Task cards are one of the most versatile group activities you can do. The beauty of them is that you can reuse them over and over for different activities.
Here are just a few ways I like to use them with small groups. Give each table, group, or pair a deck of task cards, and:
Have students draw cards and quiz one another.
Have students work together to complete them cooperatively.
Use them as draw cards for a game board– land on a square, answer a task card.
Create different “stations” around the class, so each table is completing a different set of task cards. Give a time limit (about 5-10 minutes, depending on the number of cards and difficulty, etc.), then have students rotate. This is a great activity for an end-of-unit/ book/ semester review before a comprehensive test, or if you only have one deck, but you want to work in small groups.
Task cards are excellent for multi-level classes. Group students according to their level, and give them different decks of task cards. For example, lower level students can complete multiple choice tasks while higher level students fill in the blanks.
If you have a group of students far above or below the rest of the class, they can work on something completely different, but more appropriate to their level. I’ve had classes with returnees mixed with phonics students and task cards gave me the chance to attend to both groups’ needs. It’s also great for keeping everyone engaged while you go from group to group.
Task cards get used in group work most often in my class, but they are perfectly suited to individual use. You can always direct early finishers to a set of task cards to work on. Just keep your collection sorted by grade or book, and let your students know to choose a deck from their area and just get to work. Your more advanced students can self-study with higher level cards. At the other end of the spectrum, lower level students can get remedial practice. If you keep the file of answer sheets handy, they will always know what they have already done.
If your school wants students to get to work as soon as they walk in the classroom, you can use task cards as a bell ringer activity. Either choose a random card and write the task on the white board or have each student draw a card from the deck as they enter the room. The task can be anything from a writing prompt for a quick write to a card (or cards) related to the previous lesson as a review.
You may be asking, “What are task cards?” and the simple answer is they are cards with tasks (activities or questions) on them. Typically, a card will have a single task for the student to complete. For example, complete a sentence, circle a noun, respond to a journal prompt, or pretty much anything else you might create a worksheet to practice. In fact, task cards are a great reusable replacement for worksheets.
Since worksheets require wide line spacing to give students room to write, the number of items which can fit on a page is limited. You are left choosing between less practice or more pages. However, with task cards, you simply create a larger deck to provide more practice. With only one item per card, students are less likely to feel overwhelmed by the total amount of work they will be doing. And think of all the trees you’ll save.
Students can work on a single card, a few cards, or an entire deck, depending on the time you have and the specifics of the lesson. Whether you have an extra few minutes at the end of a lesson or an activity took half the expected time, you can grab some task cards and keep your class working productively. The same deck of cards can be used over and over, in different ways, to recycle material.