As a teacher in an international language school for adults, I spend almost 30 hours a week with approximately 20 students for a period of twelve weeks. Obviously, when spending such a large amount of time together, it’s important to keep things interesting. Maximising collaborative learning opportunities and chances for communication can help to keep classes fun, and one of the ways I do this for learning vocabulary is through the use of Quizlet. This post will explore whether Quizlet is a beneficial tool for learning vocabulary.
Quizlet is a web-based version of revision cards. It is very easy to use. Typically, one side of the card contains a word or phrase to be learned and the other contains a description. Users can then test themselves to see if they are familiar with the vocabulary. Learnt cards go into one pile and unlearnt ones keep getting tested. The Quizlet community is well established with over 140 million user-generated sets and 50 million active user accounts in 130 countries. Users are free to copy and adapt other users’ sets. Not only is it a great way to learn vocabulary, it is also one that is fun to play in a group because Quizlet also offers group-based games via Quizlet Live.
This is where Quizlet really comes into its own. The teacher launches the game from a computer or tablet. Each student needs their own device. The students log in to Quizlet Live (via quizlet.live) and input the PIN given to them by the teacher. Quizlet then allocates them into teams, and they have to find and sit with their other team members. Incidentally, this is a great way to get students up and moving around the classroom and learning each other’s names. Once everyone is sat in their teams, the teacher starts the game. Teachers can even start the game while students are still finding their teams if they want to create a sense of urgency and drama!
Each device in the team shows a definition at the top of the screen and a range of answers below. Each team member has a choice of different definitions below and only one person in the group has the correct answer. If the person with the correct answer selects it, then the team gets a point. If the wrong answer is chosen by anyone in the group, the team’s score is reset to zero. The first team to get to twelve points wins. It is therefore imperative that the teams collaborate as a group to discuss potential answers and choose the best one available before anyone taps their screen. As a result, participation and collaboration are important strategies for winning.
Quizlet is a good way of encouraging participatory culture in a classroom. A participatory culture is one where members might informally mentor each other, sharing what they know with other members of the group (Jenkins, 2009). Quizlet Live is a great way for teachers to encourage collaborative learning of vocabulary. According to Anjaniputra and Salsabila (2018), it can help increase engagement with vocabulary learning because the users believe it helps them and they enjoy the experience with each other. Bilova (2018) adds that using flashcards is still a relevant way of learning vocabulary for international students and that technology improves this by adding the possibilities for interaction and fun.
According to Bilova (2018), there is also the potential for students to take control of the vocabulary they learn by working in groups to generate word lists per their requirements and then creating their own cards to practise it. Additionally, Quizlet can aid in this process by auto-generating definitions for any term typed in although some care is needed to choose the best suggestion. A study by Dizon (2016) recommended the use of Quizlet in EFL classes due to the improvements it made possible in students’ vocabulary knowledge and their perceived sense of usefulness. The case for Quizlet in the classroom seems strong from students’ and researchers’ reflections. However, there are some areas of caution that should be considered.
The first area of caution is time. Like any learning of new technology and tools, teachers must give students time to learn and feel comfortable with Quizlet (Bilova, 2018). Some students will comfortably go through the logging on process and entering of the PIN. Others will struggle with it. Some students will understand the concept of the game, while others will need it explained a few times. In my class, this is a great opportunity for students to explain processes to each other in a calm and supportive way. I also ensure we play a few practice rounds to reduce anxiety and keep the stakes low.
The second area of caution is overuse. Like anything enjoyable, it can be tempting to use Quizlet too often. Students seem to enjoy it when it is used at the start of the week to introduce some key vocabulary. However, they also need to see new vocabulary in context. That is why we provide many other opportunities for learning and using it such as reading comprehensions and roleplays.
The third area of caution is assumptions about students’ access to technology. Students learning English often have access to a phone (Tran, 2016). However, while it is generally expected that students will bring a device such as a phone, tablet or laptop to school, teachers still need to ensure inclusion for students that might not have access. This could be for financial reasons or personal preferences around technology and teachers should be mindful that they do not embarrass their students. To plan for this, we have access to some school devices if we need them.
As long as teachers address these areas of caution, young-adult students in an international language school are likely to find the inclusion of Quizlet Live has a positive impact on both their vocabulary learning and their collaborative skills. However, the use of online resources, particularly social media can sometimes be problematic and I will look at this issue in more depth in a future post.
Anjaniputra, A. G., & Salsabila, V. A. (2018). The merits of Quizlet for vocabulary learning at tertiary level. Indonesian EFL Journal, 4(2), 1–11. https://doi.org/10.25134/ieflj.v4i2.1370
Bilova, S. (2018). Collaborative and individual vocabulary building using ICT. Studies in Logic, Grammar and Rhetoric, 53(1), 31-48. https://doi.org/10.2478/slgr-2018-0002
Dizon, G. (2016). Quizlet in the EFL classroom: Enhancing academic vocabulary acquisition of Japanese university students. Teaching English with Technology, 16(2), 40–56. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1895972194/
Jenkins, H. (2009). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century. Retrieved from https://muse.jhu.edu/book/60823
Quizlet. (2019). About Quizlet. Retrieved from https://quizlet.com/en-gb/mission
Tran, P. (2016). Training learners to use Quizlet vocabulary activities on mobile phones in Vietnam with Facebook. JALT CALL Journal, 12(1), 43–56. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1826539179/
Featured image by Roel Dierckens