Practical secrets of laminated card making
  1. Creating and Using Your Own Alphabet Worksheets and Posters (samples here)

  2. Creating Your Own Flashcards Using Flash 'n Bingo

  3. Creating Your Own Bingo Cards Using Flash 'n Bingo

  4. Useful links (laminators, supplies, software, etc.)


1. Creating and Using Your Own Alphabet Worksheets and Posters

There are a number of reasons for creating your own materials. Finding suitable materials is often difficult, expensive and time-consuming but with the ability to make your own, you can have materials when and where you need them. Often we buy supplementary materials only to find them unsuitable in some way; when you make your own they are exactly what you want. Store bought materials are often designed for one level, one book or one activity, when you design your own, only small changes are needed to adapt to a new level or book and many different materials can be made from the one basic design. Although it is possible to create materials with no more than a pair of scissors, colored pencils, card, pictures and glue, it is far better to use a computer, printer, clip art and publishing software.
The posters can include phonically regular and sight vocabulary; try not to use sight vocabulary that is outside your children's knowledge or experience. A good source of words is your current textbook and workbook. In general use nouns, as these are less open to personal interpretation. When necessary do not be afraid to create your own words or use verbs and adjectives.

The best source of pictures is your own clip art, though many excellent pictures are available online. Google images and Microsoft Design Gallery Live are great sources for images but they can prove expensive as it often takes time to find that special picture. Be concerned about the format of your pictures; in general I work with Windows metafiles and bitmaps, as they are compatible with many software programs. Keep all your pictures and folders in the same place and try not to move them around too much otherwise your graphics program may not be able to find your pictures. Leave a shortcut on your desktop so you can check out things quickly. Rename your pictures when you store them because many pictures have numerical or other unsuitable names. For ease of access keep your color images in separate folders to your black and white.

Begin your posters by inserting pictures and roughly positioning them; use the layer facility, in your software, for best results. Select a font and size it, then open a text box under each picture. Experiment with different fonts and sizes; the important thing to remember is that your students will be reading these words. When you are finished slightly reposition your pictures and text boxes. Suitable fonts for posters are: Comic Sans, Little Hand and Jarman and suitable fonts for worksheets are: Jardotty, Print Clearly Dashed and Learning Curve Dashed; Color Font and Cookie Hollow are suitable for the title. You can search for these fonts on the Internet and usually download them freely. Save your work regularly and give it a suitable name, to avoid losing your poster in the event of a computer crash. Before printing always preview so as not to waste ink and paper. When changing the size of your print, for example from A4 to B5, you may have to reposition your pictures and text boxes, and perhaps changed the size of your text. To reduce the costs of printing consider using ink jet refills and perhaps set your income volume to its lowest level.

Let me tell you about my own "coloring worksheets". The title of each worksheet, being the appropriate upper and lower case letter, uses a hollow or outline font for coloring. Each picture is in black and white and is accompanied by its word. The words are printed in a handwriting or tracing font. Each worksheet has five pictures that begin with the initial target sound, apart from Xx, which uses a medial or final sound. All of the words with the exception of "elephant" are considered phonically regular. Most of the words are nouns, and there are a few created words, verbs and adjectives. Here is an example using the letter Aa the vocabulary is: abacus, ant, anthill, album and asparagus.

Before talking about usage let me talk about "alphabet posters". They are printed in full color using a regular font as mentioned earlier. They have many of the same vocabulary items as in the coloring worksheets but they also include sight vocabulary and words with double sounds; this is because they are multilevel.
As with any other teaching resource you need creativity and imagination to use these materials effectively. In general, the coloring worksheets should not be used until your students have studied and learned the 26 alphabet sounds; in addition they should have some basic blending skills. Give each student a clear file which contains the 26 worksheets, have them color them in and trace over the letters for homework; this could be their first "picture dictionary". I have created a number of picture clue crosswords, which the children can complete, with the help of their picture dictionaries. Other word puzzles, which encourage the students to use the words on the worksheets, can be created.

If you have the room, have a permanent display of your alphabet posters in the classroom. The students can use these to extend their vocabulary and check their spellings but not to copy from. A popular game you can play with these posters is "Word Rush". There are a number of variations but in this version lay your alphabet cards face up on the table or floor. The students choose a card, find the poster, read and remember as many words as possible. Then they take the card to the teacher (sometimes student), recite as many words as possible and receive a chip or point for each word before proceeding on to the next card.

