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Task Cards in Middle School: Four Fresh Ideas

March 15, 2018 3 min read

Using task cards in middle school can be a great way to break things up and get kids thinking and working in a different way! At a basic level, task cards are small cards that have a task for students to complete or a question for them to answer. They work extremely well for both reinforcing and assessing content in any subject matter.

Here are four new ideas for using task cards in your middle school classroom!

Have a silent debate. 

After reading a piece of literature or nonfiction article, we tape the task cards to large pieces of butcher paper and place them on various tables/desks around the room. Students walk around the room, answer the questions, and sign their name. We require them to answer the question on each poster AND respond to two other classmates’ answers on each poster (again, they must sign their name). We participate as well! The whole activity takes about a half hour and students are engaged the entire time!

Play “Pass it Back.” 

After finishing your literary work or informational text, copy and cut out any of the appropriate task cards you’d like your students to answer, and tape them onto different pieces of binder paper. Divide your class into groups of 4-5 students. Give each student in each group a piece of paper with a different task card on it. (It’s fine if the groups all use the same 4-5 task cards…you just don’t want any repeats in the same group!)

Have each group sit in a line (“train style”) and explain that students will begin answering the question for a set amount of time (4-5 minutes is plenty!) and when the timer beeps, they will pass their paper back to the student behind them (last person in the “train” brings theirs to the student in front of the line). The timer starts over (add an extra minute or two onto each subsequent round), and now they have to read the task card, the first response, and then add their own thoughts to the question and classmate’s answer. Continue “passing it back” until each member of the group has answered all the questions and has their original paper again.
Allow time for each group to debrief and then present on any interesting/notable observations. If you wish to assess students’ responses, simply make sure they write their name every time they write.

Get artistic. 

Once your class has completed a text (or maybe groups have read different texts on the same topic/theme!), distribute appropriate task cards to each group (3-4 cards per group). Group members must create a visual for their classmates that answers the questions and then present to the class.

Have a Socratic Seminar. 

Use the questions to help generate discussion of a particular text. Your students take the lead of the discussion, and you sit back and watch connections be made, comments be challenged, and critical thinking at its finest. Read more about how to set up a Socratic Seminar here and access a free student observation checklist and teacher rubric!
We’ve created three sets of task cards that can accompany any unit of ELA study from novels to short stories to poetry to informational text/articles. The questions require students to dig deeper in the text and analyze both the information and the purpose behind the writing. We use task cards all the time with our students! Click here to grab 58 challenging and engaging task cards for your middle school ELA classroom 🙂 
Four fresh ideas for using task cards in your middle school ELA (English) classroom! From Socratic Seminar to "Pass It Back" - you'll love these new ideas for discussion questions!
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Four fresh ideas for using task cards in your middle school ELA (English) classroom! From Socratic Seminar to "Pass It Back" - you'll love these new ideas for discussion questions!
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Hi there! We're two middle school ELA teachers with a mission to share ideas, tips, and tricks for effectively teaching reading and writing in the secondary classroom. We're so happy you stopped by!

Caitlin + Jessica

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