Lists and lists and list of vocabulary? Try Anki

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So, you go into a classroom, you set up a speaking activity and after a few minutes of listening and reacting to your students, you end up with this list of great vocabulary down the side of your white board. Ok, so you concept-check it and get your students to write a few sentences to personalize it but does it come back at you? A day later? A week later? A month later?

Moving words from a student’s passive to active vocabulary is something I’ve always struggled with. How do we get the words out of the lists at the back of the notebook and into a conversation? About six months ago, one of my advanced students (who is something of techie!), brought me a programme called Anki. It’s basically a flashcard creating programme and he was using it to try to remember these words. As he put it

“well, if I have 20 minutes to spare, I can either waste it in Facebook or open my Anki deck and see what I remember”.

So I’ve brought it into my classrooms and I have to say, it’s been really well received.

There are umpteen ways to build decks – you can use images, sound files or text as the clue for the word in question and you can also share the decks you build with your students, so they can work with them outside of class. In my class we have a points system, whereby students get points for getting a correct answer in the dedicated review session using Anki but more points if they use an “Anki” word in another activity during the class. Try it out for yourself!

Visit the Anki website.

This post first appeared in the Oxford TEFL Careers Bulletin (March 2012). If you’d like to be the first to read articles like this, subscribe now.

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