Keeping students engaged in your lessons can be easier than you think – task cards to the rescue! With just a few minor additions and tweaks to your teaching toolkit, task cards are just what what you need to take your teaching to the next level.
What are Task Cards?
It might help to think of task cards simply as worksheets turned into smaller, more manageable – more FUN – cards. Usually there is one question per card (or one story, or one math problem), which is far less overwhelming for the typical student. Also, there are some really engaging cards out there for sale! They’re typically colorful and eye-catching for students . . . they just look fun!
Usually task cards are numbered, just as questions/problems on a worksheet are numbered. But task cards don’t need to be completed in numerical order. In some situations, task cards are intentionally not completed in order, for differentiation or possibly to cut down on the number of problems students are required to complete.
Can I use Task Cards to differentiate for Students?
You can easily differentiate for student needs by having some students complete only the odd/even numbered cards, or only the first 10, etc., while other students complete more or less cards.
Different task card sets can be used simultaneously by students within the same class. For example, some students might work on graphing task cards, while other students are solving long division cards.
Many task card sets are already differentiated by the task card author when you buy them. Some cards become more difficult as the number on the card increases, or they may be differentiated by odd or even numbers (such as the evens are easier than the odds). Other task card sets use different colors to indicate difficulty level, which is less noticeable by students.
Common ways to use task cards:
1. As an alternative to a worksheet
A basic, quick, and easy way to use task cards is to simply give each student one or two cards at a time. After they complete the cards, they trade with a partner, who also completes the task cards. The students then compare answers. If their answers are different, they work together to find mistakes and correct them before getting new cards. The collaboration and teamwork is great!
2. In learning centers
Students complete the task cards independently (or possibly with a partner). After completing a designated number of cards, they can flash you their work and then check their answers themselves. In order to complete the self-checking portion of the center work, the answer sheet should be kept either in an “Answer Folder” or in a manila envelope away from peeking eyes. For example, a student may be asked to complete 10 cards. After the cards are completed, the student can “flash” you their work to show that they have finished the designated number, and you can either give thumbs up (which means “Get the answer sheet out and check you work”) or thumbs down, which means “Nope – try again.”) I have found that students enjoy using a nice red grading marker-type pen. **You can experiment with sheet protectors or laminated cards and dry-erase markers for centers/station work to save paper!
3. Individual or small group work and remediation
Task cards make easy and quick remediation questions that can be individualized to focus on each student’s weak area. Once task cards are laminated, they can be ready at a moment’s notice!
4. Task cards can be given as homework.
They can be copied 2-sided onto regular paper, which can either be cut apart or kept on one page. You can assign as much or as little as needed. Homework can be different for each student as a means to differentiate.
5. For Extra Practice
Laminated task cards can be given as homework and sent home in a manila envelope along with a dry-erase marker, making them more fun. Depending on the situation, I’ve sent home a copy of the answer key in a sealed envelope so that parents can work with their child. **One word of caution, your cards and markers may be returned to you in “less-than-perfect” condition.**
6. Exit tickets
Task cards make easy exit tickets, which can be differentiated easily to fit the needs and abilities of different students. For this, I would simply copy the cards onto plain white copy paper and cut them apart. Students turn in the exit ticket as they leave the room. This method also works as a quick, easy formative assessment.
7. Morning Bell Work
Students are either given a card (cards can be placed on desks before school) or the students can select their own card or cards to complete prior to the start of class.
8. Wall work or Scavenger Hunt
You will find photos of task cards taped to classroom walls or hallways with students moving from card to card. Why? It’s something different – it makes the work more fun! The same idea can be used for fast-finishers.
Just make sure that Recording Sheets are available or given to the students to keep their work organized for independent work and fast finishers.
9. Prepare For Assessments
I’ve also used them as a quick review to prepare for state tests. I usually keep the review sessions short and sweet – and by sweet, I mean jelly beans. Some years, my state’s tests hit around Easter, which is prime time for jellybeans. Hard work or a correct answer earns jellybeans – of different brands and flavors! (Jolly Rancher or Starburst – Oh, the excitement!) Even without jellybeans, task card test reviews are more fun than worksheets.
10. Journal pages or Interactive Notebook Pages
Copy the task cards (colored paper could be used), cut them apart, and distribute to the students. They could choose their own or you could assign them. Glue them in the journal or ISN – allow room for answers!
This is strictly up to you – how many, how much, how long, etc.
12. Traditional Board Games
I require my students to correctly answer a task card in order to “earn” their turns. They will need an Answer Recording Sheet and all students playing should be working out all of the problems to check each other’s work (and for extra practice!).
Scoot is a game in which task cards are placed on student desks, tables, even on walls, etc. around the room. Students then complete the task card that has been placed at that location. After a specified time, the teacher announces, “Scoot!” and students silently move to the next location. Because all students won’t start with Card #1, students need to make sure they record their answers in the correct boxes (belonging to whatever number task card they start on). For example, if they start with Card #17, they need to record their answer in box #17.
14. Scrambled Eggs
Scrambled Eggs is a game I developed for test prep or skill remediation. To play, divide the students into teams of 4 or 5 students per team, and place a variety of task cards in a basket or bowl for each team – and when I say a variety, I mean that I actually combine several sets of task cards so that several different skills are being practiced during one game. Students take turns drawing out one task card at a time for the group to work on. When everyone in the group has finished the card, the members discuss the answers and make sure everyone agrees. I love hearing students coach each other and give pointers – very effective! Every 5-6 minutes, allow the students to “scramble” either for a new card or a new team.
15. Planning for Subs is a Snap
Please check out THIS BLOG POST to read about how I discovered the HARD way that quick and easy sub plans need to be ready to go at all times. I would suggest using some task cards that the sub will be able to use with ease, covering a skill that your students have already learned but need some review with.
16. Download the Task Card Guide
The Task Card Guide includes this same information, PLUS tips on using BLANK task cards! Students really enjoy designing their own cards and making their own questions and illustrations. Please visit my Teachers Pay Teachers Store to Download this FREE Task Card Guide!