Flashcard Machine that quiz students and more frequently show the questions that were most frequently answered incorrectly until all the flashcards are known, but I recently found one that is specifically intended for language, with flashcards already made to eliminate the tedium of making long vocabulary lists: Vocabulix. I used the German learning option to check it out.
Vocabulix has three sections: Vocabulary builder, Verb conjugations and Verb drills. It uses a point system to keep track of your average score on quizzes, and shows on your user profile what percent of the Vocabulix course you have completed. Verb conjugations is just a set of verb paradigms to study from, but vocabulary builder and verb drills both work by showing a picture or a sentence and asking at first for a choice in a multiple choice question, then for a typed translation.
1. Pictures are used in the vocabulary section, so that students can visually associate the object with the meaning.
2. It’s “smart”: throughout the study session, it will make note of which words you get wrong and show them to you more often.
3. It’s personalized. You make an account, and then it can track what words you frequently get wrong over time and chart your progress.
4. At the end of every “lesson” (going through the flashcards until you get them all right once), it shows you a summary of what you got right and what you got wrong, so you can look over all the answers at once. The ones you got wrong are highlighted in read to be found easily, and it shows you the number of mistakes you made for each question.
5. It has paradigms for all of the verbs it quizzes on, so that you can go to that page and memorize the verb forms before quizzing yourself.
The flashcard idea is great, and works well, but I do have one problem with the website: it calls itself a way to learn a language for free online. This is a problem because while the study sessions will teach you new words and irregular verbs, remind you of the verbs tenses you already know, and maybe teach you new verb forms if you’re good enough at figuring out the rules, it does not include any help with general rules when you get a verb question wrong. It tells you that sometimes you’re wrong when you use haben for the present perfect, and sometimes that you’re wrong when you use sein. My guess is that most people would not figure out that all transitive verbs use haben, or that sein is used more often with verbs describing a change of state. It teaches how to form the present perfect and simple past, but does not mention that the present perfect is used almost exclusively in speech, and the simple past is used almost exclusively in writing.
Still, that is a relatively small point. My question was whether Vocabulix would be useful in an ESL classroom, and I think the answer is a resounding yes. The repetition of flashcards is spaced so that it is not frustrating to memorize them while quizzing yourself, and the acquiring of points and use of pictures gives it a game-like quality that would likely keep students interested.
It’s easy to tell students to study, but less easy to make them do it- studying is tedious and difficult. Vocabulix, on the other hand, is relatively low-effort, and, if one hour of practice with it was assigned per night, it lets students work at their own pace rather than being intimidated by a word list. I think that if used along with traditional instruction, Vocabulix could be a very valuable tool for reinforcement of what is learned inside of the classroom.
Image by Flickr user Konrad Lawson.
Image by Flickr user Konrad Lawson.