Task cards have been around for many years, and if the phrase “task cards” led you to visualize a learning center in the corner of a classroom then you definitely need to read this post!
Task Cards with Your Whole Class
When you want to use a single set of task cards with your entire class, but don’t want to make several sets consider this idea. If you’ve got a document camera or a whiteboard, just display the cards to the whole class. (You will have to enlarge the card if showing the PDF version so only one card at a time appears.) Last October I downloaded a free set of Halloween-themed task cards focused on similes and metaphors. I had my students make response cards using a plain 3″x5″ index card. On one side they wrote “simile” and the other side was labeled “metaphor.” We read the task card, the students did a quick turn-n-talk to your neighbor before showing their answer with the response card. Easy!
Scoot and Switch!
Last week I mentioned how I had my students play the game SCOOT using task cards. This use of task cards also only needs a single set of cards, but you do actually have to print and/or laminate them. Set one card on each student’s desk. Your students can write their answers on a response sheet, but I just have mine write in their notebooks – less time wasted at the copy machine. Each student reads and responds to the question on their task card. After a minute or two (depending on the complexity of the question types) call out, “Scoot!” Everyone scoots to the next desk. Repeat until students have circled the room and returned to their own desk. An alternative to this activity is SWITCH – instead of the students moving, it’s the task cards that get moved around the room. Be sure to teach students to write down the number on the task card next to their response. What happens when you have more students than task cards? Just have students work in pairs on their answers. At the end, spend some time sharing the answers and have students check their answers.
Recently I’ve been attempting to teach guided math groups. These are instructional groupings similar to guided reading groups only in math. I learned immediately that my early finishers would need something productive to do once they had completed the assignment. I’m fortunate that my classroom has several computers, but certainly not enough for everyone. So I turned to using task cards and having students work together in pairs and trios on them.
Some task cards – depending on how the question is worded – can be used in a cooperative learning structure called Quiz-Quiz-Trade. This simple structure has students walk around exchanging task cards and quizzing each other. In order to make this variation work, however, you will need to include the answers on the back of the card. Try using two small sticky notes, one on top of the other, on the back of the cards. Write the answer on the first sticky note and cover it with the second sticky note. It’s not foolproof, certainly, but it does the job reasonably well without permanently including the answers on the back. That way your task cards can be used in other instructional settings.
A Small Investment
Once you’ve invested a little bit of time in creating a set of task cards, you can use them with your whole class, in small groups, or with individual students. Here are some links to a few free task cards you can download from TpT:
- Measurement Task Cards (grades 4-6)
- Identifying Text Structures
- Halloween Simile and Metaphor
- Simple, Compound, and Complex Sentences
That’s what I found in a quick search, and it only took a few minutes. So dust off those task cards, or get them out of the learning centers in your room and put them to good use in a variety of fun and effective ways!