Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher: 10 Ways to Use Task Cards for Test Prep

10 Ways to Use Task Cards for Test Prep

It is that time of year- the dreaded test prep season. Sigh... I don't love testing. Who does? But I have found lots of way to make the test prep a little more fun. It's all about the TASK CARDS! 

I printed up a big stack of math and ELA task cards and then found lots of quick and fun ways to use them. Let me share 10 of my favorite ways to use task cards for test prep.

Let's face it- we don't have extra time in our day. Quick line-up activities are perfect for the busy classroom. When my class is getting ready to leave for recess, lunch or specials- I pull out a set of task cards. I show a card to one student at a time. As they answer correctly, they get to line up. If they get it wrong, they stay in their seat. If we have enough time, I can come back to those students who missed their question on the first round. The best part is that if we run out of time, I can just have the rest of the class line up as usual. No big deal! If that happens, I just start on the opposite side of the class the next time we line up. It is good practice, and it gives me a little glimpse into the skills and students that need reteaching.

I love to use a quick partner solve because it gives my students the opportunity to talk to one another and learn from each other. I also love that they don't require any prep! No copying or grading! I pass out one task card for every two students. I give them a minute or two to solve. Then we can share our answers. Sometimes I have them share with the whole class and sometimes I just have them share with the students nearby. You could also give every student a card. Give them a few minutes to solve their card and tun and share with their partner. Of course, I am intently listening to students so that I can make notes about students who need some reteach. Use it whenever you have an extra 2-3 minutes in your day.

To keep test prep engaging, I LOVE to throw in some games. Trashketball just happens to be my students' favorite game! It is super simple to play. All you need is a trashcan, ball, masking tape and task cards. I divide my class into two teams. I show the first person a task card. If they answer the question correctly, they automatically get 1 point for their team. Then they get to decide if they want to go for  2 points or 3 points. The 2-point line is a bit closer to the trashcan than the 3 point line. The player tries to throw the ball into the trashcan to earn bonus points for their team. The team with the most points at the end of playtime, is the winner.

Kids love competition and I use that simple fact to keep my test prep engaging. Testing is a Picnic is a fun FREE game that I created. It can be used with almost any skill or subject.

The class is divided into two teams. Students take turns answering questions from a set of task cards. If they get the question correct, they get to choose a card from the basket or bag. The card is like a point for their team UNLESS they draw an ant card! If a team draws an ant card, they must put all of their cards back in the basket! The team with the most cards at the end of playing time- is the winner! My student LOVE this game! And you can mix multiple sets of task cards up so that students are practicing different standards! 

You can download the FREE game by clicking HERE.

I use task cards in my math and reading centers all year. But, they are especially helpful during test prep!

During test prep, we use THESE math test prep centers. The set has 10 different centers that include task cards, sorts and other hands-on activities. They cover the trickiest third grade math skills so that my kiddos can get some extra practice!

Click HERE to check out my math test prep centers.

For reading, I created a similar type of resource. There are task cards that cover all of the major literature and informational text standards.

Click HERE to check out my reading test prep centers.

My students love to play jeopardy! And playing with sets of task cards allows me to customize the game to cover the skills that my students need to review the most. I use magnets to attach a pocket chart to my white board.

I choose different sets of task cards and pick 5 or 6 from each set. Each set is a different category on my game board. Just sequence them from easiest to the most challenging. Flip them over backwards and with a dry erase marker (on lamination) write $100-$500 on the cards.

I divide the class in half. Students take turns choosing a category and dollar amount. But I make all students solve the question on their white board. If all students are not working, then I will ask the opposing team to answer for the points.

Last year, I allowed my students to come in the classroom 30 minutes before school to play review jeopardy for the week prior to testing. I had more than half of my class there everyday! It is THAT fun! And they barely notice how much they are learning.

Test prep can get very stressful for students. Just imagine my kids' surprise when I announce that we are going to take some time out to play Candyland, Chutes and Ladders, Jenga and Checkers! Of course, I add the task cards to give it that educational twist! Give each group a set of cards (easy to differentiate!). They keep them facedown. On their turn, a student flips a task card. If they answer the question correctly, they get to take their turn on the board game. The kids love it!

Exit tickets are a great way to get a quick idea of which students have mastered a skill and who still needs help. Instead of using paper and pencil, use task cards! Line your class up. As they are leaving, show them a task card (something that can be done mentally) and have them answer. If they get it correct, they leave. If they get it incorrect, I have them stand to the side and listen as others answer. When everyone has had one chance, I will give those who missed the first question a second try. I am also mentally memorizing the group so that I know who to pull for more practice tomorrow.

My first year teaching, my neighbor teacher taught me about entrance tickets. She called it "Price of Admission." It is just like an exit ticket, except the children are answering the question on their way in the room in the morning. It makes for a great warm-up. During bell work, you can pull those few strugglers for another mini lesson.

I use scoots all year long! During test prep, I do even more. The great thing about scoots is that students are up and moving around the room. Research about the way the brain works, indicates that we remember the most when we are moving. Plus, my sweet third graders get antsy if they have to stay in their desk for too long. I find that allowing them to scoot decreases the number of behavior issues.

There are different ways to do a scoot, but this is how I manage them in my classroom: All students are given a recording sheet. Then I lay the task cards out around the desks. Students are instructed to work on the card closest to them and then scoot around the desks answering all of the cards. They do not need to be answered in order. The student just needs to put the answer in the correct place on the recording sheet.

Everyone is working independently (although you could do a partner scoot if you wanted), so this allows me to scoot around with my intervention and SPED kiddos. I read the cards to them and help them find the correct place to answer on their recording sheets.

I often use scoots in place of a traditional assessments, so I usually collect the recording forms and grade them. This is a good way to know which students need more help and plan your small group intervention. Sometimes, depending on time and the skill, I will display the answer key and we will go over the answers as a class. My hope is that students are correcting their work and understanding their mistakes. Good review!

I got this idea from my blogging buddy, Amanda Wilp from The Primary Gal. I think it s brilliant.

As much as we try to meet every need of every student in our class, we have to admit we are only one person and there are a lot more of 'them." During test prep, I do my best to meet with small groups of students to work on a skill that I noticed they were struggling with. Sometimes, after meeting with the group, I still feel that a student needs more practice. Sometimes a parent is contacting me and asking for more practice for their child. Instead of searching through boring workbook pages, print out the black line version of a task card set and send it home with the answer key. Students can work through a few at a time with parent support. Parents could even hide them around the house to add some interest. Amanda said that some of her students actually use them to play pretend school. How awesome is that?

I hope that you were able to find some new and fun ways to incorporate test prep into your day! My biggest suggestion is to keep a set or two of task cards close by at all time. You might have a minute during restroom break time or five minutes before pack up time. It might only be enough for a card or two, but it is so much better than nothing!

Do you need some task cards to use for your test prep? I have dozens and dozens of sets for 2nd, 3rd and 4th grade. Click on the picture below to see them.

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