You do not need a high level of computer skills to create these materials, what you do need is patience, creativity and imagination. It is only a year since I got my computer, before then I had a great fear of computers and was in awe of anyone who could use one, now I'm quite at ease using my computer.

PrintMaster 7.0, the publishing program on which these worksheets were created, is available free of charge ($12.50 S & H) from Free-CDSoftware.

Art Explosion clip art is available from the CD-ROM Shop in Canada; they are more than happy to ship to Japan.



2. Creating Your Own Flashcards Using Flash 'n Bingo

Got a lesson coming up in a few hours, have a brilliant idea for a new game, just have to lay my hands on some flashcards. No problem. With Flash 'n Bingo I'll have my cards in 30 minutes. How is it all done? Read on to find all the answers to your flashcard needs.

When choosing pictures, vocabulary and structures for your flashcards, the first place to look is in your current student book and workbook. Try producing a companion set of cards to the publishers own set to add variety and interest to your lessons. Produce gender sets; for each "she" card produce a "he" card. Take it further by producing "it" and "they" sets. After you have exhausted the ideas found in your student book and workbook move onto textbooks of a similar level. Nouns and verbs are always easy to do but take great care in choosing pictures for your adjectives and adverbs, try to ensure that the words and pictures reflect the same thing.

Flash 'n Bingo is a PC software program which will allow you to create, with great ease, original flashcards and bingo cards. The software creates them from word list files and picture list files. To create a word list all you have to do is open a new file, then enter the words and definitions. To create a picture list open a new file, enter pictures, then add letters, words or sentences. The software allows you to select as many rows and columns as you like I usually use 2x1, 2x2, 2x4 (or 4x2) and 3x3 with A4 size. The software also allows you to edit your pictures or text, so, for example, you can change Aa into apple or insert an improved picture. If you want to create composite flashcards, make them with PrintMaster and save them in wmf or bmp format.

The software is designed to work with bmp and wmf formats but it will accept jpg and gif formats, though the help file doesn't tell you this. Pictures are sized automatically and text size is selected. Google images come in jpg and bmp formats; these images are very useful for producing small sized flashcards but the pictures do not always expand well, so it is best to have plenty of your own clip art.

Choose a font that is similar to your workbook or the handwriting you are teaching. My own preferred fonts for flashcards are "Jarman", "Little Hand" (PrintMaster 7.0 has it) and Comic Sans. Font size is selectable up to 72 and is selected or changed during the preview, as is formatting . If you are making large size alphabet cards, then you should enter font size by hand as 72 is not a big enough. Formatting allows you to set the margins before printing. I usually set my side and top margins at .3 mm and my bottom margin at 1cm; inches are available.

The software has a printer setup, print preview and print function in that order. The print function allows you to print the back of the card, the front of the card or both, it also has a "number of copies" function. Consider using different colors of cards, this will help you in storing and sorting your cards. When printing words it is best to remove the cards from the printer as soon as they are done, this will avoid smearing as the black ink is often slow to dry.

Laminating your cards is the next necessary step. Laminating adds strength, brings out the colors, makes the cards durable and able to be handled safely by your students. Bent cards can be put through the laminator again to iron out the creases. Many people seem to worry about the price of laminating but with careful shopping for a laminator and laminator pockets, it is well worth the investment.

Cutting can be done with a pair of scissors, a craft or box knife with a ruler, a disk cutter or guillotine. My own preference is a guillotine because it is easy to use and virtually maintenance free. I bought one about ten years ago at a recycle store for \7000; if it ever breaks I will certainly buy another. A guillotine is quick and gives a uniform and professional look to your cards.

It is very important to store your cards and index them. I buy boxes from the 100-yen store and use colored card, which costs \100 for ten sheets at the same store, you can get 15 sheets of white for the same price. Index all your cards so they are at your fingertips when and where you need them.

