource Exchange (http://tre.ngfl.gov.uk/),
where you will also find many useful materials for your own purposes.

Further tips

You will find lots of practical tips and tutorials on using PowerPoint in the New 2 computers
(http://schools.becta.org.uk/new2computers/page/home) area of the Becta schools website.

To read about tried and tested ideas for using electronic flashcards, try searching the Useful ICT ideas, effective
language lessons database on the Languages ICT website.

Note: Information in this booklet has been collated by a number of practising teachers and advisers and is
accurate to the best of our knowledge at the time of writing. CILT and ALL do not take any responsibility
for inaccuracies contained within. The inclusion of any software products and/or companies within Languages ICT
guidance does not imply endorsement by CILT or ALL in any way.