Thursday, September 4, 2014


My favorite professor Wood Smethurst at Emory University always said, “If you want to catch a rabbit, you have to have a rabbit trap.” If we want children to master skills we have to have games and songs and “traps” to capture their attention and interest.

One time when I did a workshop a teacher remarked, “We’re not allowed to do flashcards.” I imagine a supervisor came in the room and saw the teacher “drilling” students with the cards. All things in moderation is my rule. I think there is a time, place, and creative way to use flash cards. RAN (rapid automatic naming) is a pre-reading skill. Basically, how quickly can a child see something and retrieve the word for it. Flashcards can nurture RAN and offer repetition for students who need a little more time learning a skill.

Over the next several days I will be sharing some quick flash card games you can use when you have a few extra minutes. I suggest making a different set each month for skills children need to automatize. You could make flash cards for words, letters, numerals, math facts, vocabulary, children’s names, and so forth.

Many people make flashcards from sentence strips or index cards. You can also make flashcards on paper plates. The advantage of using plates is that the circle shape tends to pull the eyes to the information in the center rather than the corners.

Note! If children don’t know a word, let them “phone a friend” or “ask the audience.” Instead of saying, “You’re wrong,” try “You’re close. Would you like to phone a friend?”

Stepping Stones - Place words on the floor from one side of the room to the
other. Children read the words as they step on the “stones” and try to get to the other side.

Boom - Write “BOOM!” with a bright marker or glitter on several of the
flashcards. As you “flash” through the cards, children identify the
information. When “BOOM!” appears, children jump up and shout out “Boom!”
*Change the surprise word! For example:“Gobble, Gobble” for Thanksgiving
or “Roarrrrrr” for a dinosaur unit.

Twister - Place the words close together on the floor. One child comes up as the teacher (or another child) calls out a body part and a word. For example, “Put your left hand on the word ‘has.’ Put your right foot on the word ‘do.’” The game continues until the child can no longer twist to the word.

Word Worm - Make a worm’s head from construction paper. Pass out words
to each child. Place the worm’s head on the floor and ask the children to see how long they can make him grow. One child at a time places her word next to the worm’s head. Each child reads the proceeding words, plus their word. 
*Pass out alphabet letters and challenge the children to put the letters in alphabetical order on the bug.
*Pass out circles with numerals and let children come up one at a time and put their numeral in order.