October 27, 2013

A is for America Flashcards Review

Children's book author Tom Maloney recently contacted me to share that he had created sets of 20 flashcards for each of the United States for use with students, the project appropriately names A is for America.  Maloney invited me to choose a set to review, and of course I selected my home state Illinois.  As a 3rd/4th multigrade teacher, I teach about the history and geography of Illinois every other year as part of our 4th grade social studies curriculum.  I agreed to review this product in hopes that I'll be able to incorporate it into my instruction next year.  (This year we are on 3rd grade curriculum, super boring study of "Our Community"...)
The Illinois set included 20 words--obviously that means there is not a card for each letter of the alphabet; it seems that Maloney instead decided to choose the most relevant words and facts about Illinois.  I have to appreciate this as sometimes ABC books can get a little...creative...with their pairings of letters.  On the front of each card is the vocabulary word, ex. "B is for Bridge," with the fact displayed on the reverse side in a short rhyme, ex. "Old Chain of Rocks Bridge, Madison, Illinois.  Let the fact about this bridge be known and unfurled, For it is recognized as one of the longest pedestrian and bicycle bridges in the world."  (Huh, who knew?!  I guess I have a lot to learn about Illinois!)

I really liked the short nature of each fact--very manageable for kids to read--and the rhymes.  Cute, catchy, and informative.  The only thing I would really like to see improved is some color.  We all know that kids are more likely to pick something up to read if it is eye catching, and the cards are pretty plain--white backgrounds and plain black letters.  I would love to see color, and more importantly pictures of these historical landmarks and sites, added to the cards.

Maloney also included a list of ideas for ways to use the cards in the classroom, something which I always appreciate in an educational product, as well as a corresponding word search.  I'm not much of a worksheet teacher, but word searches are always a fun homework or filler activity.  Since we take a trip to our state capital, Springfield, on the years we study Illinois, I will definitely be filing the word search away as a bus activity!

Overall, I will definitely use these cards in my classroom next year when we study Illinois.  I was able to download the set of 20 flashcards as a pdf, but if you purchase them through the website, you will receive a set of sturdy, laminated cards.  Since mine are digital, I plan to print them on colored cardstock, laminate them, and hole punch the corners to store them on a ring.  This way, they will make a short flip book for kids to read and learn about Illinois.

Thank you to Tom Maloney for the opportunity!

Disclaimer: I was provided with a digital set of cards and corresponding worksheets free of charge in exchange for writing this review.  I was not compensated in any other way, and all opinions are my own.

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