We’re all familiar with the tried and true recipe for creating flash cards. You start with a pack of index cards. You add a term or question on one side. On the back, you put the definition or answer. Once you shuffle the deck, you’re ready to start studying or testing your knowledge.

Interested in trying a new recipe? If so, then explore digital flash cards. Following my own advice, I put on my “teacher hat,” to check out several offerings. I took the perspective of a Grade 6 teacher of students with a wide range of diverse abilities and needs. 

What I liked about Study Stack was the ease of creating a personalized stack of flash cards, choosing either a question/answer or term/definition. You give your stack a name, describe what it is, and start adding items. You can keep your stack private, allow others to view it, and even allow editing.  Then once your stack is ready, you might choose to study, or create challenge yourself by playing one of the many games offered (e.g., matching, hangman, crossword, and many others). You can also take a quiz or a test. I think the variety of self-selected activities would motivate struggling learners to work with content. 

For some students with language difficulties and those with disabilities, using a pre-developed set of flash cards would help them to build vocabulary. Inside Story Flashcards offers you and your students different sets of ready-made flashcards divided into four levels: basic, easy, medium, and hard. Each card includes a term, an image (usually a photograph), and a definition, which you can show or hide. The stack can be printed, as well, for tactile learners who need to handle a pack of cards. While Inside Story Flashcards offers only a limited set of words, without giving users the ability to play games, it does serve a purpose in helping struggling students to build vocabulary in specific areas.

I shifted attention to FlashtoPass, a free math flash card app available for iOS and Android. It’s a simple app to use for practicing math operations. You can select the operation, the difficulty level, and the particular number, 1-12, to concentrate on. A two-minute clock counts down. If you get the correct answer, you just move on. If you get the wrong answer, the item just keeps appearing, without verbal or written feedback. Given that the teacher, student, and/or parent, can determine the focus and difficulty level of the questions, makes it useful for struggling students. With no log in or registration, it’s easy to just get going.

Study, practice, games, and quizzes with flash cards, all have their place in supporting the learning process. But they only go so far. As we all know, at the heart of education is good teaching; that’s what makes the difference. The overall purpose of PowerUp WHAT WORKS is to support teachers, helping them to effectively differentiate instruction in English Language Arts and Math to ensure all students learn. Check out the 12 ELA and 8 Math Instructional Strategy Guides for suggestions about how best to implement evidence-based practices, enhanced with technology tools. Find ways to make judicious use of digital flashcards. 

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