Different Ways to Use Task Cards in the Upper Elementary Classroom

Ways to Use Task Cards with 3rd graders, 4th graders, or 5th graders

If you have taught upper elementary sometime over these past 5 years, chances are you have come across somebody that uses task cards. Or you might use them yourself. You’ve also probably come across somebody that hates task cards.

Ways to Use Task Cards with 3rd graders, 4th graders, or 5th graders

Although some people complain that task cards are glorified worksheets (and they could be right, depending on how you use them), task cards are very useful because they are so versatile. Below are several ways to use task cards with your 3rd grade, 4th grade, or 5th grade students.

If you are a teacher that likes to always have task cards on hand, then you will probably also like to have some of these reusable activities ready to use when you need them.

Ways to Use Task Cards

1. Scavenger Hunt
This was my favorite way to use task cards in the classroom, even though it is not technically a true scavenger hunt. Spread the task cards around the room (or have a few students do this for you). Then, have students walk around the room with their answer sheet to complete the task cards.

Usually, I would have students work in pairs of 2. One student would read the task card aloud, both students would discuss the answer, and then the other student would write down the answer. Then, they would switch roles for the next task card.

If you set up clear expectations, even the students most prone to behavior problems will rarely cause trouble, especially if the consequence is to sit at a desk and work on the task cards independently and quietly. My most important rules for this activity were:
-You have to stay with your partner
-Only one group to a task card at a time

2. I Do, We Do, You Do
Most task cards are GREAT for the gradual release of responsibility model. For “I Do,” use several task cards to model to students a certain strategy. Explain your thinking using think-alouds. Then, for “We Do,” complete a few task cards with the help of your students. You can also have small groups or partners work together on a few task cards. Finally, have students independently complete a task card for the “I Do.”

3. Work with a Parent Volunteer/Paraprofessional
If you are anything like me, then you struggle with how best to use any help you receive from paraprofessionals or parent volunteers. The help I received came so inconsistently that it was difficult to set up routines. If you have several sets of task cards on hands for different skills, then you will always have something useful for an extra set of hands to do.

4. Early Finishers
Keep your students that always finish early engaged and learning by having them complete task cards when they finish their work. Teaching with Task Cards has some ideas on setting up your classroom so that early finishers can complete task cards.

5. Centers
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Throw some task cards in a center rotation for students to complete independently or with their group.

6. SCOOT
Give each student a task card to answer at his or her own desk. Then, on your signal, have the students leave the card at their desk while they move to the desk next to them. Have students continue until all the cards have been answered. This game is best played with task cards that can be answered relatively quickly by all your students. Task cards that involve a lot of writing might cause problems, as some students will need a lot more time, and the rest of the class would have to wait on them.

Having sets of task cards on hand can make your life much easier as a teacher. Below are some of my most popular task cards:

Character Traits Task Cards to Build Vocabulary
Point of View Task Cards
Context Clues Task Cards
Main Idea and Details Task Cards
Cause and Effect Task Cards

Find all of my task cards here.

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