Using Task Cards in the Secondary ELA Classroom

Using Task Cards in the Secondary ELA Classroom

Task cards might just be one of the most underrated and undervalued assets for middle school ELA and high school English teachers. Task cards are not only versatile and engaging, but they are also a great way to shake things up in the secondary ELA classroom.

A task card is essentially its namesake - it is a card, usually about the size of a quarter sheet of paper, with some sort of task or question on it. Task cards come in sets that focus on a particular skill or standard. Using task cards in the middle school ELA or high school English classroom is an excellent way to practice new content and review before an assessment. For example, my parts of speech task cards resource includes two sets of 40 task cards for 80 task cards total. Since these task cards are all about the parts of speech, each task card contains a task that requires students to identify a part of speech.

Task cards can be a secondary ELA teacher’s best friend because of their ease of use and versatility.

Task Cards Ease of Use

Most task cards come as complete sets with multiple cards per pack. Each set includes numerous tasks for students to complete. Once you complete a little bit of prep work before the first use, task cards are very simple to implement in the classroom. One of the best ways to prep task cards for their initial use is to print the card on bright white cardstock and then laminate the cards for longevity. I have several sets of task cards in my classroom that I’ve used for several years in a row now. I keep them all stored together so that there is very little prep required when it is time to use them next year.

On task card days, there are two ways I facilitate my class. One way is to place my students into groups of four to five students and provide each group with an entire task card set. Using this method, students work collaboratively in the group as they complete each task, and they do not move around the classroom. Another way I like to organize task card day in my classroom is to have set stations placed throughout my classroom. When I use the station approach, I place several cards at each station. Student groups then rotate from station to station as they complete the tasks.

However you plan to include task cards in your instruction, once you prep them, they are good to go for years to come.
Using Task Cards in the Secondary ELA Classroom

Task Card Versatility

Task cards also offer a lot of versatility in the classroom because of all of the different kinds of task cards and how many different ways you can incorporate them into the classroom.

One way to use task cards in the classroom is to use them as one station in a stations activity. For example, one of my favorite ways to introduce a new novel to my students is by including the pre-reading set of task cards from my Response to Literature Task Cards set as part of a station activity. I use the pre-reading task cards for one of the stations and have several copies of the book displayed. For another station, I provide students with some brief contextual information and instruct my students to do some quick research to become acquainted with the historical and social context. For a final station, I have my students respond to some book-specific reflection questions, kind of like an elaborated anticipatory guide.

Another way to use task cards in the classroom is to use them as a class warm-up or bell-ringer exercise. Rather than provide students with the entire set of task cards, simply provide table groups or rows with a few cards from the set. Again, this is a great way to focus on a particular skill throughout the week. For example, if you are working on pronoun-antecedent agreement, spending a week using these pronoun task cards as a bell-ringer activity is a great way to sprinkle in some grammar work into your lesson plans.

Benefits of Using Task Cards

Using task cards in the classroom has a few benefits. First, task cards offer a break from the standard practice worksheet. So just because it is something new, students will be more engaged. Also, students benefit from the repetition of completing multiple related tasks in a brief amount of time. The increased engagement and repeated practice of the skills will help students with retention.

Free Task Card Download

To help you get started using task cards in your classroom, I've created this sentence combining task card starter kit as a free download. To use these sentence combining task cards in your classroom, print them out, cut them into four cards, and have your students begin working on them! These sentence combining task cards also work well with my sentence combining bell ringers

Types of Task Cards

There are so many different types of task cards that teachers can use in their classrooms. From analysis to skill-specific, there are task cards for all sorts of ELA-related activities. I mainly use three types of task cards in my classroom: generic analysis task cards, skill-specific task cards, and literature-based task cards.

Generic Analysis Task Cards

Some of my favorite task cards are the text analysis task cards: literary analysis, rhetorical analysis, and poetry analysis. I love these task cards because they can be used with any text, and they are a simple addition to the curriculum that helps students practice and build critical-thinking skills.

Skill-Specific Task Cards

Another type of task cards is more skill-specific task cards. These skill-specific cards provide students with the practice they need to master a new skill. Some of my favorite skill-specific task cards are my parts of speech task cards and my coordinating conjunction task cards.

Literature-Based Task Cards

Finally, there are literature-based task cards. These literature task cards are ideal as an and-of-novel review and analysis type of activity. Each literature-based task card set includes six essay-level questions that will require students to reflect on the novel and use critical-thinking skills. Some of my literature task card sets include Lord of the Flies, Of Mice and Men, and Animal Farm.

Like task cards? Check out these links!
Poetry Task Cards by Tracee Orman
Poetry Task Cards by Addie Williams

Using Task Cards in the Secondary ELA Classroom

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