Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Winter Early Finisher Task Cards!

Happy Holidays!

I'm popping in quickly to give you a peek at my Winter/Holiday Early Finisher Task Card Set Up!  I finished it tonight, and had to hang it up by the mantle and get all sorts of silly when I posted that they were "hung by the chimney with care."  It's late.  I'm tired.  Things get a little silly around here when 11  o'clock rolls around!

I even made a mini-set of some of my cards to give to a student in another class (who I consult with for enrichment services).  He put them in his early finisher binder with a new festive recording sheet.

Mini Task Cards!
You can download the free Winter Early Finisher Winter Work Log by clicking on the image and printing it!

Here is a look at the cards that I included on my Early Finisher Task Card display for the holidays!  There is even a freebie includes!

Christmas Carol Math & LA Task Cards
These are some of my students' favorites!  There are 8 task cards to go with several different beloved Christmas Carols, each with a few tasks for the students to complete.  They love, love, love these!

Holiday Fluency Task Cards
 I love using fluency task cards with my students.  I use them all throughout the year, so I thought it would be fun to change it up a little bit and throw in some Christmas ones!  I blogged about how I use my regular fluency task cards HERE.

Holiday Reading Skills Task Cards

Click here to view 
I have several sets of these reading skills task cards that we are going to be using for the next few weeks.  I left a few of each set out to use as early finisher assignments!  What's better than reviewing key reading skills with a holiday theme?

FREE Simile & Metaphor Task Cards!
My students ALWAYS need review on similes and metaphors, so these sweet cards were born!  I am offering them to you FREE as a little gift to you and your students.  Grab them now!

Winter Early Finisher Task Cards
 These cards are part of my Winter Early Finisher Task Card set.  The set includes 16 Writing Prompts, 16 Reading Skills Tasks, and 16 Math tasks.  All with a fun winter theme!

December Reading Skills Task Cards
These enrichment cards came from my December Reading Skills Task Cards set!  My students really enjoy completing these each month, and I love that it helps them review reading skills all the time.  Such fun!

You can download my title sign as well!  Just click on the image and print.

Thanks to Krista at Creative Clips for the adorable clip art!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Task Card Acronym

I have a lot of teachers in my school and in the blogging world ask me about task cards.  How do I use them?  What are they good for?  Why task cards instead of worksheets? Do kids like them? How often do you use them?  Obviously, I'm a huge proponent of their use in classrooms, for all of the reasons I have mentioned on this blog so far.  Task cards are awesome for differentiation, sub plans, reading response, for early finishers, for playing SCOOT, and for test prep.  But they are also a great resource for getting kids up and actively thinking, they are awesome for assessment, and they keep kids engaged (trust me on this one)!

I wanted something that I could use to show people a quick overview of not only how I use task cards, but also why I love them and invest my time in creating them and using them in my class.  So, I came up with this goofy little task card acronym.

I will be devoting an entire blog post to each of these subjects (if I haven't already), but I wanted to share this now since I think it's easy to understand and might spark an idea for you and all the task cards you have or are planning to have.   Stay tuned for some more task card inspiration, and in the meantime, take a look around Task Card Corner for more ideas on how best you can enhance your teaching with task cards!  

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Using Task Cards for Reading Response

I have always been a big believer in having kids respond to reading--thoughtful, defensible, evidence-based responses.  When I taught 3rd grade, I created reading response packets and novel studies for almost every book we were reading.  These were great because students would stop after each chapter and answer a variety of questions.  However, when I would turn the tables on them and ask them to write a question to accompany their reading, it was very hard for them to think beyond the literal questions and dig a little bit deeper.  Beyond that, when I had small groups reading shorter, leveled books for intentional skill work, I felt like I needed some good, solid questions to use for discussion.  Ideally, I wanted to be able to use these freely, with any book I chose, and with any group I was working with.  That's when I created a set of open-ended reading response cards on large index cards.  These were different, though, because they had blanks that students would need to fill in based on the book they were reading.

I blogged about these cards on my other blog, Teaching With a Mountain View, and when I did that, I typed them up so that I could share them (You can get them FREE here!).

I use these ALL the time.  They sit in my guided reading basket, and sometimes I even pull them out after I finish a read aloud for the day.  I love to see where student thinking is with these!  They are also great for getting students to start asking their own questions about reading in a more guided format. I don't even require that students write down their responses every time, especially in small groups.  I will give each of the students in a small group a card, and they generate the question and their answer all in their head and then share out.  Love doing this as a quick check!

