Instructional interventions need to address targeted skills and:
- Be explicitly taught,
- Address appropriate level of instruction and challenge,
- Offer high opportunities to respond successfully,
- Provide immediate feedback.
Flash cards are a common strategy for helping students. However, too often flash card strategies are used incorrectly or haphazardly. Ideally, professional development in these approaches can become part of every district's home-school professional development protocol. There are actually three research-based approaches for using flash cards:
- Traditional Training;
- Interspersal Training (Drill Sandwich);
- Incremental Rehearsal.
Traditional Training: 100% unknown facts/words
- Set of cards shown to student one at a time with instructor giving correct answer and student repeating fact/word and answer
- Set of cards shown again with student respondingCorrect response: acknowledge with positive feedbackIncorrect response: overcorrection and immediate feedback
- Set repetition based on time and student achievement (8 trials typical
Interspersal Training: Typically 30% unknown to 70% known facts/words
- Unknown facts/words read and answered by instructor with student repetition
- Intersperse the unknowns with the knowns in an order such asK1-U1-U2-U3-K2-U1-U2-U3-K3 -U1-U2-U3-K4-U1-U2-U3-K5 -U1-U2-U3-K6-U1-U2-U3-K7-U1-U2-U3-
- Set repetition based on time and student achievement (8 trials typical)Correct response: acknowledge with positive feedbackIncorrect response: overcorrection and immediate feedback
Incremental Rehearsal: 10% unknown to 90% known
- Unknown fact/word read and answered by instructor with student repetition
- Rehearse the unknown with the known in specific order
- 1st Unknown – 1st Known
- 1st Unknown – 1st K – 2nd K
- 1st Unknown – 1st K – 2nd K – 3rd K
- 1st Unknown – 1st K – 2nd K – 3rd K – 4th K
- 1st Unknown – 1st K – 2nd K – 3rd K – 4th K – 5th K
- 1st Unknown – 1st K – 2nd K – 3rd K - 4th K – 5th K -6th K
- 1st Unknown – 1st K – 2nd K – 3rd K - 4th K – 5th K -6th K– 7th K
- 1st Unknown – 1st K – 2nd K – 3rd K - 4th K – 5th K -6th K – 7th K – 8th K
- 1st Unknown – 1st K– 2nd K– 3rd K- 4th K– 5th K-6th K– 7th K– 8th K– 9th K
- Move 1st Unknown to 1st Known position – Remove 9th Known – add 2nd Unknown
Repeat set with each targeted fact/word moving 1st unknown to the 1st known position and removing the 9th known
Correct response: acknowledge with positive feedback
Incorrect response: provide immediate correction
Basic, foundational skills must be acquired before attainment of more complex concepts and higher order thinking skills. Students who do not have automaticity with basic skills struggle to stay “on grade level” and maintain interest. Failure to attain these basic skills negatively effects overall academic competency. For Math, basic skills include operation and numeration facts. For reading, basic skills include phonemic awareness and sight words. One approach for increasing basic skills is the effective use of flash cards as an intervention to increase student’s automaticity. For example, when done well, flash card interventions can be effective with:
- Improving sight word fluency
- Mastering basic math facts
- Helping English language learners' vocabulary development
Anderson, C.J. (April 30, 2017) Approaches to Using Flash Cards for Skill Development. [Web log post]
Retrieved from http://www.ucan-cja.blogspot.com/
Burns, M. (2005). Using incremental rehearsal to increase fluency of single-digit multiplication
facts with children identified as learning disabled in mathematics computation.
Education and Treatment of Children, 28, 237-249.
Burns, M. (2009). Interspersal technique and behavioral momentum for reading word lists.
School Psychology Review, 38, 428-434.
MacQuarrie, L., Tucker, J., Burns, M. & Hartman, B. (2002). Comparison of retention rates
using traditional, drill sandwich, and incremental rehearsal flash card methods.
School Psychology Review, 31, 584-595.
Nist, L. & Joseph, L. (2008). Effectiveness and efficiency of flashcard drill instructional methods
on urban first-graders’ word recognition, acquisition, maintenance, and generalization.
School Psychology Review, 37, 294-308.