How to Write with Word Cards

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Today’s notebook paper topic is: Writing with Word Cards. This is a little tidbit I’ve shared before within another blog post and I thought it would be worth mentioning again all on its own. I started using this with Rebecca, our 10th grader, was very young and it still works today with her and with her younger brothers.

How to Write with Word Cards

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Pros & Cons of Using the Writing Cards

In this example, we used Story Starters by Karen Andreola as our inspiration for writing. Actually, Karen provides a lot of writing helps already within her text, but using word cards is just one more tool in my writing toolbox for my kids.

You can use this technique with creative or more technical writing- with a curriculum focus or free writing/something you put together as a writing prompt.

  • Pick out key items– use the cards as a way to help your students focus on the important elements in their writing.
  • Focus on word variety– this is a great strategy for older students in their writing
  • Use as an accommodation– for students with ADHD or other executive function impairing neurodivergences. This is a good way to help your students start the assignment.
  • Put together poetry– with a set of word cards

The downside is that a set of word cards may sort of lead your kids down one path vs another depending on the words you provide. In this example, I added the word storm to the list though none occurs in the prompt- so it’s definitely a leading sort of word.

How to Make the Word Cards

It’s a pretty simple thing to make the word cards.

I almost always opt for the method that doesn’t take me longer to make than it will my kids to do the activity. We’ll call it work/life balance.

  • Get some index cards– they can be white or with color
  • Turn the card– so that it is vertical and easy to write a list on
  • Write the words– with enough space between them to cut them apart.
  • Cut the card– between each word so that you have a little word card ready to go!

Of course, you can type a list on the computer and cut the paper into word slips, but this is one reason I love notebook paper so much. It doesn’t take much doing to grab and index card and write five to six words on it.

When you are working with ADHD and neurodivergent kids and teens, you need to act fast when the time comes so you don’t miss the window.

The computer requires me type and save the file and get it printed and cut.

Working with Word Cards

How does it work? I provide the cards in a library pocket based on the prompt. The cards have words on them that must occur somewhere in the student’s story.

  • You can have a student look at all the cards and begin writing or
  • you can have them choose a card one by one (from inside the pocket) and add a sentence to their story using that word- this works pretty well for new writers.
  • Of course all the self-editing and editing parts of the process remain the same, but the word cards give some more framework for the written response.
  • It also adds a kinesthetic approach to writing if only in a small way.

Again, this is a quick and thorough way to enter the writing process for a student and provides another way to coach your student on his writing. You can even make the word cards from notebook paper, but in this case I used index cards.

Notebook paper is a flexible tool to use with word cards. I usually have my 5th grader skip lines and write on every other line- another way to modify the use of wide ruled paper with younger students. Skipping lines allows their writing to be spread out more and provides more room for editing.

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  1. I love this idea! I think I'll try it out with my daughter this week to practice her new vocab words from the Prairie Primer. Thanks for sharing.

  2. This is an amazing idea! How many words would you say to start out with for a VERY reluctant writer? Thank you so much for sharing your idea.

    1. With a very reluctant writer? How about just using all the words you give him. Maybe only do three words instead of 5 or 6 and have him write one sentence for each word.

      This one is my idea, but you would probably like Games for Writing by Peggy Kaye. She has tons of ideas for reluctant writers.

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