Monday, March 5, 2012

How to Creatively Use Flashcards for Learning

Flashcards. Flashcards. Flashcards.

If you hear the word flashcard, an image of a little child being "drilled" by an adult as they flip through a stack of cards probably comes to mind.

While rote learning may have some educational value for certain learning tasks, it's probably safe to say that  hands-on, active, self-initiated activities aid learning in a more meaningful way. Sure, flipping through a stack of cards may aid memorization, but is that learning?

So, are flashcards, then, totally useless?  Nope.  But, you have to disregard the image that immediately pops into mind when you hear the word and think a little outside the box.

Here are fun, creative ways to put your flashcards to good use....that go beyond bland rote learning and memorization.


Play a game.

     *MATCHING
This game is easy peasy.  All you need to do is match each flashcard to a particular object. For example, in the photo below you can see insect flashcards being matched to rubber insects.


You could easily do a matching game with alphabet flashcards and foam letters from a craft store.  Animal flashcards could be matched to animal figurines from a barn or zoo set.  Or, first word cards could be used to match to an alphabet chart - ask the child to match the first or last letter in the word.



     *GUESSING
Many flashcards have fun facts on the back of them.  With a card hidden out of sight from the child either read a few of the facts on the back of the card, or describe something about the object on the card, and see if the child can guess what it is.

For example, if you were holding a flashcard of a pig you might say, "This is an animal that has four legs, is pink, and loves mud.  Can you guess what animal is on the card?

     *COUNTING/ADDITION
In this flashcard game you will need dice (or large foam dice for toddlers) and a set of number flashcards that have two of each number.  Begin by spreading the deck of flashcards out on the floor.  Then, have the child roll the dice (that's the fun part), and count the number of dots on the first die.  Ask the child to search for that number in the pile of cards.  Then, repeat the same process with the second die.  Finally, ask the child to count the number of dots "all together" on both and find that number in the deck.


     *SORTING
The possibilities with a sorting game are endless.  Sort animal cards based on where the animals live.  Sort objects based on shape, color, size - you name it!


     *I SPY
If you have color, shape, or first word flashcards, try playing a game of I Spy.  The flashcards provide an example of what you are searching for in the room, which can make the game a little easier for younger children.

Make a craft.

A pack of flashcards, contact paper, and some decorations are all you need to make your very own learning placemat that can be used at meal time or craft time.



Talk about what you see.

Flashcards provide a great opportunity to build receptive and expressive language skills, much in the same way that a first word or alphabet book would.  Talk about and describe everything you see in the pictures.  For example, if the flashcard is of a ball, a language building conversation might go something like this:

Caregiver: "This card shows a ball.  It's round, and blue with a yellow stripe.  You can play catch with a ball or bounce a ball.  Here is the word ball and it starts with the letter B, right there.  Can you say ball?"

Toddler: "Ball."

Caregiver: "Where would you play with a ball?"

Toddler: "Out-side!"

Caregiver: "That's right! We usually play with our ball outside at the park."

Reenact or pretend play.

Learn about animal sounds by showing your child an animal flashcard, like a lion, then asking him to pretend he is a lion.  Action word flashcards can be used to get your child moving a little.  Ask your child to do what the word suggests - if the word is sit, then he should sit; if the word is jump, then he should jump; if the word is run, then he should run.  Action words paired with pictures may be suitable for younger children.

Explore.

"Exploring" flashcards is one way for babies to play with flashcards.  You might want to lay out a bunch of different cards from different packs in front of your baby and see what he does!  Try giving your child a wide variety of cards - some with different textures like these Dr. Seuss cards below, or ones that the child can manipulate like these slide & learn Sesame Street cards, or ones with bright colors and characters.



The cards might be your baby's snack for the day, but that's OK.  He also might have fun placing them in different piles, or feeling the different textures on the cards.  But that's all part of the learning process.



And, what's the greatest part about flashcard learning?  It can be really cheap!  Some of the cards with well-known characters can be a little pricier, but you can easily find a pack of flashcards for $1 or less!

Flashcards may not be for everyone, but I hope with these creative tips you will find that flashcards involve more than mindless rote learning.  And, they can be quite fun.

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