Making and using flashcards is, I have come to believe, an essential skill for the beginning students' success in Latin. For many years, I merely "suggested" that students make flashcards and of course, students rarely made them. Now, as part of my routine, I require that students make flashcards of all new words. I introduce new words orally, we talk about them, use them in sentences and finally write them down. The homework is to take the new words and put them on flashcards. The first time I have students make flashcards, I model exactly how I want it done. I show them how to write the Latin word in large, neat letters on one side and the English meaning on the other. Without clarification, there will always be a few confused souls who will put both the word and meaning on the same side. Others will write the word in tiny letters in the top left hand corner of the card as if this is the first word in a long essay they expect to write.
In Latin I, new words are introduced on Monday and flashcards are due on Tuesday. It is this kind of routine that helps the beginning student build study skills. Part of the routine on Tuesday is that students, immediately after entering the room, spread their flashcards on the desk with the Latin side up. That way, I can easily see who has and who has not done it. Also, I can walk around the room and check spelling of the Latin words.
After the initial flashcard check, I have students practice with each other. Again, I model how this is done. One student holds up a card for the other, then puts the card in one pile if the student correctly identifies the word and other if the student gets it wrong. I also remind students to tell their partner the correct meaning if they get it wrong. (You might think this would be common sense, but you would be surprised.) Now the other students holds up a cards for their partner and their partner guesses. That way both students are practicing at once. For a terrific and easy game to play with flashcards, see "Slap and Grab" under the "Card and Board Games" tab.
Students learn this routine fairly quickly. I tend to let them choose their partners unless there are a few kids that are consistently left out. In that event, I set up some permanent groups. Students who come to class without flashcards are given blank cards to make them in class while everyone else practices in partners. Students are uncomfortable when they can't participate in this activity - even more so when their usual partner shows up, prepared to work with them but instead finds they need to find a different partner. It is this subtle peer pressure that keeps my flashcard completion rate at about 90%.
The other great thing about this simple activity is that it is completely student centered, requiring no participation from the teacher. While students run through the flashcards, I take attendance, enter homework, and sometimes check email. Peace and learning at the same time. It's a beautiful thing.