How to use Flashcards to Teach a Language

Young children, especially pre-schoolers can’t yet read or write so it’s important to find ways of introducing and practicing new vocabulary in an ESL classroom using methods that don’t involve reading or writing.

So what can a teacher utilize?

Exciting children and capturing their attention is key and I often bring to class real objects and costumes from home for children to touch and smell or play with- stimulating all their senses.  But carrying props to and from class can sometimes be impractical –  as an alternative flashcards work well.

Flashcards are simple, colourful drawings or photos that help children, of any age or language level, visually understand the meaning of the word it represents. They can be bought or easily printed and laminated and can be used to accompany  games, stories and songs.

How to use flashcards to teach English?

Avoid using  flashcards mechanically by simply holding them in front of the class and repeating the word over and over in a parrot fashion. This is an out-dated method used years ago and in my opinion makes learning very boring and unproductive.

Do use flashcards creatively and actively. Here is an example of a simple flashcard game, one that I have successfully played even with children as young as 2 years of age.

Traffic Lights

A flashcard movement game to introduce colours.

Level: All

Age group: 2+

Time: 7 mins

Aims: To introduce  colours:  Red, Yellow and Green.

Start by asking the children to pretend driving an imaginary car around the space for a minute or two manoeuvring the steering wheel and honking an imaginary  horn “BEEP; BEEP”!

Then explain that they are going to play a game called “Traffic Light”.  The teacher holds up a different colour flashcard (red , yellow or green) and  the children have to react and drive their “cars” around the space accordingly.

Holding up a green flashcard  indicates the children to GO (they  pretend to drive fast around the space).

Holding up a yellow flashcard  indicates the children to drive SLOWLY ( they pretend to drive slowly or crawl on all fours around the space )

Holding up a red flashcard  indicates the children to STOP (the children stop still and freeze)

Repeat and practice a few times chopping and changing  different colour flashcards.

As an extra activity choose a child to become the “traffic controller” and holds up and calls out the different colour flashcards.

Flashcard resources – a useful website to select and print your own flashcards.

Happy teaching – Miranda


Why Teach Children English with Music?

It’s amazing how songs just stick in our minds even after years and years.
Music is an incredible language tool because it helps children practice and memorize language in such a natural way that they don’t even realize that they’re learning and repeating new vocabulary, grammar or pronunciation, they’re simply carried away having fun in singing a song.
The question is what song do you teach and how do you teach it?



Make An Impact Teaching Children English Through Drama

Your first lesson teaching children English using Theatre is an important one because it’s where you present yourself for the first time and depending on that first impression will determine if students decide to enrol in your courses or not. It’s really a make or break situation.
So how do you initially break the ice with young children and prepare them for a fun filled lesson of language learning?


The Sticky Game

The Sticky Game 

Welcome back! I hope you all had a great summer break. I thought you might be interested in a fun and simple warm up game to start off the new term. I often use this “ice-breaker” with new classes as it not only familiarizes children with the different  parts of the body but it also encourages them to jump around to music and overcome any initial embarrassment or shyness they may have in relating to a new group.

Level: All

Age group: 3+ (ideal also with adults)

Time: 5 min

Aims: To introduce and practice body vocabulary e.g nose, ears, back, knees, hands, shoulders etc:

This game should be played in pairs. You will need some lively music to play. Ask the children to stand back to back and tell them, or better still demonstrate to them that they are “super glued” together and they must dance and move to the music without ever becoming “unstuck” from their partner. Call out different body parts that the children must “stick” to using their partner for example:

– Nose

– Feet

– Hands

– Ears

– Shoulders

– Back

– Eyelashes

– Cheeks

– Bottoms/ Backside

Continue suggesting different body parts, the faster the teacher changes words, the more hilarious the children find the game.

Happy teaching



The Enormous Turnip – Role Play

The Enormous Turnip is a super simple story for children learning English as a second language and useful for introducing or revising family and animal vocabulary. An alternative to reading directly from a book is to use picture cards and adapt the language according to the children’s language abilities

Storytelling using theatre props and costumes add extra elements of curiosity, facilitate comprehension and encourage group participation.

To accompany  The Enormous Turnip  try making a little paper shovel, an envelope full of seeds (rice) and a paper watering can.  Include simple coloured masks and stick to plastic spoons for the children to hold for role play work.

You can create a mini role play by simply using props similar to the ones I use in the video and involve children by asking them to sow  and water the seeds.  Add to the fun by encouraging children to interpret the story characters . Give them a mask and tell them in turn to pull the “flashcard”!

show 3

http://www.teatroinglese.it  The Enormous Turnip end of year production

I also find a great exercise after I have told the story is get the children to act it out!