I also use task cards for pre-reading activities!  I will give each student one of twelve pre-reading task cards (You can get them FREE here!) before we start reading and have them each work through it.  Most of them are made to only take 5 minutes or less, so then the students share out their card and their response to the card, and as a class, we have completed a comprehensive pre-reading activity!

Last year, we used both of these cards so much that I knew I needed something different, and I knew that I needed something that aligned closely with the Common Core and with the skills we were working on. There are a lot of reading response prompts out there (and some are excellent), but I needed something that would really push my students to think.  I needed to create something that the students would read, sit back and think about, and then read again before being able to answer the questions.

At the time, we were looking closely at story elements, so I decided to create the set to support that skill.  Again, I wanted a set that I could use over and over again so that students could really see some common themes in books.

This set has cards for Problem & Solution, Characters, Setting, and Theme
Later in the year, I made another set that focused on specific reading skills we were working on.  I so wished I would have made these YEARS ago!  These task cards have different prompts for skills like inferring, cause & effect, sequencing, etc.  I am already looking forward to using these again this year with some TAG 3rd graders who I will be supporting once a week outside of the classroom and then students all the way up to my 5th graders.  It's the perfect way to extend their thinking and not necesarily isolate these ever-important reading skills.

This set has cards for Fact & Opinion, Author's Purpose, Main Idea, Point of View, Compare & Contrast, Inference, and Cause & Effect
I really wanted my students to be able to access these cards easily, so I actually ended up making each student their own set of mini task cards to keep in their binders.  Now, I can give them some guided choice in their responses and it's FAST! Last week, after talking about inference, I said "Everyone select an inference response task card and write your response in your reading journal."  They all grabbed their set and went to work.  It was fabulous!

6 pages condensed into one 1.5.  This is a great way to save on ink and paper, too!
Easy peasy to print a mini set!

Here is a comparison of how much smaller the cards are than a regular quarter page task card.
I also have two other sets of Reading Skills Task Cards that I can vouch for because they are WONDERFUL:

Common Core Reading Response Task Cards (4th Grade) by Laura Love to Teach

If you have a set that you have used or made, feel free to link to them in the comments section of this post.  I am ALWAYS looking for new and fresh ways for my students to respond to reading!

NEW:  Here is the link to the website I used to order my chains.  They came very quickly, and they are just about as cheap as I could find them!


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Early Finisher Task Cards : Beyond Busy Work!

My first year of teaching, late one Friday night while working on plans for the next week, I told my barking dog to "SIT DOWN AND READ A BOOK."  This is not a joke, a lie, nor an exaggeration.  It actually came out of my mouth.  In that moment, I realized that my early finishers had one option: "sit down and read a book."  I went straight to the teacher supply store the next day and got a few books that boasted FUN! for early finishers.  I made a tub for them, and the kids blew right through them, and I had a big pile of word searches, crossword puzzles, and the like sitting in my "turn in" bin.  {Granted, this was before TpT was around and some of the brilliance that is out there now would have likely saved me from making this mistake.  Oh, how I wish TpT had been around when I was beginning. }

Since then, I have totally redone my early finisher procedure, and this year, I'm making it even easier for the kids to access their choices and for me to change it all out.  I get emails all the time about my early finisher task cards and how I use them, so I thought this was the perfect time to go through it!

Here is how I go about using task cards for early finishers...read on for a limited time freebie for your early finishers!  Keep in mind, also, that you can do this with ANY task cards that you already have.  At the end of the post, I have included a list of cards I use.

Each of my students begins the year with an Early Finisher & Incomplete Work folder.  They put any incomplete work in one side, and then they have an early finisher work log in the middle brads followed by notebook paper where they do all of their tasks.  The "rule" is that they can't have any unfinished late work if they are working on early finisher task cards.  They have a log where they have to record the date they finished early and the assignment they finished early in order to work on early finisher assignments.  I do this for a few reasons:

1) If they turn in work that is not up to standards just so that they can get to the the early finisher work, I have record of it.

2) If I have a student finishing EVERY single assignment early, that tells me they need more than *just* early finisher options.  They need enrichment and extensions in the core content.

