As parents we all want to help our children learn and succeed. Teachers encourage extra at-home practice because it reinforces important academic skills such as number or letter recognition, letter sound identification, or even math facts. So, how can we accomplish this without meeting our child's resistance of a typical flash card drill? It's simple! Turn the drill into a game.
Before you begin playing games, it's important to know where your child is. You need to do an assessment to determine which numbers, letters, sight words, math facts, or letter sounds your child knows and which he doesn't. Go through the flash card stack and have your child verbally identify. Place the known cards in one pile and the unknown cards in another. For example, your child can tell you the letter names for a-m (known), but not n-z (unknown).
Next, use the known cards as your base set for the game. Each week, add a few more cards (between 2-4) from the unknown pile as a goal for your child to master. If your child struggles, do not add more cards until your child has mastered the current set.
Last, you may need two sets of cards to play some of these games. You may choose to buy two identical sets, print these from your computer, or write them on index cards. If you choose to make yours, laminating them or sealing them in clear Contact paper will make them more durable.
Ready to play?
1. Concentration: From your known card pile, mix two sets of flash cards together. Place the cards upside down in a square or rectangular pattern. Each player takes turn flipping over cards to find a matching pair. The player with the most matches wins! For math facts, it is best to have one set of problem and one set of answer cards (ex. 4-2=? and 2). For number cards, have one set of numerals and one set of picture cards (ex. 7 and a card with 7 fish). For letter identification, an alternative is to have one set of upper case to match to one set of lower case letters.
2. Go-Fish: From your known card pile, mix two sets of flash cards together. Each player receives 5 cards and the remaining cards are placed upside down in the "Go-Fish" pile. Each player takes a turn asking an opposing player if he has a card which matches that in the asking players hand. If the opposing player has the card, he hands it to the asking player. If the opposing player does not have the card, the asking player takes a card from the "Go-Fish" pile. The winning player runs out of cards in his hand due to matches.
3. Flash Card Match: The child is given a set of flash cards from the known pile. The goal is to match one of set of flash cards to the next. To make it fun, use a timer and set a goal to beat the last time record!
4. War: Using two sets of flash cards, mix them together and divide evenly between two players. The cards are facing downward so that neither player knows which card is next. Each players slaps a card down quickly. The player that recognizes a match (or cards with equal value in math), quickly takes the whole pile of cards before the opponent. Play continues until both players are out of cards. The player with the most cards wins.
5. Bang: For this game, use one set of flash cards and add two cards that say "Bang!". Place these cards in a paper bag, shoe box, or coffee can. Each player takes a turn pulling out a card. If the player can correctly identify the number, letter, letter sound, sight word, or math fact, the player keeps the card in his pile. If the player cannot correctly identify the card, the card is put back in the container. When a player pulls out a "Bang!" card, he must put all the cards in his pile back into the container. The player with the most cards wins!
6. Flash Card Line-Up: Using one set of flash cards, have your child line them up in ABC, or numerical order. This game works for number recognition, letter recognition, or even math facts that are arranged by the answer to the equation.
7. Child as the Teacher: Children love to be in charge! It's your child's turn to give you a flash card drill. It's best to use flash cards that don't show the answer anywhere, or you can cover up the key with a piece of masking tape. Be sure to include mistakes so that you can test your child's knowledge and he or she can have fun correcting you!
8. Sight Word Sentences: Using a set of known sight word, picture, and punctuation cards, your child can practice building sentences. Begin by asking your child to build simple sentences such as "I like my dog." (The underlined word is for a picture card.) Your child will build the sentence and read it back to you, using an index finger to point to the words while reading aloud. If your child makes a mistake, mention that you see a mistake. Ask your child if he can figure out what it is. If he can, ask him to rearrange the cards to make the sentence correct. If your child cannot, point out what the mistake was and help him correct it. Re-read the corrected sentence and move on.
9. True or False Quiz: Use one set of flash cards for this game. As the quizzer, flash one card at a time using known cards. As you present the card (such as the letter Z), you say "This letter says /b/". Your child will answer either "true" or "false". Present some as "true" answers and some as "false" to make the game interesting. Keep score of how many your child got right!
10. Active Letters: Assign a movement for each letter card (whether upper or lower case). For example A is airplane movements, B is pretending to bounce a ball, C is clap your hands, D is dance in place, etc. As you flash the cards, your child will respond with the corresponding movement. This is a great way to get the wiggles out! Make S stand for sit. It's a great way to end the game.
The key to using games as a learning tool is to keep sessions short and fun. You don't want to wait until your child asks, "Are we done, yet?". Try a variety of games to stimulate your child's interest and promote willing participation. In no time at all, you will have helped your child accomplish more than possible with a flash card drill or worksheet. You may find your child begging you to play again soon!