Task cards are versatile opportunities to practice skills in short increments of time. Here are my favorite 10 ways to use task cards in my middle school science classroom:
- Bellringer/Do now – If I project a task card or set of task cards on the screen, students complete them as a bellringer. Alternately, I can hand students one or two (or seven or eight) task cards to get them started at the beginning of the period. In a virtual, hybrid, or remote environment, this provides an opportunity to review and formatively assess where students are in their learning.
- Stations. Centers or station activities are common in primary and elementary classrooms but I used to steer away from them in middle grades. I think part of the reason I was hesitant to use stations was I was afraid of “down time” when students weren’t on task – switching stations or chitchatting – and there is a lot of content to cover in middle school that I don’t like to give up that time. Now I’m of a different mind – “down time” is rarely that. Students transitioning and chitchatting are building skills that are an integral part of the middle school experience and I think better teachers provide for that opportunity. I’ve also revisited my stance on content – if I lectured nonstop for 10 months, I could “cover” all of the content I want students to be exposed to, but my real goal is more than exposure. I want students to engage with content, understand content, manipulate content, and make it their own. Stations can support that far better than any lecture I’ve ever given.
- Games. Once you have the task cards created, use them in a review game. Students can move the football one floor square closer to their goal every time they get finish a task card correctly, for example, or they get a game piece to add to the grid in Connect 4. Task cards can be used instead of dice – if a student gets the card correct, they move ahead one place on a board game, but they lose a turn if they get the card wrong.
- Exit Tickets. Task cards make excellent tickets out the door. Students must hand you a completed task card before they leave. In a virtual or hybrid environment, this can be a Google Form or an interactive Google Slide.
- Scoot. Lay the task cards around the room or hang them on the walls. Students travel from one card to another, recording their answers to each task card on a recording sheet. Sometimes I let students move to the next card at their own pace. Other times, I play music and they move when the music stops. I also might set a timer to let them know when to move.
- Early finishers and Enrichment. I have keychains of task cards of various ability levels ready to hand students when they finish. I can make an immediate decision on the level I want the student to work on, or students can move up to a harder level if they finish 4 task cards correctly.
- Whole class practice. If you project the task card, it can serve as guidance for I do, We do, You do practice.
- Quiz, Quiz, Trade. Give each student a task card and have them solve it. Then, pair students up. Partners read the cards to each other and help each other solve them. After they both get the other card correctly, have them exchange cards and find a new partner.
- Spiraling curriculum. Bring out the task cards from September when you have five spare minutes in December for a quick review and reinforcement.
- Subs. When you’re absent, leave a few sets of task cards out for students to use either independently or in pairs if they finish the assignment early. Your subs will thank you!
I’d love to hear your favorite ways to use task cards in your middle school science classroom!