Standard Lesson

Picture This: Student Created Online Vocabulary Flashcards

7 - 12
Lesson Plan Type
Standard Lesson
Estimated Time
Four 50-minute sessions
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As an activity before reading a literature unit or novel, students are assigned vocabulary words that they will teach to the class.  They will accomplish this by creating sets of online flashcards which feature visual images, the vocabulary words, and the definitions.  The students prepare the class for reading each section of the literature unit by sharing their flashcards sets prior to the actual reading.  Then the students can use these sets for reviewing vocabulary.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

The link between vocabulary and reading achievement is well documented; therefore, Curtis and Longo believe teaching vocabulary is one of the most important components to improve students’ reading comprehension.  However, they also point out meaningful vocabulary instruction can be difficult to create.

Hagood seconds the difficulty of creating interesting vocabulary lessons when she reports on two middle school teachers who had delivered SAT vocabulary through PowerPoint.  Although the method was efficient, both teachers reported this technique did not engage the students.  Therefore, the teachers brought into the classroom visual examples of the SAT vocabulary in advertisements, slogans, magazines, and movie scripts and requested students do the same.  The teachers discovered this method connected with the importance of visual images in the lives of students.

Furthermore, as Burke points out, flashcards appeal to a variety of learners. Because flashcards are interactive, the students can shuffle the cards so that the students do not always view them in the same order.  They can remove the cards they have mastered while still working on other definitions, so that the students are the ones who are accessing what they know.  Additionally, flashcards are suited to most content areas so that students are learning a study skill that will help them across the curriculum.

Another significant area in the lives of students is their use of Internet.  A recent Pew Internet Project reported as of September 2009, 93% teens ages 12-17 used the Internet.  In this lesson the attraction of using the Internet is combined with value of visual images to motivate students to learn vocabulary.

Further Reading

Curtis, Mary E., and Ann Marie Longo. "Teaching Vocabulary to Adolescents to ImproveComprehension." Reading Online. International Reading Association, Nov. 2001. Web. 14 July 2012.

Lenhart, Amanda, Kristen Purcell, Aaron Smith, and Kathyrn Zickuhr. "Social Media and Young Adults." PewInternet. Pew Research Center, 2012. Web. 15 July 2012.

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.

Materials and Technology

  • Classroom with LCD projector and whiteboard/interactive whiteboard
  • Computers with Internet capabilities
  • Poster board and markers if computers will not be available for students to create flashcards online
  • Dictionaries, online or hard copy




Students will use this online tool to create vocabulary flashcards.


This website can be used to find definitions of vocabulary words.


This website can be used for definitions for the targeted vocabulary.



  1. Prior to this lesson, students should have been exposed to using context clues to determine the meaning of vocabulary, as covered in Solving Word Meanings:  Engaging Strageties for Vocabulary Development.  They have been taught how to use a dictionary in previous lessons.
  2. Make one copy for each student of the printouts Flashcard Machine Instructions, Creating a Study Session, and Flashcard Rubric.
  3. Select a type of literature for a unit, such as a novel or group of short stories, for the class to study.  From the selection, target vocabulary words for which students will create flashcards. Create a document similar to the Sample List that includes all vocabulary words for the unit.  Divide the words between the students.  Each student needs to be assigned a minimum of four words to be able to share their flashcards with the class through a URL.  If the reading selection is short, more than one student could make flashcards for the same words.  For this lesson, A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck is used as the example.
  4. Reserve time in your school’s computer lab or library for two sessions.
  5. Create an account at Flashcard Machine and make a set of sample flashcards of at least four new vocabulary words.  Instead of creating a set of flashcards, you can use this sample flashcard set that features vocabulary from the first chapter of A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck or search the website for a set of flashcards.
  6. Sign up for a wiki at Wikispaces where you can create a class page for the links to websites and where you can post the links to the student-created flashcards sets.  If that is not possible, make copies of the Websites printout for each computer.
  7. If your students are thirteen and over, check to find out how many have e-mail addresses.  Those who do not should sign up for accounts at any provider so that they can create Flashcard Machine accounts.
  8. For students under thirteen, student accounts can be created using the concept.  Create a master account at and then use this address to create an account at Flashcard Machine.  For each student account needed, create an account at Flashcard Machine using the master account plus a number.  For example, if the master account is, the student accounts will be,, etc.  The master account will receive all the e-mails and all the Flashcard Machine accounts will need to be verified before students log-in.  Use a spreadsheet to list account information, including passwords and addresses as well as which student is assigned to each account.

Student Objectives

Students will:

  • demonstrate their understanding of vocabulary words by linking images and definitions.
  • create a set of vocabulary flashcards.


