Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Learning Vocabulary with FlashSticks

FlashSticks®  are foreign language Post-it® notes, each printed with a foreign language word, their translation, an icon and phonetic support. The notes are colour-coded by gender too: BLUE notes for masculine nouns, PINK notes for feminine and GREEN for all other word types. FlashSticks also have a free app that allows learners to hover their smartphones or tablets over the notes and see the video of a native language tutor to help them with the pronunciation of the word.
I tried the Spanish and French beginner’s packs, which have notes for 100 words each. The idea behind FlashSticks is well-established practice in language learning: You need to be surrounded by what you learn, say the new words, reading them and listen to them.
The coulour-coding is very effective but I would not normally use “transcription” to support pronunciation as it can encourage learners to stop listening to the sounds of the new language to process them only through the transcription. However, as the notes benefit from audio support via the app, the transcription can act as a reminder of the correct pronunciation. I have also found the icon very useful to encourage recall.
As a pronunciation activity, pupils can highlight syllables, prefixes or suffixes in a different colour and practise saying them. This is particularly effective in Spanish, which does not have silent letters, but certainly more challenging in French.
The notes are great to encourage pupil independence and they also provide useful additional support for pupils with specific learning difficulties. They can also be used to play a wide range of games including noughts and crosses, where pronunciation is checked as a way to win the point and Guess my word, when other people have to give clues for the bearer of the notes to guess the word he/she is wearing and pelmanism games.
The translation or word in the target language can also be hidden in order to encourage quick recall. Maybe test packs with the word missing in the target language could be produced too?
The notes can also be added to classroom display ad worksheets to encourage independent speaking practice. As GCSEs and A Levels rely more and more on vocabulary acquisition and retention, I look forward to simple but effective tools like FlashSticks supporting all new examination specifications.

No comments: