There’s a time and a place for flashcards

There are so many different ways for students to study and learn effectively. If you ask them which one they rely on, though, most will say the “F” word. No, not THAT one, this one: Flashcards.

Yes, those small, square(ish) pieces of paper with questions on one side and answers on the other definitely top the study charts. Unfortunately, many students use them — or their digital counterparts such as Quizlet — as their ONLY method of studying.

This is not to say that anyone should do away with flashcards – far from it!  When used at the right time during the study routine, they are powerful study tools. The thing is, students need to learn when to use flashcards and why.

When should students use flashcards?

Towards the end of the study routine — after they’ve already read, re-read, and reorganized information other ways. (Visual tools like Brain Frames are perfect for this!)  Displaying information in a visual format helps the brain retain and later recall it. That’s the part of the study routine that gets skipped when students jump right to flashcards.

Once students have spent time going through those first few study activities, then it’s time to grab a deck of index cards and flashcard away! 

Why should students use flashcards?

By posing questions on one side and writing the answers on the other, students create their own self-test. This lets them be the judge of effective their studying has been up to that point. 

If they find themselves unable to answer any of the questions without looking at the back of the card, that’s a sign that they may need to go back to an earlier study point and get more information. If they know most but not all of the answers, they can put the cards that they know aside. Self-awareness paves the way to using time wisely and reviewing concepts they are having trouble remembering.

Using flashcards after completing other study activities makes for a more strategic and comprehensive study routine.

If you want to teach students to study effectively, then help them put flashcards in their place!