Teaching Tuesday: Flashcards

When Ironflower was a baby, someone gave her a set of picture flashcards. They were lovely photographs of things like fish and horses, each with the word printed on the front and some facts to share on the back. Ironflower loved them. She loved to chew on them and fling them under the couch.

I don't think I ever made it through one of the fact paragraphs before she yanked the card out of my hands.

Which just goes to show that Ironflower was born being pretty damn smart; babies do not need flashcards, they need conversations. In other words, if you're reading this post because you want to use flashcards with your baby, toddler or preschooler, step away from the computer and play with them instead. Or chat with them as you go for a walk around the block.

That said, I am not against all flashcards. For older kids, flashcards can be a great way to memorize sight words, math facts and foreign language vocabulary. But there's no need to waste money on buying flashcards; have kids make their own with markers and index cards. Then spend 5 minutes every day on them.

When I taught, we practiced with flashcards every single day. A few minutes during reading, a few minutes during math. In reading, I would hold up a flashcard and the kids would say the word ("The!"), spell the word ("T! H! E!") and say it again. In math, they would say the whole number sentence. So if I held up a card that said, "4 + 6", they would say, "4 + 6 = 10". I usually focused on 10 cards at a time, 5 for kids who were struggling. After a week or so, I would test kids individually on the cards to see if they were ready for the next set. When testing, I considered them "correct" if they got the correct answer within two seconds. The point of sight word, and math fact, flashcards is automaticity, after all.

Vowel digraphs, like "oo" and "ou", can also be memorized through flashcards. I have to admit to being terribly lax about doing flashcards with my own kids, but now that work is getting a little more difficult for Ironflower, I'm probably going to start. I want her to know her multiplication and division facts through 12 and her Greek/Latin suffixes and prefixes before the year is over. Of course, Lovebug will undoubtedly jump in on this and be twice as bored in third grade as he is in second but I guess it'll be practice for all the boring meetings he'll have to sit through some day.


StephLove said...

I think J (also in 2nd grade) might like flash cards. She's all about projects and self-improvement. Unfortunately for her, she's a second child and her moms are tired so she has to invent most of these projects herself. Or maybe that's not so unfortunate.

triplezmom said...

@Steph - That's probably a good thing, but I understand the guilt. She might like making her own flashcards for math facts or spelling words. :)

Leslie said...

I used flash cards with Julia when she was tiny like they did at The Center in Baby Boom. It seems so silly now!

Lucy uses flashcards for her sight words and Julia will make them for herself when she's learning definitions. (She learns more from making them than from using them.) We use them for piano to learn notes and symbols.

I think they're a decent learning tool for older kids, but I agree - not for babies.

triplezmom said...

@Leslie - Oh, I like your music idea! I hadn't thought of that.