Session One

  1. To help the students understand the effect having a visual image can have on vocabulary, project on the whiteboard the new vocabulary words for which you created a set of flashcards or from the set of flashcards you have chosen from the website to use, such as this sample.  Give students time to look over the list and ask them to write down definitions for as many as they can.
  2. Project on the board the set of sample flashcards.  After each image is projected, ask the students if the picture changed their ideas about the definition.  Then flip the card (at the bottom of the screen) to compare their ideas to the actual definition. Discuss how visual images can help in learning new vocabulary words as well as remembering these words.
  3. Explain to the students they will be creating flashcards with images to teach their classmates about vocabulary of reading section prior to the class reading that section.
  4. Hand out the Flashcard Rubric and invite students as a class to evaluate the sample set of flashcards.
  5. Distribute the list of vocabulary words to the students and assign each student at least four vocabulary words.  Discuss the following:
    • Explain that the lists include context clues from the text that the class will be reading.
    • Based on the contextual clues, students will determine the part of speech.  This will help them find the correct definition in the dictionary.
    • Some words might be difficult to find pictures to illustrate, so students may need to think creatively.
    • Students must be able to justify their choice of images for words.
  6. Using either dictionaries or the dictionary websites listed, give students time to define the words on their individual lists.  As students work, check that students have selected the appropriate meaning for those words that have more than multiple meanings.  Also, help students who have trouble determining the part of speech.
  7. Assign the class to complete their definitions before Session Two.

Session Two

  1. Check that all students have completed the definitions for their words.
  2. Model for students how to find images for their flashcards and where to save these images on the computers.
  3. Allow students time to find images.  Assist those students who might have difficulty finding images to illustrate their vocabulary words.
  4. Hand out the printout Flashcard Machine Instructions.  Model for the students how to create their set of flashcards.
  5. Allow students time to create their flashcards.  Check for the following:
    • As students work, help those who need extra assistance.
    • Ask students to explain how their images match their words.
    • Check for correct spelling.
    • Note student time on task as that is a category of the rubric.
  6. Remind students that they are using an online tool so that they can work on their flashcard set on any Internet-connected computer.  Assign the class to complete their flashcards before Session Three.

Session Three

  1. Divide the class into pairs.  Give the students time to evaluate each other’s set of flashcards using the printout Flashcard Rubric.
  2. Invite students to make any changes to their flashcard set after the evaluation.
  3. Post the URL of each set of flashcard to the class wiki, blog, or website.  If possible, post the URLs in the order of the unit so that the first URL corresponds with the first vocabulary words the students will encounter in the literature unit or novel.
  4. Show students where to find the class wiki.  Hand out the printout Creating a Study Session and model for the students how to link their sets of flashcards together so that they can study all or some of the lists at one time.
  5. Remind students they will be able to access their flashcard study session for practice from any Internet-connected computer so that this tool.
  6. Have the student(s) who created flashcards for the first section of reading share the flashcard set(s).  As the students see the flashcards, tell them to fill out the vocabulary list.
  7. Assign the students the first section of reading.  Before each reading section, have the students share the vocabulary words that they will encounter in the next reading assignment. Remind students to complete their vocabulary list as they view their classmates’ flashcards.
  8. Suggest students study the new vocabulary words and add them to their study sessions after each reading assignment.

Session Four

  1. This session takes place after all students have presented their flashcards.
  2. Have students access their Flashcard Machine account.  Ask students if they have created their study sessions.  Assist those who need to add other sets of flashcards to their favorites.  Allow time for students to review the flashcards.  Tell them to flag each card so that they can then use the Quiz Me button on the website.
  3. After students have had ample time to quiz themselves and practice the vocabulary words, ask students to reflect on this experience of learning vocabulary.  Ask some of the following questions:
    • How often did the students access the flashcards outside of class?
    • Did having images help learn definitions
    • Have the students created flashcards for other content areas after making this set?



  • On the definition side of the flashcards, ask students to write original sentences that illustrate the definition.
  • Let the students create crossword puzzles of the vocabulary words using the student interactive Crossword Puzzles to review the vocabulary list as a whole.
  • Suggest students create flashcards for vocabulary from content areas.
  • Print the flashcards and create a bulletin board.  Invite students to contribute additional examples of the vocabulary words found online and in the world outside the classroom.
  • Now that students know how to use this online tool, provide the students the opportunity to create flashcards for the next reading selection.
  • Have students create flashcards for a variety of categories using the RWT Trading Cards Mobile App.


Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Before the students work on the flashcards, check that they have correctly identified the part of speech and selected the appropriate meaning for each vocabulary word.
  • Evaluate each student’s set of flashcards using the Flashcard Rubric.
  • Question students about their image choices as they work on their flashcards.
  • Assess students on the vocabulary words.
  • Note how well students stayed on task and how well they worked together in pairs.
  • Ask students to reflect on the usefulness of the flashcards sets.  Question students to see if they used the flashcard sets outside of the classroom to learn the vocabulary words.


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