Flashcards for teaching on – and off – line

Sun Wei Huan's projectIf you’ve been a reader on here any length of time, you know that we’re a work-at-home, homeschooling family. Last autumn, I started something I never thought I’d do – teaching children online.

Now, I started working as a school teacher almost 30 years ago (crazy!) and this is our eleventh year as homeschoolers. And I work for my (adult) clients on a fairly regular basis, mostly through teleconferencing.

But this was different. I started teaching very young (preK) children to speak English. It’s been a lot of (very) early mornings, but it’s also been an unqualified success and, well, a lot of fun.

It amazes me how much we all have in common. There may be 7000 miles and a language difference between us, but I see children who are just like all the ones I’ve worked with here — and moms just like us, dealing with squabbles and cuddles.

Teaching live lessons online with little ones has required (yet another) adjustment in my teaching style. When our oldest began formal schoolwork, I quickly realized that my keep–the-attention-in-an-overcrowded-classroom style was not the best way to work with one lone kindergartener. I had to do a great deal of breaking habits and building new ones to support my son learning to learn independently. Be there to help… but not too much there.

Online? Well, I’m dealing with things I never thought about: lighting! cameras! makeup! ethernet cables! I mean, gracious, I hadn’t used anything but wifi for years before this. Many teachers fret about their background. I did at first, but I quickly realized a few things:

  1. I wanted my name displayed
  2. I wanted a space to display visuals
  3. I did not want the rest of the things in my teaching space to show (think discarded props, coffee pot, a shawl for those cold winter mornings…

My solution was a very large whiteboard. When I started, we were staying temporarily in a house we were doing repairs in. My husband rigged slots using 3M to hold it up with no damage to the walls. The same whiteboard was installed permanently here in my office in our new home. The best part? It’s magnetic.

first, we readI do write on it occasionally, but I find even the big markers just aren’t truly fat enough to be seen well on camera. I have about four feet between the whiteboard and my camera – I want that space to move around when I need to.

Last week, I was doing work for a client I came across the merchant for these magnetic flashcards who was seeking reviews. Truth, I was a bit skeptical – mostly because of the price. I mean, they looked great, but come on, they’re flashcards. I use Instant Ink and print and laminate most of my props – it’s convenient, they last, and Instant Ink makes it super cheap. But I thought I’d toss my hat in the ring to check on them and report back to you. The merchant was kind enough to offer me a discount on both the upper and lower case set.

I was impressed from the moment I opened the packages. I had already begun to seek out storage for the flashcards – I hate it when things get lost! But these cards come in high-quality strong boxes. They’re pretty and sturdy, and these boxes will stand up to many openings and closing by large and small hands alike.

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The flashcards themselves are nice and large, and very colorful. The uppercase set contains 26 cards, one for each letter. The lowercase set contains 36 cards: the entire alphabet plus 10 additional vowel cards.

And – while the boxes are great… I think I’m never going to use them. They have made such a huge difference with my online students, I find I’m keeping them out nearly all the time. I teach six mornings a week. Each day when I finish, I just shuffle them into the order I need for the next day’s lessons. I plan to put up enough magnetic surface in my office that I can have all sixty-two flashcards just an arm’s reach away. Yes, that’s how much I’m using these.

These are a great option for homeschooling, too. My boys are older now (this summer, for the first time in ten years… no one is in elementary summer programming. We’re all secondary now!). So, we don’t have a big need for these now. But as little as five years ago, we had Bananagrams, foam letter cut outs, Scrabble Slam cards, baby letter blocks… we spelled with anything and everything. These would have been a bright, cheerful, colorful and practical addition to my kitchen. I’m quite certain little hands would have been making words at any time of day (and quite possibly, big hands, too).

I actually wish I’d had these when my boys were learning the basics of grammar. Now, I’m finding it’s making it so much easier to get across – to really see – the difference between common and proper nouns.

IMG_6976IMG_6977You can find both sets of these flashcards on Amazon, and they’re available with Prime or Super Saver shipping. Click here to see the uppercase set, and click here for the lower case set. You can also click on the image, and go straight to the listings.

If you’d like to learn more about teaching online, please feel free to contact me, or click here to visit the company I work for. It’s not a perfect fit for everyone, but it’s been an easy, seamless way for me to bring in more income without losing any time with my family.