They are great because students feel they have a choice in which task they do first and in middle school this is a great way to engage students. Another benefit of task cards is that students do not feel overwhelmed by worksheet after worksheet of problems to do. It breaks up the day, week, or month. Read below about 9 ways you may use task cards.
1. Centers or Stations.
Set up multiple stations with task cards you wish the students to complete. Students work and rotate through the stations and the respective tasks you set up. Stations or Centers may be set up with 4-5 specific stations on the tasks you wish students to complete with white boards, recording sheets, or notebooks. The number of stations may be determined by the time students are in your class. Students may record their answers and rotate through the stations for a specific amount of time that you designate. Students may also work on a station you specify if you do not wish for them to rotate through stations. For example, one group may need to improve their skills on "Number Sense" tasks, so they work in the "Numbers" Station, another group may need to improve their skills on "Pythagorean Theorem", therefore, they work in the "Pythagorean" Station. This could be done weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, for middle school or high school students. Stations may also be set up as 'self-checking' stations where an answer key is available for students to check their work. However you set up stations or centers, task cards are fantastic for this purpose.
Hold a game day once a month and allow students to choose which activity they wish to do. Have the task cards in small photo albums, as demonstrated in the above photo, with the answers in the back, dry erase markers, and small white boards. Let students work on the tasks they wish to complete. For example, one year, I had students choose from the topics I had set up which had been taught the past several weeks and they were going to be tested on, for example factoring tasks, 2 step equation tasks, order of operation tasks & percent-decimal-fraction tasks. I would lay the tasks, white boards, bins of markers, and erasers on a table and let students know which tasks were available. Students then could work in small groups or individually and work through the tasks they chose - this was a great way to review and reinforce their learning. If a student or students needed to complete work or needed more review in a certain area, I’d suggest they use that time to complete work (I had extra copies of the work they needed to complete during this time) and/or I’d suggest a specific task I wanted them to work on and with which group. This is a great way to build on student’s knowledge, skills, and encourage them to complete assignments in middle school.
Use task cards as ‘starters’. Choose 1 or 2 tasks for students to do at the beginning of each class. Check for understanding after they have time to complete the starter. Another option for starters or classwork is for all students to get 1 task card/1 problem at the beginning of class, solve the problem, and then 1-2 students per day (rotate around the room over the course of a month) shares the problem and how they solved it. Another option when teaching units with starters is for students to write their problem and solution on a large poster paper that is posted in the room. Students later during the teaching of a particular unit have a day or time frame you select where they review everyone’s problem and solution and make any revisions they feel necessary to their own work and/or others work. The starter tasks coincide with the unit being taught or focuses on skills students need to be successful in the unit being taught at the time. The work is also reviewed by the teacher and discussed.
4. Exit Tickets or Spiral Review.
Cut the tasks apart and have students complete a problem a day at the end of class. This could even be done every day with exit tickets by students solving one task card a day. Students write their name on the task card and answer on the back of the task card, or on a recording sheet for the week. As with starters, the tasks used for Exit Tickets relate to the unit being taught or on skills students need to master in your class. Another option for spiral review is to have students complete a card or a half sheet of task cards when you are teaching a unit. For example, students may need to review exponents when you are teaching Pythagorean Theorem, therefore, you may review exponents with a few task cards or a sheet of tasks to refresh students' skills as a mini-lesson. It’s a way of mini-reviewing every week or everyday so students retain what they’ve learned.
As seen in the photo above, print task cards, laminate them if you like, punch holes in one corner, and secure task cards with a metal key ring or a string to create "Key" or "Flip" Books. Students can flip through the problems and solve them on key skills they need to master. They may solve on a recording sheet, on notebook paper, in interactive journals, or small white boards. One option is to set up a self-checking area where students check their answers after they solve the problem. Another way to keep students working is for students who finish their work early then select a flip book to work on. The key is to have a flip book area already set up with task cards you wish for them to work on. Students may even keep a 'log' on which 'Key' or 'Flip' books they have completed. As you teach new units add more flip books so there are always tasks ready for students.
6. Musical Tasks.
This option is very similar to Musical Chairs, yet, no one loses a seat and it is integrated with rotating stations. Set cards out, one on each desk. Have students solve the problem while playing music on low. Time the students as they work on the problem (2-3 minutes depending on the task and your students), when the music stops, they move to the next desk, and start the next task when the music starts again. This process continues while students rotate through all the tasks. One way students may record their answers is to have a recording sheet like with the 'Let's Play 24 Challenge Game' they take with them from desk to desk that is numbered matching the task card number or they could write answers in their notebooks. Students later compare their solutions and how they solved the problems. Or if you don’t want to play music, call out ‘scoot’, ‘switch’, or another catchy phrase when students switch stations. You may also have tables set up and 4-5 task cards at each table students work in teams to solve, then they switch tables. Allow enough time for students to solve the problems.
This option is a way to integrate student's input with stations or centers. With CLUE Stations, have tasks laid out on tables in 3-4 stations. At the stations are 2 sheets - recording sheets and a ‘CLUE’ sheet. The ‘CLUE’ sheet may be a piece of notebook paper with the word ‘CLUES’ written at the top for students to fill out. Students write in clues or tips to solve the problems, the next student looks over the previous students' or groups' clues and then solves tasks and records their answer on their own recording sheet along with leaving more clues. The 'Clues' sheet stays at the respective station. Some example of clues may be (on a volume task) – ‘with this formula you do not cube anything’ or ‘remember Pi is infinite, Pie is not’ or another useful tip to help students solve the task, yet, not give them the answer.
As seen in the above photo, print a page or cut a page in half of the task cards and let students complete them as homework, as classwork, or as a quiz. Or print the cards front and back on a sheet of paper, let students turn in the paper at the end of the week as their homework assignment. Many of my task card products have a set solely for 'test prep' along with some word problems to prepare students and allow them practice for testing and are very useful as quizzes, classwork, homework, in stations, and more.
9. Let's Play 24 Challenge.
The ‘Let’s Play 24 Challenge’ is a great way for students to use task cards and a recording sheet. With this challenge the task cards are placed in a pile on a table, students get up, select a task, go to their seat, solve a problem, record their answer on the 'Let's Play 24 Challenge Recording Sheet', then put it back on the table, select another problem, go back to their seat, solve the next task, record their answer, etc, until they’ve solved all 24 challenges. I set it up where students work in small groups on the task challenges. This is a great way to incorporate movement in the class and for students to feel they have a choice in which problems they do first. Another option if you do not wish for students to get up and down, is to group students in small groups, give each a set of task cards and allow them to work together on the '24 Challenges' – not one solving and another copying, but work together and solve the problems. You may get Numerous 'Let's Play 24 Challenges' for middle school & for Pre-Math 1 students here - Let's Play 24 Challenge Math Task Cards. Please note: More Task Cards will be added as I continue to create more 'Let's Play 24 Challenges' ©2015 MMoore.
One option with all uses of the task card activities discussed above is to have the answer key handy (unless it’s a quiz, homework, or graded classwork) so students can check their work. Most of the activities above may be set up as self checking stations/activities if you want them to check their answers. Students have an answer key to check their work at the end of the task card flip books, back of an album of tasks, or they rotate to a station when finished and check their work at a 'task challenge checking station'. As with all of these tasks, I suggest explaining your expectations to students on how you wish for them to utilize task challenges within your classroom.
I hope you enjoy the article and the many ways you may use task cards especially in middle school and high school.
Best Wishes, Ms Moore
Certified K-6, 6-9 math, and 6-9 science
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