3) I have a record to show parents.  If a student has never finished their work early, that tells me a lot when conference and report card time roll around.

I have them turn in their folders periodically (2 or 3 times a quarter) and thumb through them to look for these things.  I also look at the early finisher work they are doing (on the notebook paper behind the log) and write a few comments on it.  I DO NOT grade early finisher work, but the logs stay in their folders for the entire year.

You can download the cover and log for FREE.  Click HERE!
I have always kept my early finisher cards mixed in with my task card board, and this year, I wanted to make it easy for students to see what they could work on.  I searched high and low for a good container to organize everything in, but I ended up with a flip flop holder from Bed Bath and Beyond!  It hangs pretty much anywhere, is nice and sturdy, and task cards fit on it perfectly.  I just punched an extra set of holes in the task cards, put two binder rings on, and they hang so nicely and it takes no time at all.  I needed something that didn't take up much space, and this is it!

I kind of love it (even when it is hanging from my curtain rod).  There are enough hooks for 6 sets of task cards, BUT you can put them on both sides (it swivels on the hanger) for a total of 12.  The only thing that gets tricky with that is that it gets a little bit harder to take one set off without taking the set on the other side off, but it takes about 10 seconds to maneuver it.

Right click on the image above to save it and print it for your display!
My plan for this year is to leave one side (the side that is showing in the pictures) with purely creative and critical thinking task cards.  There are enough there that should last them through a year.  The other side will have my early finisher math and reading task cards, a set of task cards for literacy and math that reinforce the skill that we are working on in class, and a set of reading fluency task cards.  That leaves me with just two or three to change out throughout the year.  Easy peasy for me but engaging and meaningful for the students!

A picture of the package, in case you want to use one, too! Don't forget your coupon!
I just finished a new set of creative thinking task cards for my early finishers, and you can download them for FREE for a limited time (before they go up on TpT) by becoming a fan of my fanpage at Teaching With a Mountain View.  Click on "Fan Freebies" and you can get your own set of Creative Thinking A-Z Task Cards!  I'm pretty excited about these, and I think my students will be, too.

These task cards were free for several weeks on my Facebook Fan Page, and now they are available in my TpT store.  Check my Fan Page for new freebies!

Here is a list of all of the task cards that are hanging on my display as of right now.  I'll be adding the specific content ones as we begin working on them.

Early Finisher Task Cards

(Includes Language Arts/Reading, Math, and Critical & Creative Thinking)

(I plan to hang the monthly reading version as well!)

(From the brilliant Rachel Lynette.  I blogged more about her critical thinking task cards HERE.)

If you have any great ideas for your early finishers, I would love to hear them in the comments section!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Getting Started With Task Cards: Play SCOOT!

I get so many emails about how I use task cards in my room, and one of the most common questions is "What is Scoot?"  So I thought I would throw out a freebie and a little post on some things I've learned about Scoot along the way.  One of my favorite ways to use task cards is by playing a quick game of Scoot!  Scoot is so easy, and the kids love getting up and moving around.  However, it can also be one of the most maddeningly frustrating games to manage if you don't set the stage up front.

**Disclaimer: Not all task cards are well-suited for playing Scoot, and I will be the first to admit that it is not the most fantastic way to differentiate (although it is doable), since all of the kids usually end up doing all of the cards.  However, it's a great way to see where a student stands on a certain topic.  You want to pick a set of task cards with cards that EVERY student can complete in about the same amount of time, and usually in one minute or less, unless you've got more time on your hands.

I'm sure there are many variations of Scoot out and about in the blogging world, but here is how we have played for the last 5 years.

You need a set of numbered task cards (one for every student in your class) that lend themselves well to a fast paced game, and you need a recording sheet for each student.  If you don't have a recording sheet or you are like me and run out of copies midway through the month, students can separate a piece  of paper into however many sections you need.  They need a section for each card.

Place one task card on each student desk, in numerical order.  Make it easy for students to navigate through the cards by putting the cards in order as best you can. Then, give each student a recording sheet and a pencil.

Now, each student completes the card on their desk and writes their answer in the number on their recording sheet that corresponds to the number on the task card.

After about a minute, the teacher says "Scoot" (or uses another signal) and the students quickly stand up, leave the card at their desk, take their recording sheet with them, and scoot over to the next seat with the next number and get started on the problem right away.

