Marie’s Words Visual Vocabulary Flash Card Games for K-12, the SAT, and Beyond!

Visual Vocabulary Flash Card Games for the SAT®, K-12, and Beyond: The Ten Most Effective Learning Methods for Success in School and Life



Although Marie’s Words was initially designed by my sister to be used like traditional flash cards (where students would look at the visual on the front, read the text on the back, and then look at the visual again to reinforce the meaning and the picture), since then I have created many different ways to utilize them through the five learning methods and the four senses. It is important to remember that all of the proper spellings and definitions are on the text side of the card and, furthermore, that the sentences explain the visuals, calligraphy, and mnemonics on the front.

1. My first recommendation for families and individuals is the Marie’s Word-of-the-Day! It’s simple. Each morning you place a new card on the wall, refrigerator, or kitchen table (somewhere everyone is forced to look), and throughout the morning and day, everyone tries to learn the word and its meaning. Then, at the dinner table each night, everyone must use the word or one of its synonyms/antonyms correctly and contextually in a sentence. If this is achieved, that person earns one point (sticker boards are a great way to incentivize kids and adults!). The next morning, the first word can be reviewed and replaced with a new word. Even one word a day makes a big difference! And at two words per day, you will learn all 550 Picture Words in one year!

2. The Marie’s Words 5-Word Challenge is one of the most effective teaching methods for children of all ages. As the educator, place five Picture Words on a carry-ring and learn the meanings and synonyms of the five words (reading the sentence helps you to learn how the mnemonic applies to the word on the front). Then, as quickly as possible while not rushing, teach the five Picture Words to your student or child while showing them only the visual. In doing this, ask them to repeat the pronunciation for you, and then tell them the meaning of the word and what the picture is showing. After you have gone through the five words, quiz them on the meanings of the words without showing them the picture. If they get one wrong, then keep it on the carry-ring for the next day and repeat daily.

3. Another great game for young kids and big groups is Picture Wordy! For a simplified version of this game, all you do is hold a card with the picture side (front) facing the player and read aloud the text side—pronunciation, part of speech, definition, and sentence—so that the Picture Word is understood. Then, you ask the player to provide for you at least one example (preferably three) of the word, or how the word might be used. For example, the word diminutive means “small, tiny, petite,” so you ask for three examples of anything that is diminutive. Common acceptable answers might be ants, dust (particles), fingernails, hair (strands), etc. Moreover, the word embark means “to board a ship or aircraft for a journey”, so the player would give examples of transportation vessels, such as car, ship, speedboat, 747 airplane, spaceship, etc. If you are playing with a group, then each group has 20 seconds to write down as many examples as they can with each word earning them one point. If more than one group uses the same word, then that word does not count for any points (demanding one to think outside of the box).

4. Picture Words is our most popular game because it can be played with any number of players and utilizes visual, verbal, logical, aural, and kinesthetic learning in the brain. Place any number of cards face-up (picture side up) on the table. Taking turns either clockwise or counter-clockwise, each player picks any face-up card on the table and attempts to provide its definition, meaning, or near synonyms based entirely on the visual (that is, without looking at the text side). Once the player provides an answer, he or she reads aloud the whole text side of the card to the group. If the group determines that the player is correct, he or she keeps the card (worth one point). If incorrect, the player places the card face down (text side up) on the table. When only text side cards remain on the table, flip them all over and keep playing until all the cards are gone. The player with the most cards at the end of the game is declared the winner. Variations of this game can be played where bonus points are given for correct synonyms and antonyms, using the word contextually in a sentence, or correct pronunciation.

5. ‘Flashing Cards’ is similar to ‘Picture Words’ in that points are earned for deciphering the meaning of words through the visuals and calligraphy on the front. A timer is required, whether a phone, a clock, or a verbal countdown. Either individually, in pairs, or in groups, place any number of Marie’s Words visual vocabulary flash cards in a stack face-up on the table. Each team gets one minute to decipher or guess the meaning of as many cards as possible in that minute. The inactive team holds up the card with the picture side facing the active player or team on the clock—the ones who are providing the meanings. The active team can skip a card up to three times each turn, and these skipped cards go on the bottom of the stack at the end of each turn. All wrongly answered cards are placed on top of the stack at the end of each turn (it’s important to think hard about the word’s meaning). The point system is determined on the amount of syllables in each word. For example, a correctly answered one-syllable word earns a player or team 1 point, and a four-syllable word earns a player or team 4 points. You can keep score on a separate sheet of paper, or you can keep your correct cards and count the number of syllables at the end.

