Flash Cards for Teaching Reading

flash card supplyIf your child likes flash cards, make lots of them for her. This is a portion of my son's hefty supply.

Flash cards can be very useful tools for learning to read. Here I will describe how I taught my autistic son to read using this very simple technique.

I had tried a phonics book with C. It was the same one that I had used for teaching my older son how to read, and it worked just fine for him. But it was not working well for C.

So I decided to try using these letter, blend and word cards to teach him to read.

This worked well for him because he likes them so much and learns well using them. And of course I also made sure he knew all the letters of the alphabet and their sounds before moving on to words.


Easy to Make and Easy on the Budget

I made the cards myself with colorful markers and index cards. I wrote one word on each card, and sometimes two or three words per card for terms such as “candy cane.” Each word or term was a different color.

All I did was write every word I could think of and then practice sounding out the words with him.

I modeled the process of sounding out each word by pointing to each letter and moving my finger along as I sounded it out. I didn’t pause or break between sounds.

For example, if I were sounding out the word "man," I would say “mmmmaaaaaannnnnn” to emphasize each sound. Then I would speed it up to the normal pace -- "man" -- so he could hear how it's supposed to sound.

I knew that C would have trouble learning phonics rules and applying them. So I chose to stick with modeling the process of sounding out each word.

And C gave himself lots of extra practice. He liked his cards so much that he spent hours each day flipping through his cards even when I wasn’t working with him.

I knew he would need to generalize or apply his new skills to a real reading situation, so I also read stories with him a lot.

If you decide to try this, it's a good idea to start with letters, blends and diphthongs. 

Then move on to simple two-letter words, then three-letter words and then words with four letters.

As your child gets better at reading, you can introduce harder words, such as "security" or "appropriate", depending on her reading level. You want to challenge her just enough without frustrating her.

It's also a good idea to include any words that describe things your child is experiencing or doing.

I wrote this "satsuma" flash card because at the time we were eating a lot of satsumas, a type of seedless mandarin orange.

Major Dread was the bad guy in my son's favorite video, "The Super Kids."  I still think the name Major Dread is just too funny.

You can tell by these well-worn cards that my son was really into flash cards.

And this is obviously nothing fancy. Just some index cards, some colorful magic markers, and the determination to help a child learn to read.

Fancy educational tools can be nice, but my son loved these cards and he didn't seem to care that they weren't professionally made.


Result of Using Flash Cards

Because he was nonverbal, I couldn’t tell that he was actually learning to read. That is, until one day he suddenly started reading the words out loud. I was so shocked I almost had to pick myself up off of the floor!

C was about 8 years old at the time. Unfortunately, this speech disappeared after about three months of reading his cards out loud. That was disappointing to say the least, but I did learn that he really could read those words, and that was valuable knowledge for me.

And the knowledge that he once had some speech would in the future be valuable information for his speech therapist to consider. When I met her, she said, “If he's ever had speech, we can get it out of him.”

Of course, it’s not likely that all children will gravitate to this tool as my son did.  But some children will.

There’s a principle here that we can all apply: make use of what your child likes to help her learn important skills such as reading, writing, math, etc.

If she has a favorite toy or a favorite activity, think about how you could use that for lessons or for therapy.

But I highly recommend giving this approach a try. It will cost you very little time and money to see if it works for your child. What is more, I can honestly say that reading is one of C’s greatest strengths, and I believe the flash cards technique is a major reason for it.


Need More Help With Teaching Reading?

I'm sure some among us can come up with our own reading curriculum and materials, such as what I've described in this article, and that's great.

But many of us and our children need more help.  And that's okay.  It's important to recognize when we and our children need that extra help.

I've recently learned about a fantastic resource called SightWords.com. This reading resource company can give you that extra help that you and your child need to help her reach her potential in reading.

SightWords.com has just introduced a great new curriculum for teaching reading using the phonetic approach, sponsored by the Georgia Preschool Association.  

Their site is also filled with games, activities and tools to help parents and educators prepare children for learning to read, including FREE and printable materials that are designed to promote learning in the classroom and at home.

On their site you will also find:

  • A curriculum covering the full range of phonological and phonemic awareness
  • Classroom-tested lessons based on the latest research, complete with "how-to" videos
  • Printable picture cards, word lists, and game boards
  • Teaching tips for tailoring games to the specific needs of your children or students

And they even have free flash cards that you can download and print out for your child.

So check out SightWords.com as I'm sure the information and materials on their site could greatly benefit your child.


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