Sunday, April 7, 2013

Easy Sub Plan with Task Cards... Really!

I am out of the classroom on Monday and Tuesday this week for our school's Site Planning Retreat.  We will  be reviewing the Mission Statement, Goals, Vision, etc. for the school, which I am so thrilled and honored to be a part of.  I had to go in today to write my sub plans (nothing like the last minute!), and I was talking to a girlfriend about it.  She made the comment "have fun with that!"  I told her I was just going to print some new task cards and be done with my plans.  She looked at me like I was crazy, and told me to have fun cutting for hours.  Oh, pish posh!  Cutting out a few task cards for sub plans? No biggie.

It took me 25 minutes to print, laminate, cut everything, and make a couple copies of recording sheets, and then 10 minutes to type up my plans.  For two days worth of sub plans!  I consider that to be pretty good!  And the best part is... the plans are meaningful and relevant.  No, the sub isn't introducing dividing fractions like I would be if I were there, but the kids will be engaged in work that isn't just busy work.  Not to mention, since task cards are self-checking with answer keys, I won't be left with a big pile of papers that I have to grade (or find something else to do with!)

As I was printing the cards, I thought it would be the perfect thing for this blog.  I have done this kind of planning several times before, but had never really thought about sharing it.

(The task cards I mention here are my own, which I sell in my TpT store, but you can use any task cards that are relevant to what you are teaching at the moment. If you are interested in purchasing any of the cards I mention here, I have links at the end of the post. )

 For reading, I always make a monthly set of reading task cards, and if I know I am going to be out, I save them for that occasion, although most of the time I use them in centers or small groups.  They review all of the key reading skills, and the kids love them.  I don't have a recording sheet for these since there are a variety of responses required, so they complete them in their reading journal.  I also just made a set of spring inference task cards, so I threw those in for Tuesday.  (I cheated a little bit with these...I knew my sub would have plan time before reading, so I left those in sheets of four for her to cut out.  If she doesn't get to it, the kids can just do a page of them at a time).

I also just started making seasonal review task cards for math standards (right now I have them for 4th and 5th grade, since I do both) that I consider a spiral review of math standards.  Each card covers one standard, so I can easily add or remove based on what they need to review or what we haven't done yet (I only had to take out 2 cards this time... that's a good sign for this time of year!).  These cards will take more than an hour to complete, so they worked for two days worth of math sub plans for me. Win!

I also didn't want every single student to do every single one of these (remember that post about task card differentiation?) so I have certain math groups working on certain standards for review.  The sub will also be working with small groups of students on their cards while others work independently.

I put them all out on the table, and I even put out my early finisher task cards in case she had any students finish early.  She won't have to deal with "what do I do now?" The kids just grab a card and go (there is a set for both math and language arts/reading).

That's it for reading and math for two days.  Awesome, right?! Think the kids will be engaged? Absolutely, yes! Is it busy work? Definitely not.

My only disclaimer would be that it would be advantageous to have already used task cards in your classroom, in one way or another if you are going to do task cards for the entire day with the sub.  You probably want to have some essential agreements set up for task cards as well (that post is coming soon...I just have to remember to take a picture of our anchor chart)!  Or if you have a really fantastic class, just go for it! I have honestly never met a kid who wasn't thrilled to do a task card.

Now, I don't teach social studies or science this year, but if you have run out of Time For Kids (my go-to social studies sub plans) or don't have another option, there are a few awesome task card options out there for science and social studies! Ari, The Science Penguin, blogs about her fantastic science task cards here and here.  Her Nature of Science cards look like SO much fun and are totally do-able for a sub!

For Social Studies, you could use these FREE Earth Day Task Cards that are ridiculously cute, or these FREE Government Task Cards from Ashleigh at Ashleigh's Education Journey.

Click on the images if you are interested in purchasing any of the task cards mentioned.

Spring Inference Riddles Task Cards

5th Grade Common Core Math Task Cards
4th Grade Common Core Math Task Cards 

Monthly Reading Skills Task Cards

Early Finisher Task Card Bundle

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Differentiating and Scaffolding Instruction with Task Cards

We are working on Multiplying Fractions right now (click the link to check out my blog post with teaching ideas at my teaching blog!), and I created a set of Multiplying Fractions Task Cards to use with my kids and for my 4th and 5th grade teachers to use with their students.

I try really, really hard to make task cards that lend themselves to easy differentiation and scaffolding, and after seeing my students work with these, I think they meet that goal and provide a great example of the possibilities of task cards.  There were a few things I needed to include in these task cards: multiplying fractions by whole numbers with and without models, and multiplying fractions by fractions with and without models.  Oh, and CCSS say that they need to be able to do these things with word problems, too!  So as I set out to make these task cards, I knew that there would need to be some scaffolding.

The set starts out with multiplying fractions by whole numbers (a 4th grade standard).  It starts with visual models, then moves to no visual model, then on to word problems.  Super easy scaffolding, and for kids who don't need the visual models, they can skip those cards.  For kids not ready for the word problems, they can skip those.

A look at the cards for multiplying for whole numbers where you can see the progression of skills.

The set then moves on to multiplying fractions by fractions.  It starts out with visual area models, then moves to visual area models that aren't fully complete, then moves to other visual models, then to straight number problems, some fill in the blanks for critical thinking, and finally word problems.  There are generally 4-8 of each type of card so that teachers can pick which ones they want their students to do--there is NO rule that says all students must do ALL cards!

Take a look at the progression of task cards here...

While I see value in repeated practice of the same type of problem, I have also seen the immense benefit of these scaffolded and differentiated task cards.  The kids are able to see different types of problems in different ways and work through their understanding of it, often individually.  And this isn't only for math--almost all of my task cards are differentiated or scaffolded in some way.

I hope this gets the wheels spinning about how you use task cards in your room.  If you want to buy these Multiplying Fractions Task Cards, you can buy them at my TpT store HERE. :)