Rethinking Flash Cards

Flashcards: the most over-used but under-utilized study aid. Latin students, I’m sure you’ve already been making use of them. But read through this list of ways to make sure they really work for you!

Flashcards: Tips & Tricks

  • Make the cards go twice as far. I got this great idea from a language-learning book: take the 3 x 5 cards and turn them vertically. Write one term at the top, and then flip it towards you and write the definition on the top of the back. Flip back to the front side, rotate the face of the card so that the blank space is at the top, and write another term. On the other side, write the definition. Voila! Two for the price of one.
  • Doodle on them. Add symbols to your flashcards for extra memorability. If you really don’t feel comfortable drawing, you can give them Latin words differently-colored borders classified by declension, conjugation, gender, endings, governing grammar rules… Or, use different colors of pen for different words in different categories. Doing this type of thing (I call them “metacognitive organizing strategies”) works words and concepts deeper into your long-term memory since you are noting and encoding connections, similarities, and differences into your mind from the very beginning!
  • Use them for games. Why do we waste so much time playing Free Cell? (Well, I used to, before motherhood!) Mindless card games are, unfortunately, lots of fun. But what if we played games with (flash)cards that helped us retain study material? Here are two game suggestions, one played solo and one with a helper:
    • Paper pop quiz:  (Before you begin, have a snack ready to reward yourself for an A or a B.) Take the flash cards, make a stack, and count them. Number the lines of a sheet of notebook paper, up to as many numbers as there are cards. Grab your stack of flash cards and look at just the front sides. Write down each answer, card by card, without flipping them over yet. After you get to the last line, check your answers. Grade yourself by dividing the total number right by total number of cards, and then multiplying by 100. 91-100% = A,  81-90% = B, etc.
    • Helpful Hints: If you can find a friend (or sibling or spouse), you can play this game even if s/he doesn’t know Latin. Whoever ends this game with the most points wins. For every card you can correctly answer right away when your friend flashes it, you get to tally a point. When you come to a card you don’t know, you have two options: 1) put it in the “don’t know” stack for a penalty of -5 points for you and +5 points for your friend, or 2) ask for a little hint, such as the first letter, or the number of letters in the word. For each hint that you ask for and have to use, deduct two points from your total and add two to your friend’s. Be sure to reward yourself afterwards if you win the most points–and thank your patient friend either way.
  • Store them for easy use. With a hole punch and a binder ring, you can ensure your flashcards’ long and happy life. Easy to find and keep together, flashcards stored this way will be organized and quickly to hand. This storage method allows you to study easily in those odd moments when you might otherwise waste time on social media. (Just lookin’ out for ya there!)

If you have always despised using flashcards to study with, I hope you will give them a second chance. They provide several benefits for your study efforts, and you need all the help you can get with the massive amount of Latin data you have to internalize. Think they’re just too boring? They’re only as boring as you let them be, as we have seen. Okay, stop reading this now and get studying!

2 thoughts on “Rethinking Flash Cards

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  1. I bought a box of 1000 blank flash cards (2 in. x 3 in.) in 5 colors and rings from Staples for under $15. It made making flash cards so much easier!


    1. 1000? Fantastic! You must be planning on learning a LOT of Latin words! 🙂 I’ll have to check and see if our office supply store has anything similar!


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