1. Play some relaxing instrumental music for the children to listen to

2. Encorauge the children to lie on the floor and make themselves as small as possible

3. Explain that you are the farmer and using the shovel, pretend to dig holes around the children

4. Sow the seeds (by shaking the envelope of rice over the children’s heads)

5. Water the seeds (make some whooshing water sounds over the children’s bodies)

6. Encourage the children to imagine they are the tiny turnip seeds growing slowly under the earth

7. Continue watering the “seeds” and then explain to the children that the sun is coming out and becomes warmer and slowly the seeds begin to grow, bigger and bigger and bigger until they become the most ENORMOUS TURNIPS waiting to be pulled out of the earth by the farmer (play act with the children and show examples of how they can express the growing seeds using their bodies and faces )

Great fun and a theatrical way to review key vocabulary.

Miranda Flynn Legge

Teach Emotions in English

View Miranda Legge Emotions

Ever find you have an unruly class? Your children don’t seem to be learning much? Try adding some sparkle into your ESL lessons and grab children’s attention by using total physical response activities.

By engaging children physically and emotionally they find it easier to understand language. And by associating movement, song and dance with language children are much more likely to absorb and repeat it naturally.

Try a simple game for Introducing “emotions” or as I call it “funny faces”:

Lets get those faces warmed up…

Ask the children to find a space in front of you standing or sitting and tell them to start giving their faces a good massage , cheeks, forehead, nose, mouth, chin, ears (get the children to repeat the words as you say them). Now scrunch your faces up to make them as small as possible, open wide, open your mouth, stick your tongues out, wiggle them around, pretend to chew a gum, pretend to chew 10 gums all together, pretend to chew 100 gums! Make some tongue rolling sounds with a Rrrrrrrrrr. Blow some raspberries.

Now ask the children to copy you and to make appropriate faces that describe each word for example: happy, surprised, furious, sad, angry, shocked, frightened, sleepy, cold. Ask the children to be as dramatic and exaggerated as possible.

Make up some simple flashcards and ask the children individually to mime an “emotion” flashcard while the other children guess which emotion he is trying to describe. Children love miming games as they also encourage the less extrovert children to participate.











Happy teaching



Fruity Prepositions with Pippo the Puppet


Teach Prepositions with Pippo the Puppet

When introducing prepositions (in, on, under, in front of, behind)  a puppet can be a useful teacher assistant and engaging for children.

Activity Instructions

Bring to class some fruit props (orange, pear, banana, apple, kiwi, etc) children tend to become very excited about real fruit, but plastic fruit is fine and easier to store away for future exercises:-) Place the fruit on your desk or on the floor in a circle where all the children can see it. Use an empty box (puppet size) and give your puppet instructions to carry out.


“Hello Pippo, can you show the children a banana, please? Very good Pippo.” (Pippo picks out and holds up the banana for the children to see, get the children to repeat the word and use lots of applause of encouragement both for Pippo and the children)

“Where’s the pear, please Pippo?” (Pippo picks out and holds up the pear for the children to see, and again have the children to repeat the word)

When the children become familiar with the fruit have Pippo select an incorrect fruit and get the children to correct him. Then ask for a volunteer to help Pippo choose the correct fruit. Get the other children to applaud and encourage, if the child is unsure Pippo can always hint:-)

Now give Pippo preposition instructions :

“Pippo can you put the apple on the box/chair please?”

“Pippo can you put the apple in the box/chair please?”

“Pippo can you put the apple under the box/chair please?”

Again as the children become familiar with the prepositions , have Pippo make mistakes and encourage the children to correct him.

Have a competition between a child and Pippo as to who can be the quickest in putting the banana under the box/chair. The child always wins, of course!With older children this game works well with one child competing against another but be careful with younger children as they can end up in tears, especially if they don’t win. A tried and tested lesson that guarantees laughter and group participation even for the shyest of children:-)

Have Fun!


Is make- believe with puppets more than just play?

Puppets are positive creatures that bring about positive responses. They fascinate and engage both children and adults in a special way. Children are willing to suspend belief, and react to a puppet as if it were real. They find it motivating using puppets in “pretend play”  as they stimulate creativity and help develop imagination and vocabulary, preparing them for the real-life situations they will meet later on.Today many parents and teachers also find use for puppets for educational activities to teach children about letters, numbers, people, problem solving and safety issues. As an ESL teacher I use them to enrich storytelling, elicit new vocabulary, sing songs and even introduce classroom rules!


Rusty in Tuscany. Substitute the teacher… with a puppet!


Hi I’m Rusty the Puppet. I’m from England and at the moment I’m visiting my friend Thomas in Florence, Italy. Thomas is bilingual which is a good job as my Italian is not up to scratch. The other day he took me on the new Tram to the centre of Florence where we visited Piazza Santa Maria Novella. In the background you can see the Duomo, Florence’s largest Cathedral… WOWWW ..it’s nearly as big as my mouth!.


How to teach English when you don’t know a word!

Would you like to teach your children English even if you can’t speak it well yourself?


I use this fun interactive “learning to read site” with my bilingual Italo/English 6 year old. He speaks and comprehends English well but like many bilingual children his reading and writing skills are behind. Starfall is fun as it uses phonics, stories and plays to teach and motivate children to read aloud. For non-English speaking parents or teachers you can easily follow the simple stories yourselves and click on words to reveal their correct pronunciation.