Now picture this: you've got 30 kids getting up and moving from seat to seat every minute or so. When I first heard about it, I thought it was a NUTS-O idea.  Are you kidding?  Getting my kids through 5 transitions for centers every day is enough stress.  But, once I decided to do it, I knew I had to set some ground rules.

Management Tips for Playing Scoot

*Identify a Signal:  Most teachers just say "Scoot" when they want the students to move, but some use a chime or a bell.  Regardless, make sure it's a signal that everyone can hear and make sure they understand that as soon as they hear the signal, it's time to boogie.

*Early Finishers: Have a plan for early finishers.  If it's math, I usually have them do an activity on the back of their page when they finish (write the first 100 prime numbers, create addition problems on the back, etc.)  Same procedure for language arts (divide the back page and think of as many nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, etc. that you can).  Whatever you do, have a plan so that you don't have students sitting and waiting with too much idle time. Similarly, if you think you have a student who won't be able to finish in the allotted time, have a plan for that as well.

*Scoot is Silent:  SILENT, SILENT, SILENT.  SILENT or the game is over, in my room.  Sound harsh?  If I let 30 kids talk and make noise while they are scooting, it's going to be a bear to get them to sit back down and get started right away.  The kids are very motivated by a good game of Scoot, so it's not hard to enforce this rule.

*Take your pencil with you or leave it there?: Make a decision as a class ahead of time...is it easier to leave your pencil at the seat and only be responsible for taking your recording sheet with you each time, or would you rather take your pencil with you as you go?

*Find the first and last card ahead of time: Have the student with card #1 clearly identify the seat ahead of time (I usually have them stand up and shout "I'm number 1!") so that when the students come to the last card, they know where to find card #1.

*Make sure they understand where their answers go:  Remember that only one student will be starting at seat number one, and therefore, only one student writes their first answer in box number one.  There is nothing worse than doing ten rounds of Scoot and having a student realize they started writing their answers in box #1 when they started at seat #21.  The first few times we play Scoot, I have EVERY student tell me "I have card #3, and I need to put my first answer in box #3."  It takes about 3 minutes to do this before you play, but it's so worth it!

It sounds a little overwhelming when I list everything out like that.  Never fear!  I've got a set of FREE "Soaring Through Scoot" Task Cards for you to use during the first few days of school.  I created the set with all of the things that can go wrong at the forefront of my mind.  Students have to stand up and talk, tap pencils, hum songs...all the things they AREN'T supposed to do (We all know the power of a non-example).  They are also explicitly told where to write their answers on almost every card so that they don't get confused.  The tasks on the cards are simple tasks so that they can focus more on the procedure of Scoot rather than the content.  Content will come later!

I tested these out with my husband, stepdaughter, and a group of neighborhood kids, and they are hilarious.  I can't wait until the first day of school to do this with my students.  Click HERE to print your own set.

On our second day of school, we are going to play Back to School Scoot to see how much they remember about the routines of Scoot (and to make a beautiful "getting to know you" bulletin board!)

These are NOT free, but you can download them here for your first few days of school!

If you have any questions, tips, or other suggestions for playing Scoot, feel free to leave them in the comments!
Monday, May 6, 2013

A Task Card SALE!

I know you have all heard about it by now, but please join me at my Teachers Pay Teachers store for the huge Teacher Appreciation Sale!

All of my items (Including 50+ task card sets) are 20% off.  Use the TpT code and get an additional 10% off!  That's a steal!  Hop on over.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Task Card Storage & Organization

I am SO excited to bring you this post!  I get emails, comments, and questions from people all the time asking me how I store my task cards.  I must admit, aside from my Task Card Corner bulletin board, I didn't have a good system.  I had tried shoeboxes, I had tried envelopes, and I had even tried Ziploc bags.  None worked for me.  I finally just started tossing them into bags and baskets when they came off the bulletin board.  I'm embarrassed that I have to show you this, but here it is...

It was bad...and now it's good.  It's OH, so good!  I needed to find the perfect solution.  I found this blog post from a mom who found a nice organization system for her children's flash cards, and I went off on a search for something similar.  Only problem was that neither of those items exist anymore.  Apparently, they are SO 2011 (I kid, of course).

