Why and How to Use Task Cards in the Classroom


If you could find the perfect teaching tool, what would it be like? Versatile? Ready to use? Engaging? Skill-based? Inexpensive?

Sounds amazing, right? Well, this perfect tool actually exists! Task cards.


Now that you know - Let's look at some great ways to use task cards in the classroom




first, What are task cards exactly?

Task cards are my absolute favorite type of classroom resource. They are usually about the size of a large index cards - just the right size for students to handle - and are often colorful and eye-catching. You can find them for just about any subject. Each card generally has one question or task which helps students focus on one thing at a time. Task cards tend to be very specific, addressing a certain skill or standard, which makes it easy to match the activity to your lesson objectives.


There are a lot of great benefits to using task cards in your classroom:


VERSATILITY

How do you use task cards in the classroom? Let me count the ways... small group centers, independent practice, whole group games of Scoot, quick assessment, test prep. The list is endless!

When I need to find out who gets a concept, I pass out a stack of task cards (one to each student) and have them write their answer on a sticky note. Everyone gets a different question, so there's no copying and I can quickly see who understands and who needs more help.

Task cards are also a staple in my independent reading and math centers. Students are able to work at their own pace and then check their own answers. They really love it!


One of my favorite ways to use task cards in my classroom is in place of exit tickets. You can give a card to each student and they will all have a different question. Just have them jot their answer down on a sticky note and stick it to their card. When you collect them, you can flip through the stack to see who understands the concept or skill after your lesson!



READY TO USE

Task cards require no prep at all. Once they're printed, I add a few recording sheets, the answer key, and pens for checking. Whenever I need an activity, I just go to my task card drawer and pull out a set. It's ready to go!

Have a sub coming in? Let her know where your task cards are kept. They are the perfect no-prep time filler! I have a super simple way to organize and store task cards which makes them even easier to use.


ENGAGING

My students love using task cards. There's something about a little card they can hold in their hands. Plus, they get to focus on just one task at a time. I find the kids to be more focused and engaged than they are with worksheets or other activities. They actually LIKE using them!


SKILL-BASED

I love the fact that task cards target a specific skill. If a student has difficulty with main idea, I can send home a pack of main idea task cards for extra practice. Sometimes parents have a hard time helping their child, but task cards are easy to understand and use.

They also work great during guided reading or math groups. This past week I had a group of students who weren't getting multi-step word problems. I have a set of task cards just for that concept, so I pulled them out to use with the group. We worked through the first few together and then I gave each student their own. I was able to watch exactly what they did to solve the problem and see where they went wrong. So easy!


INEXPENSIVE

For the most part, task cards don't cost very much which is really important when you live on a teacher's salary. There's nothing I hate more than spending $25 plus on a resource only to find that I can't use half of it or the kids don't like it. A set of task cards generally costs around $3 which is a bargain for any teacher.


How do you use task cards in the classroom?

One way to use task cards that I mentioned is for playing Scoot. If you don't know how it works, keep reading. Scoot is a way to get your students moving around while practicing important skills. It's so much better than seat work!

First, you need a pack of task cards. Ideally, each card will be numbered. If not, you'll need to number them yourself.

Place the task cards all around the room. Some teachers put one on each desk. I like to spread them all over... on tables, hanging on the board, taped to the door, etc. Give each student a recording sheet and a pencil. Now you're ready to go. Here's how to play...

  • Have each student stand at a different task card. This is their starting point. They will work through all of the cards in number order until they end up back where they started.

  • Put on some music (This just makes it more fun).

  • When you say "go", the students read their card, complete the task, and record their answer in the box with the SAME number as the card. It's really important to tell them this, repeatedly. You wouldn't believe the number of kids who take absolutely no notice of the numbers. (Well yes, you probably would.)

  • After a minute or so (depending on the tasks), you call out "Scoot" and students move to the next card. Make sure to give enough time so that all or most of your kids can complete the card.

  • Keep going until everyone has gotten to every card. When you're done, you can go over each card while they check their own answers. Or, use them as an assessment.

  • One important rule - no talking during Scoot. You must enforce this. Otherwise, it gets really noisy, really fast. The kids need to be able to concentrate on each task. I find that playing music helps them to not talk. If a student insists on talking, he or she has to sit out. That's my mean teacher rule, but it works.

Other fun ideas:

  • Task card scavenger hunt - Hide the answers to the cards around the room. Give each student a card and send them on a mission to find their answer.

  • Quiz-Quiz-Trade - Give each student a card. Have them partner up and use the cards to quiz each other. Then, switch cards with another pair of students. Keep going until everyone has used every pair of cards.


If you haven't used task cards before and decide to give them a try, I'd love to hear how it goes! And if you already have lots of task cards and need some ideas for keeping them organized, here's another blog post on the best ways to store task cards.




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