Introducing the Magic of Flashcards in the Classroom

Introducing the Magic of Flashcards in the Classroom

You probably know the kid who has the best stack of homemade flashcards that he proudly talks about. Maybe that’s the only kid who had any idea about the river system of Tennessee when others in the exam were just chewing away their pencils. Maybe that kid was you.

We have all been there and done that. Flashcards used to be a pretty useful thing back in the times when this generation’s teachers used to be students. Times changed, the earth rotated, the universe conspired against its endangerment, and brought it right back again. But this time, they were made to take a giant leap: from the drawers that contained just the toys to the modern classrooms.

The deck has its own story to tell.

What are these Flashcards?

Flashcards are little pieces of paper cut in a square (or rectangular) shape wherein you write the prompt that will help you elaborate on the topic it is about. And on the other side of the paper, you write out the answer. Or, you can substitute the prompt with a question, the answer of which you write in the back. Or, you can also use pictures instead of text.

Creating flashcards is easy. All it takes is a bit of creativity, which can help to add that extra spice to make them interesting.

Here’s a quick video tutorial on how to create flashcards." width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen">

For example, let’s say you are making a flashcard deck about the planets of the solar system. Let’s take up Uranus. So, on one side, you write ‘Uranus’. That is your keyword. On the flipside, you write:

  • Seventh planet from the sun.
  • Third largest planet in the solar system.
  • Discovered by William Herschel in 1781.
  • Has 27 satellites.

There you go. You have your flashcard ready.

In short, a flashcard is a memory aid tool that helps in recollection. In addition, there are three things I have to say about flashcards.

Inexpensive. Efficient. Less exploited.


Benefits of Using Flashcards

When I was in school, flashcards used to be my knight in shining armor. They have saved me time and again. And they would help your students too, if you can use them in the right way. That’s because the flashcards offer multiple advantages. And they have been found to have garnered quite the reputation for their proven benefits in studies.


  1. Flashcards Help in Active Recall

Students are exposed to a variety of subjects, each covering a wide assortment of topics. And each topic comprises numerous concepts, which are constructed on tiny details. When there is such a rich hierarchy involved, what do you think happens to the tiny brains that are supposed to withhold and reproduce all this information? They might as well explode!

Flashcards make for an easy way to recall information. This is a psychological thing. As soon as you look at the keyword on the flashcard, you force your mind to recollect whatever you know about it from scratch. And when faced with a similar question in the exam hall, the mind eases into that phase again and extracts whatever the brain has learned before.

  1. Flashcards Condense Information into Easy-to-remember Bits 

Let’s stir up the ‘Uranus’ topic again. When you look it up in a book or on the space-age technology called the Internet, you will be greeted with lots of information. Three heavily loaded lines might yield two important details that need to be remembered.

Flashcards make this simple and easy.

If we look at it on a larger scale, then a 20-page chapter can be rounded up in about eight flashcards (give or take a few). So, it is really handy for you. It saves your:

  • time
  • effort
  • sanity

Looks like a pretty good deal.


  1. Flashcards Usher in a Self-assessment Factor in Learning 

Tell me, which indicator for progress have you always preferred? Has it been a pat in the back or a more tangible vessel of conveying success? How have you felt about good marks or grade in the exam paper? Or, the bump to a six figure salary? Pretty awesome, right?

We are hardwired to let numbers define us and our progress. And flashcards help us in that.

If you have conjured up 10 flashcards for a chapter, then a perfect recollection of the facts on all the 10 gives you an assurance that one chapter is done. And this recurs for every chapter. So, by using flashcards, you are setting numerical targets. And when you fulfill those, you can actually see your success unraveling in front of your eyes in numbers. It’s something that we all love.

So, you see using flashcards is a pretty effective way for self-assessment.


  1. Creating Flashcards is Studying

In fact, there should be no doubt about this fact. That’s because, when students are creating flashcards for the chapters, they are essentially:

  • looking up the facts in the books
  • going through them thoroughly
  • understanding them
  • deducing the important portions
  • putting them in paper in concise bits
  • creating the answers for the questions

If you go through the above points once again you will see that the points essentially cover the whole process of studying.

I could go on with this list, but I’m sure you have already got the basic idea associated with it.

How to Use Flashcards in the Classroom

If you find the concept of flashcard effective, then there’s a good news for you. It can be used in the classroom. And you can go absolutely crazy with it.

So, how can you use flashcards in the classroom? What are the best and the most effective ways?

Here are a few ideas on that thought.


  1. Using Flashcards for Learning New Words 

This technique is most successful when employed to learn a new language. In addition to words, you can create flashcards for pronunciation as well. Or, you can assign to your students an activity wherein they would need to find out some useful words of the language they are learning and make flashcards out of them. When they turn those in, you can go through them and shuffle those up.

When you have a bunch of flashcards ready for the class, you can hand over one card to a student for them to say the meaning of the word or the pronunciation. If that is correct, you can exhibit an appropriate indication and ask the other students to repeat the same. On a more traditional context, this action minus the flashcards is known as drilling. In this case, we can call it flash drilling! Sounds like something that I would try. Would you?

  1. Rearranging to Form a Sentence 

This is a pretty fun game that you could initiate in a classroom. Think up a few complex and long sentences and write each word of those sentences on separate pieces of paper. By the time you complete, you will have a deck of flashcards that form meaningful sentences when you lay those down one next to the other. Now shuffle the cards for each sentence and keep them separately.

Ask your students to form groups and hand each group the shuffled deck for every separate sentence. Tell them the rules and time them. The group that forms the correct sentence in the least amount of time could receive a small award for the job well done.

Here’s a nice video of using flashcards in the classroom." width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="allowfullscreen">



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