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Power Tools – How to effectively use flash cards.

Many new studies have come out showing the power of recall on memorization and performance in school subjects. Personally, when you don’t have a lot of supplies or funds, all the new research can be quite daunting. However, I have found that using flash cards, even at the elementary level, can be extremely effective when it comes to teaching vocabulary in small group settings. All you need are a few 5 x 9” cards (or simply cut up scrap paper into rectangular squares) and you’re already 90% of the way done.
The next, final, and most important step in the process of using any recall technique, like flashcards, is to model how to make and use the cards. A lot of people, myself included, often take for granted the techniques that we remember from when we were younger. Just like any other skill, this has to be explicitly taught. From what to write on each side – what information is important and what can be discarded, to how to effectively place images on your cards for better connections to the content each component must be modeled several times prior to letting the kids use the cards on their own.
One of the most difficult challenges in we face in teaching kids is showing them procedures for how something is done. This involves tremendous amounts of forethought on our part and can seem overwhelming at first. Yet, there is already an excellent resource out there for us to study when it comes to breaking down and teaching procedural knowledge: YouTube. Every day I am amazed at what my students and myself learn from YouTube.

So I’ll end this post on a question. What are the effective ways that you utilize recall practice in your classroom or small group? Or, what ways could you be utilizing these practices in what you are already doing?

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