Building learner-generated vocabulary logs with Quizlet

Writer(s): 
Henry Foster, Kyoto Tachibana University

 

Quizlet <quizlet.com> is a website that allows users to create and study sets of flashcards online using a suite of game-like study tools. Quizlet enables users to interact, collaborate,and share sets of flashcards. With a simple, attractive,and intuitive interface,it is accessible to even the most technologically challenged teachers or learners. The author has used Quizlet in and out of the classroom as a simple vocabulary review tool, as a collaborative, learner-generated and maintained vocabulary log, and for conducting informal in-class assessment.

Flashcards: A meaningful component of any language course

While it would be unwise to devote more than a small portion of class time to the deliberate study of flashcards, research shows that focused,intentional learning using word cards is an efficient means of acquiring and retaining new vocabulary (Nation 2001, p. 302-310). The effect is optimized through careful selection of items and by randomizing the order of cards. Quizlet randomizes automatically and,iflearners themselves select words from new language encountered during lessons, the benefits of deliberate vocabulary study are combined with those of systematic review.

Sets: Simple yet versatile

A set of Quizlet cards consists of a list of terms and a corresponding list of definitions. A straightforward example item is [commute | travel to and from work or school], or a word with a gloss: [believe | 信じる]. Other uses include, for example, irregular verb forms [eat | ate, eaten]; common collocations [ride | a bike]; or any other arrangement one can put on two sides of a card [insist | ~ that you are right [v.] 自分の正当性を主張する]. Quizlet also allows adding images from Flickr’s Creative Commons to the definition side of cards. Uploading images directly is still in development.

Creators can specify the level of access to a set of flashcards on Quizlet: the set can be shared with everyone (a public set), with the members of a group, or can be kept private, available only to the creator. Currently, Quizlet has over 500,000 registered users and over a million sets—about three quarters of which are public, meaning that anyone can use them, even without logging in. This is one convenient aspect of Quizlet:if you just want to provide a set for your learners to use at home, they do not need accounts in order to study it.

Study modes: Fun yet powerful

Once users create, find, or are pointed to a set for study, various modes of study are available. First, familiarize allows users to do just that. Browse backwards and forwards through the deck and toggle cards front-to-back or vice versa, or view both sides of the card at once.

Second, perhaps the most powerful mode in Quizlet, is called learn. Users are prompted with one side of a card and must type in the corresponding term, thus reinforcing productive knowledge and spelling. Quizlet keeps track of your right and wrong answers and automatically retests you on wrong responses.

The third mode, test, randomly generates a quiz from a set. The number of items on the quiz can be specified, and the quiz can be configured to include one to four question types (written, matching, multiple choice, true/false). In the CALL classroom, this mode can be used for informal in-class assessment.

The next modes, scatter and space race, are fun review games. Scatter literally scatters terms and definitions around the screen. Learners drag these around and when a term and its definition are correctly matched, they disappear. The object is to clear the screen as quickly as possible, and to improve on previous times.

Space race scrolls definitions left-to-right across the screen. Learners must enter the corresponding term before the definition reaches the far side. With progress through the game, definitions appear more and more frequently and move faster and faster, making this a fun way to practice not only recognition/recall and production/spelling, but typing skills as well.

Finally two study modes involving voice recognition technology, voice scatter and voice race, are still in development. The author has had mixed results using these,depending upon the computing and network environment. When these work, they are a good way to include pronunciation practice.

Applicationsin and out of the classroom

Teachers can use Quizlet in many ways to support learners. To just help students review vocabulary that has been covered in class, create a set or sets and provide learners with the URL. While Quizlet uses clean, intuitive URLs (e.g., http://quizlet.com/577594/action-verbs-flash-cards/), the easiest way to direct learners to a set is by providing a link on a class homepage, in a teacher blog, or by email.

Alternatively, learners can be required to create and maintain their own sets at home. This requires an account, which is free and easy to create. With a learner’s username, teachers can view that learner’s dashboard, which includes information such as sets created by the user, and which sets they have studied how many times. Users can also create a group to share sets among members.

In the CALL classroom, there is greater potential for making use of Quizlet in learner-centric and collaborative ways. Learners can log new language items in individual sets during class, and then share each other’s logs as a group or even compile them all into a class set. Quizlet makes it very easy to create, import, export,and share terms, so this is not a time-consuming process. Giving learners control over this process naturally makes it more interesting and engaging for them. Learners may help each other by sharing their vocabulary sets.

Finally, Quizlet can be used as an informal assessment tool in the CALL classroom, using the test mode. Regular administration of quizzes can motivate learners to review the sets they have created, and can provide the teacher with feedback on who has been reviewing.

In short, Quizlet is a simple and powerful vocabulary study tool that is easy and enjoyable to use, and can complement a language course in various ways.

References

Nation, P. (2001). Learning vocabulary in another language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

 

Henry Fosterhas been teaching in Japan for 17 years and presently teaches at three Kansai area universities and one high school. He has an MA in Applied Linguistics from the University of Southern Queensland. His research interests include vocabulary acquisition and CALL, especially the application of internet resources in and out of the classroom. <henry@abiloon.com>

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