A couple months ago, my mom suffered a stroke! Although she's doing well recovering, shortly after the stroke
she didn't even recognize the members of her family. I knew I had to do something to help her regain her memory, as soon as possible.
After leaving the hospital that first night, I jumped onto my computer and created a pile of Flash Cards. The next day I brought them to the hospital. Several times a day we'd hold up a picture to have her name that person. Then we'd show her the name of the person to verify that she was correct, or to help her recognize who that person was if she didn't remember them.
Now you may not have to deal with something so devastating. Maybe you are just trying to teach your little ones how to read or learn their numbers. Or maybe you're just trying to cram for a test and want to test your own memory. This article shows you how easy it is to create your own flash cards.
Store Bought Card Stock
If you want your cards to be more durable than just cut out pieces of paper, I suggest you buy some card stock paper. You create flash cards just like a label, and you may even be able to find perforated card stock paper that has a corresponding label template available within Word.
If you purchase a package of perforated cards, check the number on the box. Open Microsoft Word, and choose Tools|Letters and Mailings|Envelopes and Labels|Labels|Options. In the Label Options dialog box you find a list of all the predesigned label and card templates.
If your particular style number isn't listed, you may find the correct dimensions you need listed under a similar label number. If all else fails, you can click New Label and set custom dimensions for whatever size you need. For more details about using specialty card stock, see this article: Make Your Own Holiday Labels..
Winging It with your Own Design
For my flash cards, I didn't have time to worry about making fancy ones. I just wanted to blast out as many as I could before the next morning. So I simply used some thicker paper I had and created my own template.
Creating your own layout is easy. You just need to dump a table on a page, make a few adjustments, add text or pictures as needed, and print and cut along the dotted lines.
First open a blank document in Word. Choose File|Save As. When the Save As dialog box appears, click the Save as type: dropdown and choose Document Template. The folder path switches to your default template directory. Give the template a name, such as Flashcards and click Save. This blank page is now the start of your master Flash Card template.
Don't forget to press Ctrl + S to resave this document as you move along so you don't lose your work!
Create the Layout
Choose Table|Insert Table to bring up the Insert Table dialog box. You use this dialog box to set the table dimensions you need. Don't worry if you misjudge what you need initially; you can always add/remove rows/columns later, as needed.
For my layout, I used two columns. Although I only planned to place six pictures on a page, I doubled the number of columns so I would have a little flap to fold back, which would hold the name of the person. This way, I could fold back the flap to let mom see only the picture. After she attempted to identify the person, I could pull back the flap with the name to show her if she was correct or not.
I created a table with six rows and two columns, so I had room for six pictures with flaps.
This layout doesn't look very useful yet. It's time to make a few adjustments. First I stretched the table to the size of my page. The easiest/fastest way to do that is to grab the resizing handle of the table. Not many people know about this great little handle. But if you hover your mouse over a table, two handles appear. One is a square with a cross inside, which will appear in the top/left corner of the table. This is the Selection handle. The other is a hollow square that appears in the lower/right corner of the table. This handle lets you resize your table.
I hover my mouse over that handle until the mouse turns into a double arrow. Then I click and drag that handle down the page.
Notice the dotted lines around the page. These lines indicate my page borders or the limits of the page margins I set. To more easily make sure you stick within the margin limits, choose Tools|Options|View and turn on the Text Boundary option, which shows you the limits of your page's workable space.
The table is stretched out to fit the page, but all the cells in the table are the same size, which is not what I needed. Since I've already gone through the process, I can save you some time by letting you know that the dimensions that worked for me were to set the larger picture cells to 2.5" and the cells that fold back with the name to 0.75".
To set the heights for the rows, you need to select each row in turn. Choose Table|Table Properties|Row to set the height needed. You can cheat a bit by clicking anywhere within the first row, clicking Table|Table Properties|Row|Next Row and then clicking Previous Row. Your cursor jumps down, so you can select the entire second row and then jump back to select the entire first row. Alternatively, if you're good with your mouse, you can move your mouse outside the margin to the left Selection Area where your mouse cursor arrow reverses direction. It will switch from pointing to the left to pointing to the right. This change lets you know you are in the correct location. When you click, you select the entire row.
Now you can set the 2.5" height for the first row and click Next Row to set the next row to 0.75". Continue moving down the rows, setting the heights you need as you go.
The resulting page has six larger cells where you can either type in your study questions, add large alphanumeric characters to teach your child, or insert pictures or clipart images (as I did). The smaller cell under each larger cell serves as the place to type the answer. Sure, you could create flash cards with the answers printed on the back, but if you don't have a duplex printer, it takes more time to flip the printed pages. (And I didn't have time to waste fiddling with my printer!)
Normally I would tell you to set a font size or even a style within the row where you'll be typing the answer. But because I was in a rush, I just cheated and used a great font-sizing shortcut to set the size as large as possible for each answer, depending on the amount of content. I selected the answer text and pressed Ctrl + Shift + > to make the selected text larger or Ctrl + Shift + < to make it smaller.
These shortcuts make text larger or smaller by proportional increments. For more precise size adjustments to selected text, you can use the Ctrl + [ or Ctrl + ] (brackets) shortcut, which makes text larger/smaller by single increments.
Creating the Flash Card Documents
Once you're satisfied with the layout, be sure to save it and close the template. You need to close the template because if you add details now, that info would be saved to the master template. In other words, it would appear on every new document created from this master layout template. That is not what you want.
After you close the template, choose File|New and find your Flashcard template. Click it to create a new document from this master. Notice that this new file is currently called Document 1, because you haven't yet saved this new file. After you add your questions, clipart, photos and answers, save the file as something like Flash01.doc. Then you can close it, choose File|New, select your Flashcard.dot template again and create yet another document from this master layout. Keep going until you've created all the documents you need.
In my case, for my flashcards, I wanted to include photos of family members so mom could try to identify the people in the pictures. To add photos, choose Insert|Picture|From File. To see the photos, switch the view to either Thumbnails or Preview.
If you are creating flash cards for a small child (or a stroke victim) you might want to take advantage of the many clipart images that come with Word. To access those, choose Insert|Picture|Clipart to bring up the Clipart Task Pane. In the Task Pane, you can search for the types of images you want. Just right click the image you like, and choose Insert to add it to your document.
If you need to adjust the size of your image, click on it and drag one of the corner handles. You don't want to drag the top or side handles, as doing so will distort the image. By using a corner handle, you will ensure that the image retains its proper proportions.
Remember to type the answers to each card in the smaller row. Below is a sample of one of my flash card photo sheets.
If you want to add the traditional cut along the dotted line borders, you can select the table and choose Format|Border and Shading. Click the Border tab and change the line settings.
Then print your page. Cut the cards out so that each one is an image (or printed question or clipart image) with the answer to identify each one under it. Fold the answer back under the card. You'll now have a deck of cards that you can view, or show to others, to try to come up with the name or answer needed. Flip the answer flap back to see if the correct information was provided.
The flash cards proved to be a great way for mom to get started retraining her brain. In fact, the speech therapist was impressed that we moved quickly to get this type of training going. Whether it's a stroke victim or student, it's important to move as fast as you can to get that brain learning!
Plus, you'll be happy to know that mom can now identify everyone in the family ;-)