6. Another popular game is Marie’s Wordsmith! This game is great for older groups of kids and adults. Each player takes turns as the Wordsmith, who randomly pulls a card from the box of 550, shows only the card’s picture to the group, and then reads aloud only the pronunciation, part of speech, and definition. DO NOT READ THE SENTENCE ALOUD! On separate sheets of paper, each player then writes his or her own sentence using the word, the picture, and its proper context. Fold the paper and give it to the Wordsmith so that no other player sees what you write. Meanwhile, the Wordsmith copies the actual sentence from the back of the card on his or her own piece of paper and mixes it with the other sentences on the other sheets (in a hat or bag). Once all the sentences are submitted, the Wordsmith reads each sentence aloud and, afterward, all the players vote on which sentence they think is the actual Marie’s Words sentence. Players earn one point by correctly choosing the Marie’s Words sentence and two points for each person who chooses their sentence! A player does not earn points while acting as the Wordsmith. The player with the most points at the end of the game is declared the Marie’s Wordsmith! (tip: sometimes it is more beneficial to trick others by picking your own sentence, and it helps to relate your written sentence to the mnemonic on the front of each card)

7. Advanced Concentration is a fun and challenging game that requires a six-sided die and is unique to Marie’s Words. To test your memory abilities, place any number of Marie’s Words visual vocabulary flash cards face-up on the table, similar to Picture Words. Procure a six-sided die and a timer, preferably a phone or a clock. Taking turns, each player chooses a face-up card on the table and reads aloud the text side of the card. The player then has sixty seconds to memorize the text side in silence. After one minute, the player flips the card face-up and rolls the die. The numbers correspond to the text side. 1 is pronunciation, 2 is part of speech, 3 is the definition, 4 is the sentence, 5 corresponds to synonyms and antonyms, and rolling a 6 allows the player to choose. The player must repeat correctly all of the information for the corresponding number and text box. The group determines whether the player recites the component correctly. Keep track of your points on a separate sheet of paper. The number you roll with the die is the number of points earned. For example, if you roll a 3 and repeat the definition correctly, then you earn 3 points. If you land on 6 and choose to answer box 1 (pronunciation), then you receive 1 point. If wrong, the card is placed text side up on the table. When only text side cards remain, flip them over and continue playing until all the cards are gone. The player with the most points at the end of the game is declared the Concentration Champion.

8. Sitting Word Nerd, Studying Scholar is a terrific game for high school students preparing for the vocabulary section on the SAT® and other standardized tests. Individually or in groups, place any number of Marie’s Words visual vocabulary flash cards in a stack face-up on the table. Taking turns as the Sitting Word Nerd, draw four cards from the top of the stack and place them face-up on the table for the Studying Scholar to see and study. After twenty seconds, the Sitting Word Nerd collects the four cards and—without revealing the text sides or the word chosen—reads aloud one of the four sentences on the back of the card without saying the vocabulary word (leaving the vocab word blank in the sentence). For example, if the card chosen were procure, then the Sitting Word Nerd would say, “We must (blank) the cure for cancer.” After reading one of the four sentences, the Sitting Word Nerd then places the four cards face-up on the table again for twenty seconds. The Studying Scholar(s) must choose the correct word that goes in the sentence, and each correct answer is worth 1 point. However, all wrong answers count for – ¼ point , similar to the SAT® point system. The player with the most points at the end of the game is declared the Marie’s Word Nerd.

9. Diction Fishin’ is based on a popular children’s card game and focuses on parts of speech and the roots and parts of words. It is especially fun and helpful for small children ages 3-12, but it can be fun and challenging for all ages. Each player draws 7 cards from a stack of Picture Words (use any number of cards for the deck). Randomly choose a player to go first. On your turn, you ask a player for a specific part of speech, such as a noun, adjective, or verb. You must already have at least one card of the requested part of speech. If the player you ask has any number of Picture Words with the requested part of speech, then he or she must give you one of them of your choosing. If you ask for more than one card with the specific part of speech, then you only receive the requested cards if the player you are asking has exactly that number of cards with the specified part of speech. For example, if you ask for two verbs, then only if the person has two verb cards do you get to take them. If the person you ask has none of the requested cards with the specified part of speech, then that person says, “Keep fishin’.” You then draw the top card from the stack. If by chance you draw a card with the part of speech you asked for, show the card to the other players and you get another turn. If you draw a card that is different than what you asked for, you keep the drawn card and it becomes the next player’s turn. The next player is the one who said, “Keep fishin’.” When you collect four cards of the same part of speech, show the set to the other players and place the four cards text side up in front of yourself. The game continues until one player has no more cards in his or her hand or the draw pile runs out. If the draw pile is exhausted, then the player with the most four-card sets is declared the Fisher of Words!

10. There are many more ways to use and play Marie’s Words, and we will continually add to the list. Some families play Apples to Apples™ while using our adjective cards for the green cards. Other families enjoy our Marie’s Word Scavenger game. When students and adults read either fiction or non-fiction, we recommend they either highlight the core Picture Words they find in literature or write out the sentence and page number in which they find one of Marie’s Words. Each word found is worth 1 point. This encourages both young and old to read texts and to think hard about what they are reading—i.e. context! Please stay posted for additional games and ideas as we create them, and also we encourage you to submit your own games and methods that use our Picture Words in action! This list of games will be added soon in bullet point format as a PDF on our home page.

Thank you for your support and your enthusiasm for engaged learning!

For specific questions or assistance, email nick@marieswords.com.


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