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! Follow my blog with Bloglovin