Monday, August 25, 2014

#1 Way To Use Task Cards in the Secondary Classroom

Task cards work great in the secondary classroom!

I started using task cards when I was student teaching. Back then I didn't call them task cards - I called them index cards. Basically, that's what they were. I would write questions down on index cards, stick a card under each students desk, and that was that. 

When I discovered Teachers pay Teachers I started creating more colorful task cards. Typically task cards I use look something like this: 
There's a problem for students to find an answer for. Some task cards are multiple choice, some are short answer. I prefer short answer cards. 

While I was teaching 8th grade math I watched an episode of NCIS that included some speed dating scenes. I was creating my lesson plans for the week and watching the show and all of a sudden I had an idea of how to merge math and speed dating. I like to call it "speed math." 

The premise of speed dating is for each individual in attendance to share information about themselves in a short period of time, with other members of the group. Speed math has students share information about a certain assigned problem with other students.

Set up for speed math is similar to speed dating - 2 rows of chairs facing each other. Similar to the picture below.
When students are sitting, each student gets their own task card. This task card stays with them the ENTIRE time they are doing this activity. Once task cards are passed out, students do whatever they need to do to determine the solution for the card they hold. If they need assistance on that first card, the first person they turn to is the student sitting across from them. So if student E has a problem, they should ask student F for help. As a last resort students can ask the teacher for assistance. This first step is crucial to the activity working. Students become an expert on their card so that they can later help explain the process to other students if needed. I do take care to assign students cards that match their academic level. Students who are struggling receive easier cards, students who have a strong grasp on the subject matter receive more difficult cards.

Once each student has mastered their card, the activity really begins. Choose one row of students that will be the movers in this game. If the vertical row that begins with student B is the row of students that will move, have them all stand up and move down a chair. Student B will move to student D's seat sitting in front of student C. Student D will move to student F's seat facing student E, F will move to H, and H will move to B's seat facing student A. Students take the original card assigned to them to their new seat. 

Once students are in their new seat, the new partners exchange task cards with each other. For a given amount of time (generally I aim for 2-3min) students try to solve the card their new partner handed them. After the first switch, partner A will work to solve partner H's card, partner C will solve partner B's card, etc. Once time is up students share their answer with their partner. If they have correctly solved the problem on the card, great! They are finished. If their answer is incorrect, or if they have not been able to figure the problem out, their partner is there to help. Since each partner is an expert on their card, they should have no problem figuring out where errors occurred, and then they can explain the correct way to solve the problem to the other student. If they were speed dating they would share about themselves - with speed math they share the process involved in solving their task card. 

Once every partnership has solved the cards in front of them, the row of students who move gets up, moves down another seat, and switch cards with their new partner. This can continue on as long as you choose to allow it. I tend to keep it to each student solving 10-12 cards. 

Obviously some classes will not have an even number of students. Those types of classes are personally my favorite though! When that happens I sit in the empty chair, assign myself a task card, and play along. It gave me one on one time with students, and I had a great time making small mistakes solving students cards which would lead to getting to hear them straighten me out. 

I promise if you use task cards this way you will be amazed at the conversations that occur throughout the activity! Students who normally put a wall up and sit quietly in their seats often speak up and enjoy teaching other students how to do the math. Kids who often struggle in class get excited to share how to solve their cards because actually knowing what is going on is new to them. Students take pride and ownership while playing because they have established themselves as an expert on their problem. The continuous change in partners keeps students involved in the activity and excited about it - I don't know about you but I remember times when I was in school were I was stuck with one partner for an entire class period and just hated it. 

While this is my favorite way to use task cards there are lots of other great ways to use them too! Rachel Lynette, one of the top sellers on teachers pay teachers (and a task card queen!) created this awesome free Task Card handbook which can be downloaded here: Task Card Handbook. Also, if you are looking for a set of secondary math task cards to try out, check out this free set I created on solving One Step Equations:

Have you used task cards before? What is your favorite way to use them? 

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