Focus on Five: Ways to Use Flashcards in Your Classroom

With all the technology we have, sometimes nothing beats an old-fashioned flashcard. They still work when the network is down and they inspire social connections with actual humans. I’ve always used flashcards in my classroom in some capacity, but this year I am using them in new ways with my students. Here are five ways I am using flashcards in my classroom…

1. Fluency Station

This is how I used flashcards in my classroom for years. I would set up fluency for each student and train a paraprofessional to run this station.  The paraprofessional at this station and quiz students on previously mastered rote skills (e.g. letters, letter sounds, math facts, picture identification). Depending on the student, I would have the paraprofessional either have students verbally (or with a communication device) express their responses or have students receptively identify flashcards, in a set visual field. The student would also give their responses in a set amount of time (usually 15 or 30 seconds) and the paraprofessional would collect data. For more on Fluency, check out Focus on Five: Materials and Resources to Set Up and Run a Fluency Station! 

2. Small Groups

I have not been able to set up a fluency station this year due to staffing issues, but I found that incorporating flashcards during small group instruction is a good way to practice basic, rote skills students need to learn. I usually include it as part of the warm-up for my lessons, but sometimes I will introduce a new concept during the lesson using flashcards. After the students have shown mastery of a particular skill, I will move it to the warm-up portion of my lesson.  

3. Independently

For a long time, I only used flashcards at stations with adults or as part of a small group lesson. Since we are implementing Personalized Learning at my school, there is a big push for students taking ownership over their learning. I had students make their own flashcards and keep them in their boxes in their independent station cubbies.  Having students create their own flashcards is a good first step in students taking ownership over their learning and it gives them another practice opportunity with the skill. Students who are non or emerging writers can always trace or participate while you make their flashcards with them (point or verbally say what is on the flashcard, hand you supplies). I am teaching my students two ways to use flashcards independently-using a whiteboard to write down responses or doing an answer match. This is something I am working on with students at Teacher Time and allowing students to practice, so they are able to complete that skill independently.  

4. With a Partner

This is something I am training students to do right now and it has been a lot of fun! Most of my students this year are very social and have the capability to learn with a partner. First, I modeled how to do flashcards with a partner. I made sure that I also modeled how to manage their materials (e.g. boxes, flashcards) and how to ask a partner to work on flashcards with them. Then, I had students quiz me on flashcards during small group instruction to show them how to give feedback to their peer and manage the flashcards (e.g. which way to flip, how to put them in a pile after they quizzed another student). Now, I am having them practice with each other at teacher time. Soon, I will have students attempt to do this at the independent station and give them feedback. I have also taught students who use communication devices to work with students who express themselves verbally and vice versa. The biggest surprise has been realizing what a rich experience this has been because it not only teaches students their basic skills, but social interaction, giving feedback and ownership of their learning. 

5. With Manipulatives

For my students who are working on counting out items from a larger set, they have fruit counters in their boxes with their flashcards. I have been teaching the students to use their flashcards with their manipulatives to count out items from a larger set. Depending on your students’ goals you could use shapes, base ten blocks, fake coins, small analog clocks or plastic letters along with flashcards to create a hands-on practice activity for your students. Take the time to train your students on how to use each manipulative with their flashcards so that students will be able to practice independently.  

I hope you got some new ideas or inspiration for using flashcards in your classroom. Check out The Autism Helper’s Teachers Pay Teachers Store for more flashcards and other materials. Share ways you use flashcards in your classroom!

Holly Bueb
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