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14 Ways to Use Task Cards in High School Biology

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Task cards have quickly earned a prominent spot in my high school science classes.  I was slow to the party, thinking that task cards were a tool used by elementary teachers.  They couldn't possibly be of any use in my high school classes, right?  I could not be more wrong!

I think the thing I love best about task cards is that my students never complain about them, and in fact, even ask for them.  Teenagers will do anything to avoid school work, but my students have fully accepted the fact that the task cards have helped them study for tests and have improved their grades.

For those who might be unfamiliar with task cards, here is a quick description.  A task card is usually 1/4th the size of a sheet of paper, and usually printed on thicker paper.  I laminate them so that I can use them year after year.  Each card contains only one task or question.  For students who are easily overwhelmed by too much material or difficult concepts, task cards are a wonderful solution.  The student has a card in their hand with only one task or question.  They must complete the one task before moving on to the next.  It allows the student to focus and concentrate on only one thing at a time, rather than being presented with a long worksheet jam-packed with questions or problems.

So without further ado, here are 14 ways you can use task cards in your high school science classes to improve instruction, reinforce concepts and increase retention of the material you are teaching:

1.  Lab Stations:  This is my personal favorite.  Students of all ages get tired of sitting in a desk all day.  My students really enjoy being out of their seats and moving about the room.  I place 2 to 3 task cards at each lab station and have the students rotate through the stations.  This saves paper and printing since only one set of task cards is needed for the class.

2.  Competitive Game Formats:  Use the cards in a game format.  Divide the class into teams.  Place the task cards face down in a basket.  A team selects a card at random and must complete the task for a point.  It is a fun way to review for unit tests and high schoolers love the competitive format.

3.  Use task cards during instruction:  When teaching difficult concepts, stop periodically and check for understanding.    Ask the students to "pull out cards 16 - 20" and complete the tasks to see if they understand the material you have been teaching.  It gives the students a chance to relax just a bit and it provides an additional opportunity for them to absorb the mountain of details in a science class.

4.  Warm Ups and Bell Ringers:   
I use this one a lot!    As students enter the room, have them complete 4-5 task cards on concepts covered the previous day.  I have them write their answers on a sheet of notebook paper and collect them for a quick daily grade.  This strategy gets them to work the minute they enter your classroom, and helps them to get focused on the learning for the day.

5.  Exit Slips:  This strategy requires students to  write responses to questions you ask at the end of the class period.  It allows the students to reflect on what they have learned during the lesson and allows you to check for mastery of concepts.
 6.    Use task cards as part of your lab activities:  As students are carrying out and completing lab work, place a task card or two at their lab station and require that they include the answers to the task cards as part of their lab report.

7.  Homework Assignments:  At the end of your lesson, have students copy a few task card questions into their lecture notes to be completed for homework.  Checking student answers is a great way to start class the next day.

8.  Differentiate, differentiate, differentiate!!  How often do we teachers hear those words?  Well, task cards are the easiest way I have found to help learners of different ability levels.  By making customized sets of cards, you can give a student exactly what they need to be successful. Students can complete the cards you have given them and never know that other students have different sets of cards.

9.  Task cards are perfect for early finishers:  Task cards are not just for review and reinforcement.  They are perfect for enrichment!  When students finish their regular work early, you can give them enrichment task cards to deepen their understanding of the concepts being taught.

10.  Small group review sessions:   My students will often come in before school, after school or during a study hall period to use the task cards to review for an upcoming unit test.

11.  End of course testing:  Does your state require that students pass an end of course test at the end of the school year?  Mine does!   When reviewing for my end of course tests, I place different sets of task cards in plastic boxes and arrange them about the room,  Students select a set of cards and review through them in small groups.  When finished with one set, they select another .

12.  Tutoring:  My school offers peer tutoring and teacher tutoring after school.  Teachers and students alike will borrow my sets of task cards to use during after school tutoring.

13.  Hallway Extra Credit Display:  Post a few task cards on the wall outside of your classroom door.  Completion of the task cards can earn the student a few extra credit points.

14.  Bingo! Make a Bingo board out of task cards.  Students must complete 5 tasks in a row, column or diagonal to win.

Because task cards can be used in so many ways, they have earned a permanent place in my teaching arsenal.  They are fun and engaging, and provide excellent opportunities for students of all ability levels to master the subject matter.

Here are just a few of the task card sets available in my TpT store:

•  Cellular Respiration Task Cards
•  Photosynthesis Task Cards
•  Lab Clean Up Task Cards
•  Classification and Taxonomy Task Cards
•  Matter and Change Task Cards
•  Metric System Task Cards
•  Let's Read Science! Common Core Science Task Cards
•  Microscope Task Cards
•  Scientific Method Task Cards
•  Population Ecology Task Cards
•  Introduction to Ecology Task Cards
•  Viruses and Bacteria Task Cards

Or you can just click this link to view all of them!

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