What do high quality task cards look like in the middle school classroom? Earlier, I reflected on just how much I’ve fallen in love with using task cards. Today I want to share some adjustments and “add-ons” I use with task cards to make sure they are effective. There are three specific things I wanted to make sure I addressed when designing task cards: self-correction and feedback, student accountability, and increasing complexity.
Opportunities for Self-Correction
One thing that is really important to me is that there is a way for students to self-correct their work. I want to shorten the time between students doing the thinking and getting feedback on whether or not they are on the right path. So, the first adjustment I made was to make the cards double sided. Then I have the option of printing them double-sided with answers for quick checking, or if we’re doing an activity where I don’t want that feature, I simply print them single-sided and use the answer key.
I know that some would worry that students, knowing that the answers are right there, will rush through problems and just look at the “right” answers. But, what I’ve seen with my students has been quite the opposite. The vast majority of them are quite thoughtful in how they use this option. They work out the math thoroughly before checking their answer. Then, if they don’t have the correct answer, they try to figure out where they got off track right away. This leads to a-ha moments- not too long ago I overheard a young lady working with her partner on a task card activity exclaim after checking her answer, “Oh, now I get what I’m doing wrong.” My inner teacher did three cartwheels, but on the outside, I tried to keep it cool. I’ve seen this time and time again- when students can immediately check their work it gives them a chance to address and correct their misconceptions.
Any time students are working independently or in small groups, there needs to be a form of accountability to keep them on track and give me another way to see their thinking. Student record sheets to accompany task cards have been a great way to do this. No matter what activity we’re doing, whether it’s a task card game like Scoot or an independent review, we always use the student record sheet. It’s been invaluable for me to check for students’ on-task behavior by seeing how many problems they did and their quality of work, as well as to see misconceptions that will need to be clarified. It also serves as a great formative assessment, exit ticket, or even bell ringer.
In creating each set of task cards, I always start with the Common Core math standard to be taught. I really take time to break down the concepts and skills within each standard. Then, I make sure that the task cards go in a logical order and sequence, ascending in complexity. This has been very helpful in being able to easily choose just the cards that relate to how much of a concept we’ve learned about so far. Or, I can choose just the cards that highlight the aspect of this standard that I want to focus on.
The one downside I’ve encountered with having the task cards move from simple to complex is when we play a game like Scoot. If I place a card on each desk, students complete the simple cards in much less time than students working on more complex task cards. One adjustment I’ve made is to strategically create a station with more than one card of the more simple cards. I also make more copies of the higher complexity cards and just use those when we play Scoot. After all, students typically only get to eight to sixteen seats maximum when we play.
Each of these design features has helped make implementing task cards in my classroom successful. What do you think? What have you found important when using task cards in your classroom? Haven’t tried them yet? Take the plunge! There’s a full range available at Teachers Pay Teachers, including ours for 7th and 8th grade math here. Happy teaching!
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