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My best lesson - Turn language learning into a guessing game

What is the eternal fascination with guessing games? Shakespeare's work is full of riddles, the Victorians played charades, my own offspring loved Pictionary and schoolchildren will grab a pen and play hangman at any opportunity.

As a teacher of languages - French, Spanish and English as a foreign language - I have always tried to tap into this fascination as a way of helping students of all ages to learn vocabulary and structures.

My best lessons revolve around flash cards. It is easy to create guessing games on the computer, but there is something about the physicality of holding a flash card that engages students more, so I tend to use printed-out cards rather than ones on my computer.

I possess innumerable sets, ranging from images of the most basic food items to activities such as snowboarding. You can subscribe to some very good websites that provide pictures.

The way I use the cards is simple enough: I put them all outside the classroom. The students take it in turns to go outside, choose one and hide it either up their jumper or behind their back. Their peers put their hands up - shouting out is not allowed - and try to guess what the hidden picture is.

Early-years students often have to simply guess a word, but older students may have to guess an activity in a particular tense or using a negative. The possibilities are endless, and it is intriguing how keen the children are to be the cardholder.

I find that students connect the words with the pictures long afterwards. Language may be about sounds, but many of us are visual learners.

Lynne Field is a teacher in the West of England.

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