Getting the Most Out of Flashcard Factory

 Illustration by Kate Moore

Illustration by Kate Moore

By the time a student graduates from high school, their vocabulary will consist of 25,000 words or more. Think about the enormity of that number in the context of vocab quizzes!  Reading comprehension, language development, effective communication, and self-expression are all rooted in an individual’s command of vocabulary. When you think of vocabulary at this scale and in this context, the stakes feel a lot higher than the throw-away weekly lists and quizzes we’ve all probably assigned at one time or another.

Often we ask students to simply memorize vocabulary terms, but we know by now that memorization does not equal long-term retention. If we want those words to stick, we must introduce and reinforce them within a conceptual framework. Think about words like bricks, potentially useful on their own, but when connected to a conceptual framework, they become a solid edifice of understanding.

Say, for example, in my history class, I’m introducing several new terms, such as “feudalism” and “vassals.” The dictionary definitions of these words are abstract and difficult to remember. If I give my students this list, I know memorization will be difficult and they aren’t likely to really understand the concepts. Instead of asking my students to remember that “feudalism” is a “system of political organization in medieval Europe in which a vassal gave service to a lord and received protection and land in return,” I’m going to ask them to work in groups to create their own examples, like this one:


Using Flashcard Factory to work through the meaning of the term allows for creativity and collaboration (and hopefully some fun!). And the result is that the students who made that example have a much firmer grasp not only of the meaning of “feudalism,” but also how “knight” and “vassal” fit into the picture. And you can do this activity in your class with about 3 minutes of prep. Flashcard Factory is a ready-to-go game designed for deeper engagement with each term. All you need is your list of words.

If you’re new to Flashcard Factory, here’s an overview:

1. Create Your List

Create a vocabulary list, using either your own definitions or suggestions from Pear Deck’s seamless integration with Merriam-Webster.

2. Production Phase

Play Flashcard Factory! Students are paired up to create unique visual and written illustrations for each term. Their cards go to Quality Control where you can review and choose which ones to ship!

3. Ship and Study

Once your final set is approved, save the cards and share with your class in Google Drive. Or take the learning even farther and export to Quizlet. With Quizlet, you can review cards as a class or ask students to study on their own.

Here’s a video of Flashcard Factory in action!

Flashcard Factory Best Practices

Decide the Purpose

Before using Flashcard Factory, decide the goal of today’s vocabulary practice. Are you introducing new word or are you reviewing words they already know? If introducing new words, make sure your list includes the definitions. If reviewing, you can leave the definition out to give students an extra challenge.

FF Medieval.png

Keep it to 10

According to academic research, “Estimates vary, but reviews of classroom intervention studies suggest that, in general, no more than 8 to 10 words can be taught effectively each week.” Beyond that, you’ll probably see diminishing returns on meaningful engagement with the terms. When you have fewer words, students have an opportunity to become familiar with each term within a larger context.

Keep an Eye on the Counter

As students are creating their cards, keep an eye on the counter at top right. It will let you know how many different words students have submitted cards for. For example, if the counter says 3/10, that means the students have made examples for 3 out of my 10 words. Once it says 10/10, I know I’m ready to move on.

Because Flashcard Factory distributes words to different groups, not every group will get to work with every term. If you have more time, you can always keep going to let more groups get to work with more of the terms.

Make Quality Control a Conversation

The Quality Control phase is where you get to see all the submitted cards and either accept or reject them for the final study set. This is a great opportunity to engage students in debates about the nuances of each term. Because of the way Flashcard Factory divvies up words, there should be more than one example for many of the terms. That way you can compare different interpretations of the word and discuss which example is more appropriate. And of course, if there are two great examples for a term, accept them both!

Give Students the Study Set

After you have curated the final study set, export to Quizlet and give students the link so they can review the terms using all the creative examples the class has made. What’s more, the debates you had while selecting the final cards will have deepened students understanding of each term.

This week's post is brought to you by Chief Educator, Michal Eynon-Lynch