Now that you've made all these new cards, what are you going to do with them? Well of course, they are always good for introducing new vocabulary and recycling old. You can check out the many teachers' books on introducing vocabulary and using flashcards. In writing activities use your flashcards with a skeleton question and answer (I _ _t a ... ? Y _ _ , i _ _ s.) on the board and have the children write questions and answers in their notebooks. Paper clip two cards together back-to-back for negative answers. There are an endless number of games that can be played with cards, many are written about in your teacher's manuals and you can learn about them at most teaching presentations. For a small class cards are an ideal medium for track races, race in a circle, race from end-to-end, use dice, chips and jan-ken. Make double and triple rows and columns of cards to extend the dialogs. Use your imagination, be creative.

There is a game that I like to play, which I call "Around the Room"; it is played in pairs or small groups. Scatter the cards around the classroom, one child sits while her partner selects a card, a question and answer takes place with the answer being given with the help of the picture, word or sentence. Students then reverse places. To give an example using the structure "What is it?" In this version I like to use my own "monster cards", with a picture of an alien, dragon or monster on one side of the card and a nonsense word like "ultramum", "neckdron" or "quickwon" on the reverse; nonsense words and strange pictures give more relevance to this question than does a picture of a panda, dog or cat. The child sitting would have the word shown to her and the question would be asked, to complete the task successfully, she would have to answer "It's a ... ." or "I don't know. What is it?"



3. Creating Your Own Bingo Cards Using Flash 'n Bingo

It is best to consult the previous two articles if you are to make bingo cards successfully.

There are plenty of bingo games out there, so why produce more? Well, have you ever seen an EFL course with its own bingo games? When you make your own they are tailor made to match your needs and course book. Whatever your need, be it alphabet bingo, double sound bingo, verb bingo, occupation bingo, word bingo, with Flash 'n Bingo they are all so easy to make. Don't just believe me; download the program and try it out for free.

Choosing vocabulary and structures is the same as for flashcards. For speed and neatness store your digital pictures in categories. When producing bingo cards use the same word lists and picture lists which you created for your flashcards. Just select the bingo function decide on the grid and away you go; I myself prefer a 4x4 grid. A word about margins; I usually set my side margins to 0, my top margin to 4 cm and my bottom margin to 1 cm.

If when using the program you find some of your pictures disappearing it is probably because you overloaded the system. In this case check out the size of individual pictures, the smaller the size the greater your success; MB pictures do cause problems, try and stay with kBs. You have the choice of printing bingo cards or call cards in text or graphics, a call list function is also available. For example, if you enter 26 pictures representing the alphabet and choose to print ten sheets then the program will randomly choose pictures and print ten different cards.

Generally speaking bingo is best used for review as the children are focused more on themselves and their own bingo cards than on the teacher and what the teacher is trying to introduce. As with every game try and make it as interesting as possible; used badly it can be very boring, especially for the teacher. To practice reading, print text on the call cards, lay them facedown and have the students turn and read them. Printing text on the bingo boards encourages scanning as the child will have to search for the letter, word or sentence which matches the call card picture.

There are many variations to playing bingo games but let me show you a variation of "Double Sound Bingo", using the 16 double sounds and vocabulary found in Finding Out 1. These cards need to be programmed one by one into the computer to ensure that each card has 16 different spellings with only one of each double sound. Lay the call cards which show the different double sounds i.e. ee, ea, sh, ch, etc. give each child 11 chips, turn the card, call the sound and find the picture with that sound and spelling in it, put a chip on the picture. Everyone will finish at the same time, which is after 11 cards have been played. Count the bingos and give points or whatever.

You need a computer, printer and laminator to produce high-quality, professional looking materials. But posters, flashcards and bingo cards can all be made with those simple, low-tech materials we find in every classroom. It just takes a little more effort and imagination.


4. Useful links (laminators, supplies, software, etc.)

Banyu Co. (Japan) Fax: 06-6222-3307 Tel: 06-6222-2248 or 03-5157-9172
A3 laminator \25,000 / A4 laminator with 100 A4 laminator pouches \10,800
Ban-yu often has special offers

Also try home-hardware shops. For example, NAFCO sells 100 A4 laminator pouches for around \2000.


And finally, for more information please feel free to contact me, David Lisgo, either by email or at:

West Side English School
9-1,3 Shibushi, Shibushi-cho, Soh-gun, Kagoshima-ken 899-7103 JAPAN
Tel/Fax 0994 73 3047

Copyright © 2001 David Lisgo


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