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 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!


  1. Thank you for answering my question, "What is Scoot?" I've been a preschool teacher for years - so this game never in my awareness level!. I certainly would have played it though when I taught 4th and 6th graders! ~Denise

    1. What if your task cards only involve something like copying letters or numbers? not questions to answer?

  2. thanks these look like so much fun

  3. I have never tried this. My new grade 4s will love it!!! Thank for explaining and giving the fun freebie.
    Grade 4 Buzz

  4. LOVE these. I am going to tell me a lot about the type of class I have :)

  5. What do you do with the record sheet once it is filled out? Save, review, share, recycle? Thanks!

  6. This was the BEST explanation of an activity I have ever heard. MAN, I wish you taught my PD!! Thank you and keep up the good work, you are obviously a great teacher.

  7. This was super fun!! My middle schoolers loved it :) Thanks!

  8. Nice post! This is a very nice blog that I will definitively come back to more times this year! Thanks for informative post. cards games

  9. I hope someone visits this soon and deletes the spam!!
    I love this post, and the explanations (and I will be purchasing the cards)!

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