We all know that flashcards are beneficial for our students- In fact studies (such as Kornell) have shown that flashcards help students work on memory skills and critically analyze their own learning abilities. But despite this strong evidence based on the advantages of flashcards, do we use them to their full potential in the music classroom?
When I ask music teachers if they use flashcards in the classroom often they tell me a straight out No! When I ask them why not, usually I find they tell me that it’s all too hard. You’ve got to make the right set of flashcards, you’ve got to come up with the idea and you have to find a way to make it age appropriate. So when I hear all these reasons it all sounds way to painful to prepare for on top of everything else in a teachers life and I totally understand why teachers don’t use them.
The truth is Music Flashcards really can help students to learn musical terms and music theory concepts effectively. Using flashcards can be a fun, engaging and quick revision tool for all ages- all you need are the right ideas for your student age groups. Recently I asked a collegue what her five favourite ideas were and she was very happy to share her top five ideas with the wider music teaching community in order to serve as a beginning point to a discussion on this topic:
1. Memory Matching Game (for Elementary/ Primary Students)
You can play as a class and divide the class into two teams or divide the students into smaller groups for this game. For this activity, you need to have one side of the cards blank. Set out the flashcards on the floor or on the whiteboard with magnets with the pictures facing away from the students. Have a student try to find a pair (ex. treble clefs or two same rhythm notes). If they find a matching pair, they can hold the pair of cards and go again. If they do not, then it is the next student’s turn. The student or team with the most flashcards at the end wins the game.
2. Dynamic Animal Dance Party (for Primary Students)
Play a fun game of dance freeze as another strategy for using flashcards in the music classroom. Every time the music stops, students freeze in place. Show them a fun
flashcard from the Dynamics Set and choose the name of an animal. Students then dance like that animal at the correct dynamic. For example, students can dance like loud (forte) alligators or quiet (piano) penguins.
For more fun music flashcard variations, add in the Italian Terms like largo and allegro to teach students how to dance slowly and quickly.
3. Flashcard Jeopardy (For Secondary, Junior High or Middle School Students)
Use this fun flashcard idea by imitating the popular game show Jeopardy. Divide the class into two teams. Write five music categories on the board. If you are using the Ultimate Flashcard Set, you can use the categories “Dynamics”, “Time Signatures”, “Italian Terms”, “Intervals”, and “Symbols and Ornaments”. Divide each category into several boxes, in increasing numbers of points. For example, the first box in the category “Dynamics” is worth 100 points, the second is worth 200 points, and so on.
Students select a category and point number. Show the students the flashcard symbol. If they guess correctly they win points for the their team. The team with the most points wins. You can also use this game for a quick music assessment quiz.
4. Flashcard Composition (For Secondary/Junior High Students)
You can use flashcards for musical concepts like composition and music theory. Take a few different Ultimate Flashcard System sets, like the Dynamics Set, Italian Music Terminology Set, and Time Signature Set.
Each student or group chooses one card per category and needs to create a short composition using these parameters. For example, the composition can be quiet (piano), in 3/4, and adagio. Students can compose for an instrument, voice, clapping and stomping, or even an iPhone. You may give them a class period or a few class periods to complete the composition. Students perform their compositions for the class, using the flashcards as visual guides.
5. Flashcard Improvisation (For junior high Jazz Band Students)
Use a combination of flashcards like dynamics, scales, tempos, and rhythms. Start the jazz ensemble in a simple swing style using a blues scale. In the improvisation section, have each student play four bars of solo based on a few cards. Give each student at least three flashcards to choose from during their improvisation. For fun, pick up an instrument and join in!
Remember these five ideas are only the beginning!! These are five simple ideas from one great teacher- imagine what we’d come up together with if we shared the experiences of our whole music teaching community together. So Now I’d love to hear your ideas!! What is your single best idea for using flashcards in the music classroom? Write your feedback in the comment box below and tell us what age group your idea applies to and how to do it- feel free to link to any videos you might know about etc- to help benefit the whole music teaching community by making ideas for using flashcards easy to find.