As teachers and parents, aren’t we always looking for methods to get students to be critical thinkers and inquirers? As home educators, many of us also strive to develop traits of independent learners. Students who are capable of seeking out knowledge on their own. Students eager to learn the skills they need to be successful in their chosen career path.
Science Task Cards
Tasks cards are a wonderful stepping stone for middle school students to develop their independent learning skills – providing them with a framework to focus their search and just enough guidance to ensure success. Task cards are also a fantastic way to reinforce lessons, review difficult concepts, or provide extra practice for the struggling student.
Task cards are a great tool that any teacher can implement into their home or classroom. They are a full-proof method for getting every student involved in learning regardless of their ability level.
Task cards are generally open-ended and inquiry based questions that make for a great learning tool and help to create an engaging learning environment. The student reads each card, performs the task, and records his/her answer on an answer sheet, on notebook paper, or in their lab notebook. Students may be asked to create a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast, draw an illustration and label important parts, write a letter to a famous person, research a current event, or even take a stance on a controversial topic.
How & When Should I Use Task Cards?
1. Stations or Centers – Use task cards as station or center activities through with students rotate. I have found it works best to allow students to move at their own pace and visit as many or as few stations as possible. They can even move through the centers with a partner if assistance is needed. This is a great way to engage students because they can move around, work at their own pace, and feel successful!
2. Homework Assignments – Whether you offer each student the same task card or mix it up and provide them with different task cards of their choosing, task cards work well for homework. It’s a great way to build excitement for a new unit. Whether you ask students to complete the assignment in their interactive science notebook or on a separate piece of paper to turn in the following day, task cards are fun. Here’s an example of a life science task card:
Life Science: Animals
- Research & Define: vertebrates and invertebrates
- List three vertebrates and three invertebrates
- Make a poster of the following: mammal, reptile, amphibian, birds, fish
- Include a caption for each and summarize each class
3. Assessments – Task cards can be used as a quick assessment of student understanding in the midst of a lesson. Many task card questions can be also used as a more in-depth research paper or project. Alternatively, task cards can be used as a way to review for a test – either individually, in small groups, or as a whole class review game.
4. Engaging Warm-up Activities – I love to use task cards in our STEM Club as an activity to get focused and settled as we wait for the other students to arrive. They may find the assignment on the white board or taped down to the table. They work alone or in pairs to answer the question and we discuss their answers when I’m ready to begin.
5. Enrichment Activities – Task cards can be kept handy (perhaps in a basket) for early finishers. After students have completed a project, test, or independent assignment, they can enrich their understanding of the material by selecting a task card of their own choice.