A blog for teachers and learners who love technology

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Quizlet - A free tool for both learners and teacher who want to learn and teach vocabulary respectively


What is quizlet?

Quizlet is a free website dedicated to both learners and teachers. Students can use this learning tool to enrich their vocabulary as well as to improve their spelling by creating flashcards, study and play games such as the space race! Teachers, on the other hand, can create virtual classrooms and then create flashcards which students can study, share, and comment on. In this post, I will focus on the students' account considering the fact that it is free compared to the teachers and because what the student's account provides is enough to make this tool worth using.

To begin in, order to gain access to the website a registration is needed, This can be done either be registering an e-mail or by linking you Google+ or Facebook account with Quizlet. When you successfully log in,  by clicking "create a set" you can start creating materials.

How does Quizlet work?

First you chose the language you want and the you type the words that will constitute the set. Having said that. Quizlet works perfectly with words that belong to a specific group. Either distinguished by grammatical terms such as the prepositions of place or by the situations in which they are used such as words related to auctions this tool can really help managing and learning those vocabulary items.

A great thing about Quizlet is that there are audio files for 18 languages. Therefore, learners can create a set of words and then practise the pronunciation of those words. Due to the fact that my native language is Greek, I was interested to listen to the quality of the audio files. I have to say that the pronunciation was perfect. It sounded like the recording were taken from actual native speakers rather than a computer generated voice.

Quizlet has 6 different activities which calls them study modes that learners can engage with. Those include flashcards which give learners the opportunity to listen to the pronunciation of the target language as wells as connecting the TL with images that represent the TL. The next study mode is called 'learn' . Learners need to write/type what the picture represents in order to get the answer correct. The nex one is called 'speller' and it is quite similar to 'learn'. However in 'speller' learners can also listen to the words' pronunciation. After learners practise using the aforementioned study modes, the can start the 'test' study mode which is what its' name suggests. Learners need to respond to 5 written questions, 5 multiple choice questions and 5 true/false questions. Finally, if they feeling confident enough with the TL, they can try the 'space race' and 'scatter'. Both of them are games, which learners can play in order to practise TL in an enjoyable way. In the 'space race,' learners need to write/type the word on the picture before the picture disappears from the screen. In 'scatter' learners need to match the words with the pictures that represent those words.

Example Activity

First of all, I would like to highlight how powerful and user-friendly the embedded study set is. By embedding a study set learners can use all the different study modes that are available in quizlet. In other words, they provide the same experience without having to visit the website. What is more, teachers and learners can embed their study sets into various websites, like Edmodo, Google+, blogger etc.

The study set I created, deals with the fruits. I included 15 fruits each of them having a picture which represents every one of them. All the features I mentioned in the previous paragraph also appear in this study set.

Theoretical background

What I see in Quizlet is its potential to help learners and teachers understand and explain meaning respectively in a very explicit way. Jeremy Harmer (2007) highlights the importance of a visual representation of the target language. He defines this practice as the "clearest way of explaining the meaning of something" (Harmer 2007).  Translation in L1 is always a possible practice depending on the nature of the lexical set. On the one hand, could be translated into L1 to make learners understand the meaning of the words. On the other hand, idiom phrases would be more difficult for teachers to translate them into L1 and in many cases the translation might not make sense in learners L1. However, I still believe that visual representation are way more engaging than translation and possibly if we examine this from a psycholinguistic point of view, the process of retrieving the correct word just by looking at the picture could be faster than directly translating from the L1.

If I had to identify Quizlet's approach on language teaching I would compare it with the PPP (presentation practice production) approach. Flashcards resemble the presentation stage in which learners are presented with the TL's meaning and pronunciation. Then in 'learn' and 'speller' learners practise using the TL in a very controlled manner in which feedback is given instantly. Learners are able to compare their spelling of the word with the correct spelling and then are urged to rewrite it with the correct spelling. Production is missing from Quizlet and in each place learners are urged to try the two games which can provide them with more practice on the TL in a fun and enjoyable way.

Target Audience

Quizlet is quite easy to use. From registering an account to creating your first study set, potential users will not find it difficult to use this tool. Therefore, basic digital literacy skills are all that quizlet asks users to possess. 

What is more, visual and auditory learners will find this tool quite suitable. This tools is based on the power of visual representations and by implementing audio files with the correct pronunciation makes this a very useful tool for those type of learners. 

Last but not least, in the case of the teacher's account, learners can compete in the "space race" and the "scatter". Depending on their speed and accuracy, learners can score points which can be seen among the group. Therefore, this basic gamification element can be motivated for learners who enjoy a bit of challenge and competition.


One of things limitations that I can identify in this tool is the fact that no much cognitive work is happening while learners engage with the different study modes. For instance, when a learners is using the speller and he/she misspells a word, Quizlet will just correct the mistake, propose the correct spelling and ask students to rewrite the word. I found this way very ineffective and boring at the same time. Even if the learners spells the word correctly right after the correction, I am not sure if this would be the case in the long term. 

What is more, I would like to see some language production except for the typing involved in the spelling and learn study mode. For example, the use of cue-response drills even though they are out of fashion might be beneficial for them if used in moderate.

Last but not least, as I already highlighted this tool will be suitable for learners who enjoy watching and listening. However, kinaesthetic learners's needs are once again overlooked. The reason, I am saying this, is because throughout this journey of writing about those different tools I have found myself saying over and over again how limited are the chances for physical activity/movement. However, the difficulties of implementing those features that would suit kinaesthetic learners, must be acknowledged. 


Harmer, J, (2007) How to teach English. Essex: Pearson Longman


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