How to use flash cards to help learning
- Buy a set of blank white cards. Business cards (les cartes
de visite) are a good
size. Or, cut small cards out of a piece of poster board.
Normal paper is acceptable but not as good.
French they are called fiches bristoles
or cartes de
visite. They are sold by packets of
50 or 100
and can be either plain white or with lines on
them. Reasonable sizes
are either 125 x 75mm
or 128 x
If you buy bigger ones, you can cut them
in half to get twice the
number. Make sure that they are
thick enough - over 200g is best.
Keep them in a little package, box, or ringed binder so that you
don't lose them. Otherwise an elastic band works well.
- On the front of each card, write one vocabulary word which needs to
- On the back, write the definition of the word - see animation at the
top of this page for an example. (If you are
learning vocabulary for another language, write the translation on the
- Go through
the deck of cards in order one by one, turning each one over to learn
- After going through the deck several times, try to say the
definition before turning the card over.
- Little by little, certain vocabulary words will become easy.
Once you know a word on a flash card, put that card down in a separate
pile. Soon, the number of cards in your hand will diminish until
you know all the vocabulary words.
- Pick up the pile the next day and see if you still remember all the
- Now you can try several variations to see if you really know the
- Shuffle the cards to see if you know the words out of order.
- Turn the whole deck over and try saying what the vocabulary word
is when you can only see the definition.
- Ask a friend or a family member to read out the words and ask
you to give them a definition. Or ask them to read the
definition and have them ask you to give the word and its correct
Some things to keep in mind:
- Be sure the card material is thick enough and opaque enough so that
you cannot see what is written on the other side!
- Start with 10 to 20 cards. Do not try to learn a pile of 150
cards in one day! You will quickly become
discouraged if you attempt too many at one time.
- Small cards can fit in your pocket and you can go through them any
time - you do not always have to be sitting at your desk to be
- It is much more effective to go through the flash cards for 10
minutes once or twice a day rather than going through them for 2 hours
in one evening. Why? Because your brain needs time to put
things in order and because repeating something many times sends a
message to your brain saying "Hey! This must be
- You do not have to wait to start making your cards at home.
You could have blank cards with you in class and as we are taking
notes, you could be writing down the new vocabulary words and their
definitions on the back.
I personally used flash cards a lot
when I was a student. My history teacher in 6th grade (6ème) taught me how
to make them. I used them to learn French vocabulary, Latin
vocabulary, the U.S. states and their capitals, and even the notes to read