Blackboard memory is a vocab drilling activity that uses a memory challenge to let you vary how you are learning the lesson's English vocabulary. A great way to keep the students focused when they need more drill time.

For more elementary level drills, see also the keyword game.

Basic Info

Time: 5 minutes
Level: Elementary grade 1 - 6
Works with: Vocabulary sets
Class size: Small to large

You will need:

  • Flashcards of the vocabulary you are teaching

Lesson Description

  1. Put about 3 to 5 flash cards up on the board in a row (face up).
  2. Check the students have all seen and hopefully memorized the cards.
  3. Flip the cards over one by one, checking the students are watching and memorizing the cards. (See tips below.)
  4. When all the cards are face down, ask the students what the first card is.
  5. The students call out what they think. Lift up the corner and peek at the card. If they are correct, turn the card over. If not, tell them "Noooooo" and they can guess again. Round of applause when all cards are guessed correctly.


  • You can do this maybe two or three times, starting with just a few cards, ending with at the most 6 or 7 cards on the board.
  • To check students are looking at the cards and memorizing them, at first I will point to the row of cards and ask the student "OK?"
    Then I turn each card over one by one, each time asking "OK?" Younger students especially usually have a good reaction to the building suspense as each card is turned over.
  • Put students into groups and let them discuss the answers first. Answers are given by group. (This is great for encouraging group work and helps the non-juku students keep up with the juku-kids.)


  • There are a few different ways you can reveal the cards.
    • As described, reveal once the card is guessed correctly.
    • Reveal after each guess regardless of right or wrong.
    • Instead of flipping the cards one by one, write each guess above each card and reveal all cards together at the end.
  • To give the game a competitive element, make two teams and give each team one guess, then reveal the card.


  • Too many cards takes too long, is very difficult for younger students to remember and they will start to lose interest and focus. Remember that you're just using a small mental challenge to keep students focused and make drilling English vocabulary a little more fun. It's not really about being able to recall a list of items.

Other number games for elementary students

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