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Reading Lesson Idea: Word Bank


A Word Bank is a set of flashcards that you or your student make up, and is a good way to practice recognition of sight words, or just for general vocabulary building.

Adapted from Tutoring Techniques for Adults and Older Students by Meg Scholfield. Literacy Solutions, 1997 (also on video).

  • A good supply of 3"x5" index cards.
  • A box to put them in, such as a recipe card box,
  • OR a “D” ring, is available at hardware and stationery stores. If you punch a hole in each card and insert the ring, none of the cards will get lost.
  • How to Make the Cards
    • Make a flash card for each new word. Print each word as it normally appears in print.
    • On the back of the card, write a sentence using the word, preferably one that your student makes up.
    • You can put anything you want on the card to help your student remember, such as a picture cut from a magazine.
    • You can also use different colored ink to emphasize a part that your student is having difficulty remembering. You can even color code the cards according to part of speech. The possibilities are endless.
    • Focus on words that your student wants or needs to learn, sight words, survival words (words they see everyday at home or work) and common irregular words (words that don’t “play fair” and that look different than they sound).
    • For more word suggestions, see also Appendices D and E in Teaching Adults.
  • How to Use the Cards
    • Say the word.
    • Write the word.
    • Ask your student to close her or his eyes and picture the word in the "mind's eye".
    • Put the pencil down. Write each letter with the fingertips (index and middle) or “spray paint” it in the air. While this may seem childish, the practice with large muscles actually helps a student remember the letter sequences.
    • Read the sentence that contains the word.
  • Make sure that your student knows how to pronounce the word and what it means. It is hard to remember something that you can’t say and don’t understand.
  • When you collect enough words, you can do all sorts reinforcement activities with flash cards, including games such as concentration or scrambled sentences. You can put together whole sentences, alphabetize the words, or do word sorts.
  • When you check which words your student knows, remember you are working for instant recognition, i.e. without “sounding out.” You can put a check on the card each time your student says and spells the word correctly. After 5 checks retire the card for awhile, but pull it out again for periodic reviews.
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