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Guest Blog: Flashcard Learning

Today, we welcome Isabell Collet, creator and writer of a new blog called Flashcards Guru. Collet shares some tips and tools on using flashcards for learning with children. Flashcards are a strange tool in the world of education. We all used them to help us learn the times tables growing up, but for fear of encouraging rote memorization of information, many teachers do not support the use of flashcards today. Collet offers new insights on how to use this age-old tool to boost learning (rather than rote memorization) for children. If you are interested in learning more about flashcards, I recommend checking out her blog.

Flashcard Learning with Children

by, Isabell Collet – Creator of Flashcards Guru

Are you a parent? A teacher? An educator? Then I assume you are always on the lookout for new ways to teach and engage. Educational games and practices pop up constantly and it can be hard to weigh the benefits or to determine the right way to use a learning tool, simply because there is so much information out there and so many products competing for attention. My goal today is to help you untangle some of the information on the web surrounding this study tool.

Flashcards for children are quite popular as a playful means to introduce children to new words, images or concepts. This does not match the image many have of adult flashcards, which are often associated with meaningless drill. In reality, the concept of flashcards is the same for all ages and it is probably one of the oldest and most basic ideas: Repetition. What differs, naturally, is the approach we take to learning (or teaching) at different ages. Learning at a young age holds a more playful element. The great thing about flashcards is that you can introduce them to a child early on as a learning game, which over time might evolve into a natural form of studying.

How to go about introducing flashcards? As previously stated they are an all-age learning tool; even toddlers can ‘study’ with them. The traditional format is two sides with one asking a question and the other depicting the answer. A spoken word accompanied by a picture can be used to properly target language development in younger children. Repeating words to children so they mimic them is already the most natural form of early teaching; adding a pictoral clue offers great visual stimulation in addition to the auditory learning. When you are using flashcards with your child, you can add written words over time. Tying text to image can help develop skills in reading and writing comprehension. Once a child reaches a more advanced stage it is important to go beyond mere recognition of words and sounds and towards actual production and application of the word in question.

When flashcards are first introduced and later, once their application progresses, there are many ways to keep the process engaging for a child. A central element should be the choice or creation of the flashcards, something the young learner can easily become involved in.

How can we engage children through card creation? Card creation can be a great activity for older children. It can help them understand how to go about building their own learning tools later in life. It is also a first step towards learning the material that will be covered with the flashcards. Children can be involved in the creation process in a number of ways. If there is no ‘required learning’ or you simply want to introduce cards as a learning game, you can ask for your child’s input on a subject to study. Encouraging kids to make their own choices allows them to take ownership over their learning. Once you have made a choice, you can get creative on the card creation process. Your child likes to draw? Allow him/her to draw the question side of the card. S/he is learning to write? Help them spell out the answer. When images are involved (and they should be wherever possible, because they enhance the visual learning flashcards promote) you can pick them with your child. Find images to color in or give your child magazines, newspapers, and/or coloring books to choose and cut out images from and add these to the flashcards.

As long as you are the primary educator and have a firm grasp of the subject matter and its boundaries, compiling flashcard material is fairly easy. Motivating a child to condense material covered in school into flashcards can be difficult, because it may seem like an arduous task. To facilitate the evolution from voluntary learning to required flashcard learning, start small. Children in elementary school won’t need to cover complex or even very detailed material. A first project that will encourage automatic learning is to ask your child to write down a few important words or sentences that s/he took away from that day’s/week’s lessons. Over time you will have a nice collection and a great starting point for your flashcards. When you have these pointers on what was important it will be fairly easy to add the details or expand to related concepts.

How to keep learning with flashcards interesting. One way to make flashcards engaging is to use them to play a fast-paced, quizzing game with other learners. Once the material has been covered by all children, quiz your child with a classmate, friend or sibling to offer more enticement to remember. In the digital age, there are also a vast number of apps available that introduce children to digital/mobile learning. The choices are numerous and you may be faced with the difficult decision on what is best for your child. Choosing the right app takes time and consideration. Ask yourself the following two questions: What is my learning goal? How would I like to reach it? The answers are important because they determine both the content and the features of the app you will download. A child learning about colors and animals will have different needs than a child studying for a school exam. If cost is a factor, be on the lookout for (temporarily) free apps or free trial/light versions. (Important: Consider that these apps will often contain ads that, while usually targeted at the young audience, may not be child-appropriate.) You should always open an app repeatedly and test it yourself – watching out for things like ads before involving your child.

Thank you to Isabell Collet for sharing tips and tools on using flashcards with children! It is always fun to have guest voices on EdGeeks!

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