So, the whole family went on a trip to Target. (Let me preface all of this by saying that if you have a Container Store nearby, I highly suggest you look there, too!  I really had to get creative here.)  I found the file folders I wanted right away (only $1 in the dollar spot...but they are always around, and I know they have them at back to school time as well).  They also have more expensive ones that are "coupon organizers."  I accidentally bought one, and I thought I would use it for my monthly task cards since it was bigger and sturdier, but when I put them in, it actually wasn't.  So don't spend the extra on that.

A peek inside one of the folders.  There are seven sections, inside each one, and they expand pretty well.
One other SUPER IMPORTANT note before you go on...Do NOT buy index card holders.  They are too small for most task cards.  Exhibit A:

Don't buy these!  They are too small for most task cards.
Then, I needed somewhere to put them.  I knew that the folders were just the start of an organization system--I didn't want them to end up strewn about my room or stuffed in my closets willy nilly.  I had to do this right.

So, off we went.  We searched through all the office supplies, through all the closet organization, the bathroom organization, the kids room organization, even the tool section, and NOTHING FIT.  NOTHING!  They were either too big, just a bit too small, but nothing was just right.  I felt like Goldilocks.

My husband wandered off, baby on his shoulders, and then quickly came back announcing that he had found the mother load of organizational goodies in the kitchen section. Ah ha!  Why didn't I think of that?

He was right.  He had found three awesome options for storing my files full of task cards.  Here they are...lined up in Target, being tested before they were placed in my cart.

I couldn't decide which one I liked the best, and they all seemed to have their pros and cons.  I knew I would need to test them full of task cards, too.  So, we bought all three and off we went.

Here is a handy picture so that you know exactly where to find them at your local Target:

I went to work making some cute labels for my card holders, laminated them, and began filling the card holders.  When they had cards in them, I put the labels on with permanent double stick tape (which I could remove if I really wanted to).  I provide the labels I used (not editable) at the bottom of this post.

I was so excited to put these all together, and truthfully, they are all great options!  The one on the right is my favorite option, but unfortunately, it is also the most expensive ($12.99) holder.  BUT! It holds a TON of task cards.  I have tons of them, and this holds ALL of them.  (I did go back and buy another one because eventually I know I will need a second option, when I will split them up by math and reading.)

Here it is:

Task Card Organization

Another view of my favorite option
Isn't it pretty?  And it's STURDY!  There are hundreds and hundreds of task cards in those folders collectively, and it is a very sturdy container.  This one is my favorite because it holds the most task cards, the folders fit in perfectly, and it looks nice.

You will notice the little labels in the top left hand corner of each file.  For math, I organized them by the units I taught like "multiplication," "decimals," "fractions."  For reading, I put three or four sets in each one, so there is a file with "Inference, Context Clues, and Main Ideas" and all of those cards are in that file.

Here is my second favorite option, with is the least expensive ($2.99)

The downsides are that the folders fit in their very snuggly (but it still works), and you can only fit about half the amount.  I would have needed at least 2 and eventually 3 to hold all of my cards.  But, if you are on a budget (and you don't have as many task cards as I do), this is a GREAT option for you.

And the third option, which I love the premise of, but it's not super practical.  It's actually a top holder (for pots).  They fit in very nicely, it looks great, but it doesn't fit all of them, and you can't move it around without them falling out.  But I wanted to include it here because it really does look nice, and if you have one sitting around, it might work for you!

My last dilemma was that I had a few sets of half page cards.  Sometimes when there just needs to be more content on a card, I have to make them this way, and my favorite "Theme" cards from Rachel Lynette are half page, too.

No worries!  Target has a $1 folder that is just a bit larger that works just fine.

I stuck them in one of the dollar spot file folders that I had from another Target trip, and it was the perfect solution.  I didn't organize them quite as much as the others since I don't have many, so I just organized them by subject.

You can download the "labels" that I used for free, but I can't offer them in editable format because the frames and paper are not mine, and I can't just give them away.  The frames are from the fabulous Krista at Creative Clips and the papers are from Sassy Designs.  The adorable font is from Jen Jones.  There are plenty of blanks if you want to write in your own, as I'm sure you will have your own organization system with these.

If you have any questions about this, please feel free to leave a comment.  Do you have a fabulous organization idea? I would LOVE to hear it, and I would love to feature it on this blog!

Happy organizing!