It happens.

There are varied reasons…maybe the learner is tired, hungry, cranky (in which case, put the flash cards away!) But whatever the reason, you’re now in a gridlock. (You can review Fast Flash here and here.)

Here are some of the scenarios I’ve run into with my students, and I count myself immeasurably blessed because my son didn’t do any of this–he just looked at the cards. (At the time, 28 years ago, I had no idea how unusual that was.) But here’s what I’ve encountered with my students and what you might also be facing:

  1. His eyes are darting everywhere, looking at anything/everything but the flash cards.
  2. Throws her head down on the table, buries her head in her arms, might even yell, “NO!”
  3. Leans back, slouches in his chair, rolls his eyes…

You get the picture!

Prevention and Cure! First, Prevention…

Let’s do the prevention scene first. Here’s your prevention checklist:

  1. Are you sitting across from the child, not alongside, so you can see where her eyes are?
  2. Have you practiced moving the cards 2 per second? It does take practice.
  3. Are you moving the cards from back of the pack to the front and over the top (that’s the fastest technique; check out the video), and you’ve handwritten your word cue on the back of each card?
  4. Is your vocal timing good? Meaning, you’re not saying the word until the card lands in your hand, visible to the child? (If you say the word before it lands, your child will actually be seeing two words at once. This is a common mistake.)
  5. Are you holding the cards just a bit high so his eyes are looking just above his horizon? (best for the brain’s recognition/retention.)
  6. Do the 5 cards in that group contain at least 2 high interest/fun words? Words she’s willing to pay attention for?

Now for the Cure…

The most effective technique I’ve found (so far it’s worked every time) is to slap the cards down rapidly on the table right in front of the child. Same fast technique, same group of 5 cards, just rapidly dealt down on the table as if they were playing cards. Just scoop them up and rapidly “deal” them two more times, as we always want to “Fast Flash” a group 3 times for the brain’s sake.

For some reason, this works. It requires no effort on their part, and they don’t expect it, because you’ve been showing the cards to them in the air.

Once you’ve got their cooperation with that approach, you can segue into flashing the cards in the air in front of her face. Introduce that a bit at a time, and the learner will get used to it. I had a 4-year-old student who had a fit when I tried to flash the cards in front of her eyes (head down on the table, “NO!”); so I did just as I described in #1. I alternated back and forth, and eventually she got to the point of preferring the “air” approach.


Don’t forget that we want the child to be silent during Fast Flash; this is not the time for speech/articulation. We want the brain’s full attention without requiring the child to simultaneously struggle with artic. And if the child actually has time to repeat the word as you flash it, I’ll bet you a mocha latte that you’re not moving them at the speed of 2 per second!

My best, always–



P.S. Remember that you can read a detailed explanation of Fast Flash and other strategies in my book “Whole Child Reading!”

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