Many homeschoolers, educators and parents use flash cards to teach a child to read and write – repetition is ideal when learning something new. Flash cards can be used with a small group or with just two people. They also provide the perfect review lesson.
Flash cards are an inexpensive teaching tool that can be quickly assembled – all you need is paper and a marker. Using lower-case letters and a marker, write the letter(s) or word(s), e.g. sight word, synonym, on an index card. To ensure that the words on each card are facing the same direction, cut off the upper left-hand corner.
Flash cards can be used to teach a child
- Phonics (see our teaching tips,
- Sight words,
- Sentence Building,
- Spelling Words, and
- Vocabulary Words,
Phonics Flash Cards
Flash cards are a great tool when teaching letter-sound relationships. Begin with the easy consonants and short vowels. Using an index card, write the upper- and lower-case letter and ask your child to draw a picture below it, e.g. draw an apple for the letter A. Once your child masters the short vowel sounds, create index cards for CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) word families, e.g. red, bed, mop, top.
Repetition is critical when learning sight words. Many of these words are phonetically irregular, as a result, they are taught as a whole word. Using flash cards to teach sight words is an excellent exercise that can be both educational and entertaining. Begin with those words that are commonly found in print, e.g. the, of, and, a, to. Interestingly, 4 out of the 5 most common words are phonetically irregular – a child should memorize how to read and spell these and over 100 additional high frequency often phonetically irregular words. After a child learns some sight words, incorporate a sight word blitz – quickly say the word on each flash card. Playing sight word games with flash cards make learning sight words fun.
Synonym Flash Cards
Synonyms are words that have similar meanings. The table below contains synonyms that are commonly found in printed material.
|all-every||go-leave||little – small|
|before-in front of||have-own||might – may|
|below-under||keep-hold||put – place|
|often-many times||leave-go away||stop – end|
Antonym Flash Cards
Antonyms are words that have opposite meanings. The table below contains antonyms that are commonly found in printed material.
|above – below||go – come||get, take – give|
|after – before||great – small||new-old|
|back – front||high – low||no – yes|
|bad – good||in – out||old – young|
|big – little||large – small||on-off|
|black – white||last – first||over – under|
|close – open||left – right||right – wrong|
|cold – hot||more – less||start, go – stop|
|day – night||little – big||tall – short|
|end – begin||long – short||to – from|
|even – odd||more – less||toward – away|
|fast – slow||near – far||up – down|
Homophones Flash Cards
Homophones are words that sound the same but have different meanings and often different spellings. The table below contains homophones that are commonly found in printed material.
|ate – eight||hole – whole||our – hour|
|be – bee||I – eye||red – read|
|blew – blue||its – it’s||right – write|
|by – buy – bye||made – maid||see – sea|
|for – four||new – knew||sell – cell|
|here – hear||no – know||some – sum|
|hi – high||one – won||sun – son|
Sentence Building Flash Cards
Flash cards can be used to build sentences. For example, introduce the following sight words: I, am, see & a. Write each sight word on an index card. Ask your child to complete the sentences, “I am a _____.” and “I see a ______.” Using a blank index card, draw a picture to complete the sentence, e.g. girl, dog. Line up the flash cards and read the sentence with your child.
Tips When Using Flash Cards
Prior to “flashing” the cards, review them with your child.
- Select a small number of cards, e.g. begin with five cards.
- Show the card and slowly say the name and sound of the letter(s) or read the word(s).
- Ask your child to say the name and sound of the letter(s) or read the word(s).
- Using your pointer finger, point to each letter as you say the sound or spell/read the word.
- Ask your child to say the sound or spell/read the word.
- Using a journal or paper, ask your child to write the letter(s) or word(s).
When ready, mix up the cards and begin “flashing” them. Your child should quickly say the word. If your child struggles with a word or words, patiently provide assistance. Gradually add news words and always review previously taught ones.
Fry, E.B., Ph.D. (1999). 1000 Instant Words. Westminster, CA: Teacher Created Materials.
Fry, E.B., Ph.D. & Kress, J.E., Ed.D. (2006). The Reading Teacher’s Book of Lists 5th Edition. Sanfransico, CA: Jossey Bass.
Vaugh, S & Linan-Thompson, S (2004). Research-Based Methods of Reading Instruction. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.