Using Word Cards in Reading Instruction


Tips for Using Word Cards in Reading Instruction


1) Don’t use word cards with words the student has never encountered. Word cards are for practicing words used in instruction, not for long lists of words never encountered before.

2) Create word cards with words from a reader or book that your student is working through with you right now. Reading words in context (with pictures, sentence rhythm, etc.) is easier than isolated words. I like to be sure my student knows the words out of context. You can test to see if the word needs added to your word card stack by writing the word on the board. If there is instant recognition, then it probably doesn’t need to go on a card. If there is guessing or cues needed, then it could go in the word card stack.


Using Word Cards in Reading Instruction


3) Once many words are added to your stack of cards, divide them into difficulty level so that the student has a pretty successful pack; a needs some help pack; etc. And don’t do all of them at once—this will be too many word cards at once and can get discouraging.


4) Add words from one family all to the same stack. For example, all at words in one stack together (as opposed to dividing into different stacks/collections). This gives the student a chance to practice the same family at once—and you have the one family all together to use as needed for further instruction.


5) Add sight words from the books you are reading. Do not add random sight words or too many at one time. We call these Remember Words because she has to remember them—but I still point out any phonetic components to them as we work through them. Give all the tricks, cues, and tools that you can.


6) I like to do the cards after she reads a book or two to me. (We are still in Bob Books for this student, so the books are short.) This way she has had success in context before using isolated words.


7) Develop a protocol for guessing words. In the video, I use my “punishment time” approach—which is a little joke that we have. When she guesses a word that does not at least begin with the first letter of the word on the card, I say, “Punishment time…what is this letter?” She has to say the letter then I say, “What sound does it make?” And she has to say the sound. BOTH things. This makes her not want to randomly guess the words because it annoys her to have to say the letter then its sound. It is a quick way to break a student from guessing the word—the student at least should guess a word that starts with that sound!  🙂 It’s not real punishment—just our joke. But if the word punishment bothers you (or your student), you could call it “First Letter Rule” or “No Guess Rule” or something like that. Guessing is fine, but if the student isn’t at least looking at the first letter in guessing, it can become a really bad habit.


Hope these tips help! What else can I help you with in your language arts, reading, writing, grammar, spelling, speech, or word analysis teaching?


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