Post Promise: In this post, I will provide you some helpful tips and resources to help your student(s) master a deck of flashcards- whether these be sight-words, math facts or any other skill. Don’t miss the FREE Rainbow Flashcard System included at the end of this post!
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The Dreaded Flashcard
What are flashcards? They are a timeless learning tool that provide students bite-sized pieces of content they can use their memory to master. They get their name from their intent of being “flashed” or shown quickly to the learner. Although they’ve proven their usefulness with the test of time- they sure can be boring for the kiddos! We use them a lot in the Primary Grades (Kindergarten, First and Second) and a lot of parents hate seeing a new stack arrive in their child’s book bag from school. I’ve heard some parents describe flash-card time as one of the most stressful parts of their day. Dreaded and boring are some common descriptors. If that is how you feel, maybe you need a new perspective!
Mindset Shift: Flashcards as a Manipulative
If you hate flashcards (as a parent or teacher), maybe you aren’t using them effectively. Personally, I can do AWESOME things with a stack of them because I don’t see them as flashcards; I see them as a pile of manipulatives (physical tools for teaching) that can help students master content. When you decide that flashcards aren’t only to be looked at, but to be touched, moved and flipped- you can unleash more learning potential from them.
Teacher Secrets for Flashcard Success
As I said, I love flashcards and have had plenty of Teacher experience to share in how to use them. There is a two part formula I’ve found that really makes it easier for K-2 students to master a pile of flashcards. To truly harness their learning potential, they must include two ingredients: motivation and fun.
Part #1: Flash Card Motivation
We all enjoy competition, recognition and achievable challenges. Even as an adult, I can confess that I work much harder if I know there is a reward at the end of my efforts. Although we bigger people may have deeper, more intrinsic motivation- we still work for things like a paycheck, a promotion in our job or recognition from a leader. So, expect that this deep need for personal motivation exists even more vividly in the hearts of our students. Children need to feel supported and appreciated in their learning. Thus, add motivation to your flashcard work and you’ll get better engagement and results
Create a Flash Card Motivation System
The most effective award systems in the classroom (whether for management or learning goals) are those that have short-term and long-term goals embedded in them. The best way to accomplish this with flash-cards is to take the total number of cards and break them into groups that your child will learn one-by-one. This makes the entire process less overwhelming for you and your pupil. Then, go through each set and recognize the short-term goal achievement. When all complete, do another test of all the sets together and celebrate the long-term accomplishment.
Free Rainbow Words System
In the classroom (when dealing with sight-words), I accomplish this with a Rainbow Words system. My Kindergarten students are expected to learn 92 sight words by the end of the school year so I divide that number into seven groups- one for each color: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, pink and purple.
After a child has mastered one color, they are recognized and can then move on to the next set of words (short-term goal). Later on, when they have mastered every color, I test the whole stack and they receive more recognition (long-term goal). Although I use it with sight-words, this same system can be used with any type of Flash-Card content.
To help you achieve this same result with your students or your child at home, I have provided a FREE version of my Rainbow Words system at the end of this post. Directions for using this can be found inside your download! Here is what you’ll find in your FREE file.
Part #2: Flashcard FUN
Of course flashcards are for “flashing” or “showing.” We must do that as an integral step, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be more interactive than that. If you are simply using them for this purpose- do your student a favor and NEVER DO IT AGAIN! You are killing the joy of learning, my friend. Instead, incorporate these three strategies into your flashcard practice to inject fun and joy in their learning!
You may not like to sing, but this is a sure-fire way to help your child have more fun with flashcards. Kids love to sing, whether you have realized that or not. Even the most stubborn, un-engaged students in my classroom can be spotted singing along with our learning songs. Using their voices in melody to sing is in their soul, waiting to be released! So, whatever the content on those cards: find a way to sing it! Here are some examples of content you may need:
Letter Sounds: I made a simple song for to sing when reviewing letters on flashcards.
The Letter Song (Tune of Finger Family)
Letter Bb, letter Bb, I see you.
You say /b/, You say /b/,
How do you do?
Math Facts: Here is a quick song you can sing to go along with any math fact. Just insert whatever math fact you have!
Math Fact Song (Tune of: Mary Had a Little Lamb)
2 plus 3 equals 5, equals 5, equals 5.
2 plus 3 equals 5,.
Now let’s do another.
When we look at a flashcard and say the content out loud, we aren’t being active learners. In a recent post about Increasing Letter/Sound Fluency in Kindergarten, I gave plenty of research that proves how movement helps in memory formation and content retention. When we use movement in learning- that content sticks. So, let’s take whatever content is on our cards and move with it!
Here are some examples of how you can do that:
- Letters/Sounds: Add a motion to each letter and chant to each letter. I have a complete post about Increasing Letter/Sound Fluency that comes a free poster and motion list, if you’re interested.
- Sight-Words: Add a phrase and motion to bring the word into context. For example: for the word “look” your child could say, “I look through my binoculars! look, look, look” while making binoculars with their hands. I included a whole-list of signals and phrases for FREE right here!
- Math Facts: Use fingers or manipulatives to act out what the card says! For example, if the fact is 2+3, you could have your child show it by holding up 2 fingers and adding three more. This movement shows that they not only memorize the fact but understand the operation.
As I mentioned earlier, flashcards are a wonderful manipulative. The sky is truly the limit when it comes to games that can be played with a deck of flashcards. After reciting the words with singing and movement, play a game with your student. They will appreciate the fun and attention from you, trust me! Here are five easy and fun games you can play with flashcards, whether you have one student or a small group of them.
- Hidden Sticker: Lay your flashcards out flat on a table with the content showing. Have your child close and cover their eyes (“No peeking!”) while you lift one of the words and hide a sticker (or cut out picture) underneath. They must then call out the word before looking under each one in search of it.
- Flip, Swat or Slap: Call out a word, letter of fact for your child to flip with a spatula, swat with a fly-flapper (not sure what that is called) or to slap with their hand. Use some hype-language here to make it more fun. “Wow! You swatted that words guts out!” 😜
- Flashlight or Laser Flash: Turn out the lights and call out the words. Challenge your student to shine a light or laser on the correct word. Very simple yet more fun!
- Memory Match: This requires two sets of the flashcards, but is a timeless favorite. Place all the cards facing down and find matches. Play along with your student to add competition to the game!
- Hide-and-Seek: Hide the cards around the room. Have your child find them but they can’t pick up the card until they recite the word, letter or answer to the math fact.
Get your FREE Rainbow System HERE!
Ready to help motivate your student to learn those flashcards? Get your free EDITABLE system here! Enter your name and email in the form and I’ll send your resource straight away!
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I hope you’ve found something here that will bring extra joy and peace to your classroom.